Strengthening of Panchayati Raj close to my heart: Sonia

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New Delhi, June 13 (UNI) Congress President Sonia Gandhi today called upon the heads of Panchayati Raj institutions to energise themselves to ensure that the benefits of economic growth flow equally to the rural areas.

''Strengthening the institutions of Panchayati Raj was a cause that was particularty close to Shri Rajiv Gandhi's heart, as it is to mine,'' Mrs Gandhi said, addressing the inaugural meeting of the Panchayati Raj Sangathan.

''In this era of globalisation and rapid economic growth, it is even more essential to ensure that the voices of the panchayats are heard, that Panchayati Raj leaders and workers have a say in shaping and influencing development policies, so that the grassroots needs and aspirations are represented, and the benefits of our economic growth flow equally to rural areas,'' she said to chairpersons of the Sanghatan who had come from across the country.

She said the empowerment of Panchayati Raj institutions was crucial to the healthy functioning of democracy. It was necessary for the success of the party's development programmes and for the fulfillment of a dream of a just and equitable society, she added.

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