Salcete sarpanchas revive pitch for more powers to ZPs

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ROQUE DIAS | NT

Margao   

Several sarpanchas in Salcete taluka strongly pitched for devolution of powers to zilla panchayats. Irked by the non-devolution of powers over the years, they said the government should scrap the ZPs if it is not interested in empowering the panchayat bodies.

‘The Navhind Times’ spoke to several incumbent as well former sarpanchas in the taluka, who lamented the step-motherly treatment meted out to the local self-governing bodies by the government. 

ZP elections will be held in the state on March 22, and have revived the long-pending demand from the panchayats for the devolution of powers.

The sarpanchas  said that if the government is not ready to devolve the powers under the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution to the ZPs then it should discard them.

However, a few of them have expressed hope that the government will delegate the power to them.

Camorlim sarpanch  Basilio Fernandes said, “The government’s reluctance  to devolve powers and allocate funds to the ZPs to develop  constituencies indicates that  the government  wants to have  a  top-to -bottom ‘working structure’  – from  legislators to  the ZPs  and then to the village panchayats – and not  as per  the  Goa  Panchayats Raj Act. If this is the approach then the government should scrap the ZPs and perhaps even the village panchayats.”  

A woman sarpanch   urged the government not to look down upon the ZPs.

“If the government is intentionally denying the powers and the funds then it is better to dispense with the ZPs in Goa…,” she
remarked.

Curtorim sarpanch Rui Menezes opined that more powers and funds will help the ZPs function optimally.

“The government must explain as to why powers have not been devolved to the ZPs. If the government has doubt about ZPs’ functional capabilities then it should scrap them and strengthen the village panchayats instead,” Menezes argued.

Another sarpanch from the taluka equated ZP members to legislators, urging the government not to look down upon the ZP members. 

“I do not know whether the ZP elections are held merely as a formality. If the government really cares for the grassroots bodies then it should strengthen the ZPs with powers and subjects,” he reckoned. 

Former sarpanch of Aquem Baixo Siddhesh Bhagat is of the opinion that Goa is a small state and hence the three-tier system is too “congested” for it.

“The government should scrap the ZPs in the state rather that ignoring them,’’ he reckoned. 

The ZPs in the state were formed on the High Court directives, and   the first ZP elections were held in 2000. The ZPs initially were entrusted with a few subjects on a trial basis, which were later taken back.

The governments that were led by the BJP and the Congress have been accused of not devolving powers to the ZPs.

Anguished by the non-devolution of powers, ZP members in South Goa had even demanded scrapping of the panchayat bodies some years back, although there has been increase in the funds handed down.