The reign of administrators of panchayats began on a sombre note with many of them not reporting to their new appointment, much against expectations. While administrators brace up for new and additional responsibilities, many questions will need answers from the panchayat minister and the government.
The 186 panchayats across the State now have administrators picked up from various sections and government departments. Upper Division Clerks, Department Heads, Section Heads, etc have been designated for this job on a rotational and interim basis. This means that employees will have to shuffle between the panchayat and respective department jobs as per a rooster and work requirement. We fail to understand where this arrangement leaves both — the department from where the administrator is drawn, and the designated panchayat.
By and large, the common grouse of citizens is about the delivery of services. Even under the existing strength, departments are running on a tight schedule causing immense hardship to people seeking services. The government by pulling out 186 personnel is only going to make life difficult for citizens and add to their misery.
On the flip side, the very appointment of government employees as administrators is illogical, given the background that these persons have zero knowledge of managing grass-root bodies and their functioning, and have no clue of how the Panchayati raj system works. It only shows that either the government has taken the grass-root bodies for granted much against the thought that they were responsible for the socio-economic development of villages. Or, it could be that the government is trying to use this crucial phase to get a better grip over panchayats ahead of the elections.
The questions that now emerge are, why did the government choose this route? Was there a lack of trust in the sarpanchas? If yes, why were secretaries not given the role of administrators, if sarpanchas were not trustworthy? If this arrangement is only for a short time, why not find a solution within the panchayat system without disturbing other departments? Now then, are we to believe that the government trusts these government employees as administrators more than sarpanchas or secretaries, overriding the fact that they are ignorant about the panchayats?
While the notification is out on administrators, it is silent on the reasons for the delay in panchayat elections. Can the government explain who is responsible for this delay? Is it the State Election Commission or the Directorate of Panchayats?
As things stand, it appears that panchayat elections will not take place in the next 3-4 months, contrary to what the panchayat minister is claiming. It also means that the functioning of local bodies and the well-being of villages will come to a complete standstill. All the public is told that the Block Development Officers will supervise the administrators and that complaints against them will be settled quickly. We appreciate the fact that the panchayat minister foresees functional issues, but again, the question is whether such trouble-shooting will really help to resolve the issue, and how quickly would be “quickly” that the minister is assuring.
The arrangement is nothing short of a mockery of panchayats.