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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Gram panchayat meets to be videographed

In a move to take the anti-graft fight right into the den of the Gandhian activist Anna Hazare, the Centre has begun the process to make video-recording of the proceedings of gram panchayats mandatory. The move has come in the backdrop of the alleged arbitrary manner in which gram sabhas function, while they have been made central to execute critical provisions of the draft Land Bill, draft Mines Bill and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

“Ultimately if corruption has to be fought effectively, steps need to be taken at the grassroots level. The step to video record proceedings can bring in transparency. Records of proceedings can be checked by concerned officials to see if decisions were taken in the right ways or not,” Union panchayati raj minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo told this newspaper.

The move assumes significance as the draft Land Bill mandates that it would be the gram sabha which will carry out social impact assessment to determine beneficiaries of the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) clause of the legislative proposal. The minister said it is important to bring in transparency in the functioning of gram sabha to ensure that they are not misused by vested interests to defeat the objectives of the Central laws.
Mr Deo said that he would introduce video-recording in gram sabhas in districts which are in the scheduled areas where the Centre can directly intervene. However, since panchayati raj institutions come under state subject, the minister said that he would be speaking to chief ministers to implement the initiative. He said that preliminary discussions have already been held in his ministry.

The minister explained that the overall objective of the initiative is to ensure that the people at ground level are involved in the decision-making process of the gram sabha.

“Elected representatives and bureaucrats can be made accountable only if the people are made part of the development process and to achieve this video-recording of the proceedings could prove to be an effective way forward,” added Mr Deo. He said since social audits of various flagship schemes have been made mandatory the role of gram sabhas has become more critical.


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