I chaired the ‘State Level Sammelan for Rural and Urban Local Bodies’ today at Manan Kendra, Gangtok.

This is an important calendar event where elected representatives of the State come under one roof in order to discuss and deliberate on further strengthening the Panchayatiraj institutions in the State. These kind of meetings are also aimed at resolving all issues and problems faced by the rural people through constant dialogues and discussions. So, our Panchayats and urban body representatives should not take the ‘sammelan’ as a mere meeting for giving their physical attendance only, but make it meaningful by coming up with solutions for solving people’s problems.

Following are some of the highlights of my address:-
I called upon all the Panchayats to be more responsible being elected representatives. They have been entrusted with the huge responsibility of fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of the people at the grassroot level. They must work with sincerity, honesty and dedication in serving the people. They should work sincerely to implement the policies and programmes formulated by the Government. I also called upon them not to have a ‘fixed mindset ’ but a ‘growth mindset.’ It is the duty of the Panchayats to cater to the needs of the people at their level. They should work towards making the people capable, progressive, self-reliant and self-sufficient. Panchayats should always keep in mind that real development takes place only when there is human development.

I recalled the duties and responsibilities entrusted to Panchayats before we formed the Government. They were engaged in resolving petty household tussles and land disputes only. Some Panchayats of yesteryears even called themselves ‘servants without pay’. Back then, they received just Rs 5000/- per GPU as annual grant and there was no reservation policy for rural bodies. But with the formation of our Government, the powers and functions of Panchayats increased manifold, with complete decentralization and devolution of powers. Salaries are provided to Panchayats and recently too we have enhanced their honorarium at the following rates:-
i) Zilla Panchayat Member from Rs 4800 to Rs 10,000/-
ii) Sabhapati Gram Panchayat from Rs 4800 to Rs 10,000/-
iii) Up-Sabhapati Gram Panchayat from Rs 4000 to Rs 9500/-
iv) Member Gram Panchayat from Rs 3200 to Rs 9000/-.
Besides, they also receive discretionary grants, which is nowhere to be found in India. It is therefore evident that the Panchayats of today are well-equipped to fulfill the needs of the people. But it is unfortunate that they still fail to realize this and do not perform their duties as expected of them. They rather tend to take things for granted and not give due importance to their roles and functions as people’s representatives.

I appealed to all the elected representatives to make a clear-cut difference between ‘kriya’ and ‘karma’. ‘Kriya’ is performed by everyone including animals on need basis for their survival. This is entirely personal. But as elected representatives, ‘karma’ which means to do good and to work for others should be their primary duty. ‘Karma’ calls for doing good work to help the needy. I urged the Panchayats to make ‘karma’ as part of their behavioural life, and make service to the people their principle ideology.

It is sad to see that nowadays people are losing faith and belief in the Panchayatiraj institutions, which is a threat to democracy itself and a matter of great concern to everyone of us. This is mainly due to the irresponsible and selfish behavior of the elected representatives. Panchayats should therefore use their post, position and powers for the welfare of the people and not for any personal gains. They have to take a pro-active role in making a difference in the lives of the villagers and leading a ‘public life’ and foregoing ‘personal life’. Only then will they be able to restore people’s faith in the system.

The very essence of democracy is public participation. Panchayats must therefore, ensure maximum public participation in all public-related works. People should be involved actively in all Government schemes and works so that public take responsibility and ownership of the works being undertaken in their villages .

I assigned the following tasks to the Panchayats:
1. To ensure that at least one member of every household has a Government employee, Panchayats should submit application of educated unemployed from such households within a month. Adhoc or Muster Roll jobs will be granted to such candidates.

2. Government employees from department like RMDD, Energy and Power, Health etc should visit all households as ‘Grievance Surveryor’ and prepare a survey of the problems faced by the people.

3. Rs. 1000 crores has been sanctioned for various works as part of the 32 days’ tour, all needful arrangements to be made to distribute these works to all 25,630 contractors of the State. Further, these works must be properly implemented and land compensation rates should be as per the old rate approved by the Government.

4. Numerous works in the villages like drinking water, school repair, hospitals, roads, bridges, etc must be carefully sorted out as per priority and on need-basis.

5. Rural Housing Schemes must be completed at the earliest.

6. Panchayats should work in close co-operation with former Panchayats.

7. Panchayats have to spread the message to the people that there are numerous employment opportunities created other than those in the Government sector. Tourism and organic farming can be gainful source of employment in view of the State’s great potential in these two fields. Those interested in Government jobs must be told that in order to secure a job, one has to sit for competitive exams and interview. As the State Government has ensured reservation for all communities, no person should feel left out or marginalized in the reservation system.

8. Libraries in all Gram Prashashan Kendras should be well-maintained. Panchayats should develop reading habit to keep themselves updated. They must have knowledge on rules and regulations.

9. Gram Sabhas must be held at regular intervals.

10. All village and urban areas to be kept neat and clean.

11. Panchayats must not let people be misled and misinformed by the irresponsible people. They should educate the people on the recent decision taken by the Government with regard to safeguard of land belonging to the people of the Sherpa community and also the safeguard of land of the BLs under the provision of Revenue Order No.1.Similarly, people should be made aware that all sections of the people are treated equally in our State and no person has been deprived of his/her rights and privileges. Our policy of inclusive development has ensured that no person has been left out of our development agenda.

12. Panchayats need to pro-actively participate in the on-going door-to-door campaign of the SDF Party.

13. Panchayats should identify and recommend only genuine and needy beneficiaries for CMRHM. Rest of them may be provided with funds for house upgradation .