Hold panchayat polls on time, win benefits from Centre: Minister

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) States which hold elections to panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) on time will get benefits from the programme of the central government to fund construction of gram panchayat offices, Panchayati Raj Minister K.C. Deo said Wednesday.

Deo said his ministry has launched the Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan (RGPSA) in the 12th plan, recognizing that states have different needs and priorities, for which they need to plan in accordance with their specific needs.

He said the RGPSA allows states to undertake a wide range of activities, including construction and repair of gram panchayat offices, capacity building and strengthening of training infrastructure.

“An amount of Rs.6,200 crore has been marked for the Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan in the 12th plan. With the state’s contribution, the amount will go up to Rs.8,000 crore,” the minister told mediapersons here.

He said states which hold timely elections to panchayats will be able to access funds under the programme.

“If there are no elected PRIs, whom do we give funds to,” the minister said, explaining the rationale for rewarding states that hold timely panchayat polls.

RGPSA promotes devolution of powers to panchayats by linking 20 percent scheme funds to performance of states, on criteria linked to devolution and accountability.

Under RGPSA, states will identify priorities, and through the five-year perspective, the central government will support the efforts in the ratio of 75:25 for all states and 90:10 for north eastern states.

The minister expressed dissatisfaction over the pace of transfer of powers to PRIs in many states.

He said there was resistance to devolution of financial powers to PRIs in Jammu and Kashmir.

The minister said that about 50,000 of 2.4 lakh panchayats in the country had been provided broadband connection.

“Broadband connection was being provided through solar power in areas where there were problems of electricity,” he said.

The minister said states have been advised to videograph proceedings of gram Sabha meetings to ensure transparency and accountability.

He said the ministry was also pursuing e-governance in panchayats and has developed 11 software applications.

He said a panchayat strengthening index has been prepared by an independent agency to encourage states to empower panchayats.

The ministry is pursuing a bill to amend the constitution to enhance reservation for women in panchayats from one-third to 50 percent.

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