Bangalore: 'Panchayats to approve development work'

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Bengaluru, Oct 22: Rural Development and Panchayatiraj Minister Shobha Karandlaje on Tuesday, Oct 21 said that village committees would be constituted in gram panchayats to approve development work such as construction of roads, bridges and laying of drinking water pipelines.

She was speaking at a valedictory function of a workshop organised to celebrate the 60th birthday of D Veerendra Heggade, Dharmadhikari of Srikshetra Dharmasthala, here by Synergy to Solutions and Rural Development and Self Employment Training Institute (RUDSETI).

Expressing unhappiness over the lack of interest of officials in convening grama sabhas that were supposed to meet twice a year, Ms. Karandlaje said that the village committees, comprising about 15 members each, including retired teachers and elders, would be more useful in implementing development work.

The Minister said that gram panchayats were getting around Rs. 40 lakh from both the Union and State Governments. However, the panchayat members themselves were garnering the funds, as projects were allotted on piece-work basis to their (members) relatives, thus defeating the purpose of village welfare.

The committee would in consultation with the gram panchayat president decide on works that were required to be taken up in a village.

She said that there was opposition to her decision of cancelling piece-work contracts which were being used to distribute money to various small-time contractors. Instead, she said that a Rs. 10-lakh package would be introduced through tenders so that villages would have permanent assets. The intention was to make full use of the funds.

Ms. Karandlaje said that she had written to the Union Rural Development Ministry seeking permission to utilise the funds under the National Rural Employment Generation Scheme to maintain rural toilets. In many villages, they were not put to use for reasons such as non-availability of water.

She said that the MLAs were eager to become chairmen of Ashraya house committees without knowing whether the poor were being provided shelter or not.

The Minister congratulated Mr. Heggade for transforming his birthday celebrations into a workshop in which 250 non-governmental organisations, micro-financing institutions, academics and social activists participated.

Replying to the felicitation, Mr. Heggade said that Rs. 500 crore had been disbursed to rural people and the repayment was excellent.

He said that the services of RUDSETI and the Srikshetra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project were being put to use for the uplift of the rural poor and the unemployed. Women empowerment has been achieved, and in Belthangady taluk, 7,64,000 farmers have been paid a dividend of over Rs. 12 crore.

Mr. Heggade suggested to the Government that it utilise the services of his organisation for maintaining accountability and taking welfare measures to the needy. He said that of the 26 RUDSETI centres, 19 were working in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

R.M. Malla, Chairman and Executive Director, Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), delivered the valedictory address.

Earlier, V.R. Panchamukhi, Vice-Chancellor, Sanskrit University, Tirupati, inaugurated the workshop. N.K. Tingalaya and R.V. Shastri, former Chairmen and Managing Directors, attended it.

Mr. Heggade"s wife, Hemavathy Heggade, who is in charge of Mahila Vikasa Yojane and Jnana Vikasa Yojane, and former Ministers P.G.R. Sindhia, B.L. Shankar and Rani Satish were present. L.H. Manjunath, Executive Director, SKDRDP, spoke.

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