Gangtok, Sikkim – The Citizen Action Party (CAP) has expressed growing concerns about the state of the Panchayati Raj System in Sikkim, calling attention to several challenges that threaten its effectiveness.
In a press conference, CAP President LP Kafley underscored the lack of decentralization as a major issue. He pointed out that the Panchayati system was initially designed to combat poverty through various initiatives, but this goal has not been fully realized. Kafley criticized the centralization of power, with authority shifting from Panchayats to Block Division Officers. He emphasized the importance of decentralizing power to empower local governance.
“The elections happened with independent candidates, but most have been forced to join parties,” Kafley noted. “Even the list of beneficiaries has to be decided along party lines and not by Panchayats.”
Delayed Grants and Neglected Staff
Kafley also raised concerns about the delayed allocation of grants to Panchayats, despite the year being well into September. The government’s failure to disburse two quarterly grants has raised questions about its commitment to supporting local governance.
CAP further criticized the Rural Development Department for neglecting the Panchayati Raj System due to a lack of sufficient staff. Currently, one rural development assistant is responsible for overseeing 2-3 Gram Panchayat Units, which CAP deems inadequate.
Regularization of Assistants and Tender Floating Rights
Additionally, CAP pointed out that Panchayat Development Assistants and Panchayat Account Assistants have not been regularized despite 8-10 years of service. The party also criticized the former Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) regime for revoking the tender floating rights of Panchayats, a move CAP demands to be reintroduced.
CAP’s Vision for Improvement
CAP has outlined a vision to strengthen local self-government. They propose allocating 30% of Sikkim’s annual budget to urban and rural bodies, decentralizing 29 subjects, introducing a composite administrative center, and ensuring immediate benefits for the public through Panchayats without the need for events or elections. Elected officials would receive cabinet rankings, salaries, and monthly pensions, while Panchayats would gain control over discretionary grants.
The party also expressed concern about young Panchayats being overlooked, emphasizing that they should not be rotated for 2-3 terms during electoral constituency rotations to provide them with more opportunities to serve.
CAP has pledged to digitize Gram Panchayat Units (GPUs) and empower Panchayats with the authority to issue Certificates of Identification and birth and death certificates. Kafley, a former Panchayat member, stressed CAP’s historical commitment to decentralization and criticized the current government for lacking an implementation plan.
“The current government doesn’t even have an implementation plan in place or an idea,” Kafley remarked.
Gangtokian Web Team, 08/09/2023