Governor turns down bill to curb panchayat powers in Karnataka


Bangalore : Karnataka's move to curb the powers of gram panchayats (village governing councils) has been shot down by Governor T.N. Chaturvedi with a stinging criticism that the step is uncalled for.

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In an unusually long message to the state legislature, while returning the bill to amend the Karnataka Panchayat Raj act, the governor said he wanted the legislators "to reconsider the need, propriety, timeliness and relevance of the bill."

The 10-page message questioning the rationale for amending the act terms the step as "retrogressive" that runs counter to the process of democratic decentralisation.

The message sent to the two houses was read out by the presiding officers Thursday.

The controversial amendment bill was passed by the state legislature during the budget session earlier this year amidst stiff opposition from panchayats, civic groups, a section of the opposition Congress party and smaller political groups in the two houses.

The amendment takes away the powers of the gram panchayats to select beneficiaries for various central and state welfare schemes. The most contentious provision of the bill was to deprive the panchayats of the power to select beneficiaries for houses under the state sponsored 'Ashraya' (Shelter) scheme.

The amendment sought to vest this power with a committee headed by members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) on the ground that panchayats had failed to discharge the task properly.

"It is not known on what basis such a conclusion has been arrived at. No committee, official or otherwise was appointed to make a thorough study, to come to such a drastic conclusion, when we in the state of Karnataka rightly take pride about the working of our gram panchayats and panchayat raj in general," the governor said.

"The sweeping indictment of these local bodies in these circumstances does not carry any conviction. Amendment in the existing statute on the basis of personal impressions will not be fair to the panchayats, which form the bedrock of the democratic system," the governor told the legislators urging them to reconsider the amendment.