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Salcete locals say gram sabha delays have become a norm

MARGAO: Salcete locals say that delay in holding gram sabha for a month or two and even more has become like a regular norm for some panchayats in the taluka.  To add to it, the government in the recent past, through a circular, has removed the ‘any other business’ item on the agenda and the citizens feel it has been only done to suppress their voice.

According to Goa Panchayat Raj Act 1994, every panchayat in the state has to hold eight gram sabhas in a year (four ordinary and four extraordinary). While the ordinary gram sabhas are to be mandatorily held in the month of January, April, July and October, the extraordinary gram sabha is required to be conducted on important dates such as January 26, August 15, October 2, and December 19 to chalk out core programmes.

As per RTI information, in May 2018, the BDO of Salcete had issued an order to 19 panchayats of the total 30 panchayats asking to hold gram sabha that was not held in April month.

He had issued the order exercising powers bestowed under sub section 4 of Section 5 of Goa Panchayat Raj Act 1994.  These 19 panchayats included Seraulim, Varca, Orlim, Carmona, Betalbatim, Nuvem, Aquem-Baixo, Davorlim-Dicarpale, Rumdamol-Davorlim, Chinchinim, Sarzora, St Jose de Areal, Raia,   Rachol, Curtorim, Macazana, Chandor, Guirdolim and Paroda.

When several sarpanchas of Salcete were contacted for their comment, most of them pointed out that the delay or deferment mostly occurs due to non-availability of the panchayat secretary as many of them hold additional charge. Some said that gram sabhas have to be rescheduled to avoid clash with village festivals and other important events in villages.

“Sometimes we have to defer the gram sabhas due to festivals. If we do not do this, the gram sabha does not witness enough number of villagers on those days,” said a sarpanch.

Aquem-Baixo sarpanch Siddesh Bhagat said that the delay in holding gram sabhas occurs as government assigns other duties to panchayat secretaries and, hence, they are not available sometimes.

On the other hand, residents of different villages of Salcete claimed that panchayat members do not want to face people on controversial issues and that is why gram sabhas are either delayed or deferred.

“I feel that whichever panchayat, defers the gram sabha two-three times in a row, should not be given government grants,” said Jerry Pereira of Davorlim- Dicarpale.

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