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State trying to crush panchayati system: Passang

Monday, Jun 01, 2020 13:45 [IST]

Last Update: Monday, Jun 01, 2020 08:15 [IST]

State trying to crush panchayati system: Passang

BIJOY GURUNG
GANGTOK: Social-political activist Passang Sherpa on Sunday accused the SKM government of “crushing” the two-tier Panchayati Raj Institution in Sikkim with an “unconstitutional and illegal” notification issued by the Rural Development department.
The May 15 notification reads: “In view of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown and its extension and due to the guidelines issued on social distancing, there is no possibility of conducting Gram Sabhas to select beneficiaries pertaining to various rural development schemes”.
Accordingly, a committee was notified with the concerned BDO as its chairperson and respective panchayats as members. The committee is tasked to verify and prepare the list of genuine beneficiaries of all developmental and rural housing schemes including the Sikkim GaribAwasYojana.
Addressing a press meet here, Passang condemned the notification and contended that it is directly unconstitutional and illegal. “The notification violates the 73rd and 74thamendment of the Constitution. In this pandemic time, panchayats must be empowered with resources to win the battle against Covid-19 but here, the powers and rights of the panchayats are being snatched away. It is a ploy to crush the two-tier panchayati system in Sikkim,” he said.
“If we are to accept the Covid-19 rationale of the State government behind this notification, even the MLAs do not have much work due to the pandemic and lockdown. Let the government transfer the direct power of the MLAs to the chief secretary if they can give the power of panchayats to the BDO,” Passang said.
The activist appealed the 1,100-odd panchayats in Sikkim to oppose the ‘anti-constitutional’ notification. “I appeal each and every panchayat to write a letter to the Prime Minister against this notification. Post a letter from every village of Sikkim so that the matter reaches the Prime Minister and this illegal notification will be scrapped within one day. It is the right of the panchayats to identify the beneficiaries for government welfare schemes in their villages and not of the BDO,” he said.
Regarding the question that the notification is for an interim period, Passang said the powers and independence of panchayats given by the Constitution cannot be taken away even for an interim period. “Other States are empowering the panchayats with funds and powers to fight against Covid-19 but the situation in Sikkim is totally different. We cannot win the war against Covid-19 without the involvement of pancahyats at the grassroots level,” he stressed.
At the press meet, Passang further accused the SKM government of having a ‘double standard’ approach in defining social distancing and Covid-19 safety protocols. His outrage was over the denial of permission to conduct a meeting with political parties and social organisations for laying the ground work to compile an independent report on the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 lockdown.
“We had clearly submitted that we will be following all safety protocols and social distancing while having a gathering of only 30 persons. However, we were not given the permission. At the same time, social distancing and other protocols do not seem to apply to the SKM government and SKM party. They can gather people in a single room and form associations, hold meetings without any social distancing. Even the 1stSKM government formation day was observed without any such protocols. So we ask if the social distancing and safety protocols apply only for opposition parties and social organisations,” said Passang.
Passang said he and his group will meet the political parties and social organisations individually and take their inputs for compiling the Covid-19 impact report and submit to the government.
Passang was accompanied by social activist SonamGyatso Sherpa at the press meet.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi