On 1st July 2020, through a notification issued by the Lt Governor, Admiral DK Joshi, all seven Panchayat Samitis in Andaman and Nicobar Islands were abolished.
Despite the idea in the air for more than a year, and clear four months after the notification, the fate of the assets and manpower hangs in balance with no decision forthcoming regarding restructuring.
Panchayat Samiti was the middle tier of the three-tier Panchayati Raj Institution as envisaged in the 73rd amendment that came into force in 1992.
The seven Samitis from Campbell Bay to Diglipur with more than 300 staff – regular and daily wages – haven’t been paid the wages for the month of October yet.
“We haven’t received our salary or the Diwali bonus yet,” informed a clerical staff working in one of the Samity.
Though, all official works have been stalled after the abolition, the employees are clueless about their job or role.
Non-payment of wages has hit the daily wagers severely, who aren’t even sure about their future.
Even the Engineering staff, Panchayat Secretaries, Clerks and Peons, who are regular employees of the Island Administration, and serving in various Panchayats across the territory haven’t received their salary, as they draw pay against the Grant-in-Aid provided to Panchayat Samitis.
“The indecisiveness of the Administration is quite appalling, and might drag on for some more time, as Secretary or Director RD haven’t been seen taking any interest in the affairs concerned with rural areas,” said a Samiti member.
“Most of the ongoing works also remain affected and unmonitored due to this indecisiveness,” said an engineering staff.
The Secretary, Rural Development, as usual maintained silence when asked to respond on the reason behind the delay.
When asked to comment on such indecisiveness, Sanjay Balan, a retd DANIC officer said, “We are still stuck in the moronish paper works and lethargic decision making.”
“Payment of regular staff can’t be held up like this and that too during festival season,” he added.
“I don’t think there should be much of problem regarding assets. It will most probably go to the Panchayats concerned, and the staff, mostly manned by BDOs or on diverted capacity may go back to their own departments,” said Sanjay Balan.
However, on the fate of the daily wagers, he felt that they might be left out in the cold.
“It’s really sad state of affairs to delay wages, since salary budget is released to PRIs by Directorate, and the staff of the Samitis should be directly under the Directorate, said Som Naidu, Retd Director RD.
He also agreed that the assets should go to the Panchayats.
“Covid may be cited as a reason for all the delays taking place, with matters concerned with rural areas, but such delays weren’t there, when the high voltage drama at Zilla Parishad was enacted. Orders, memos and files were moving at Mach-3 speed,” quipped a politician take a dig on the state of affairs.
While the Administration had sufficient time to decide the future of Panchayati Raj Institutions before and after the abolition of Samiti, the delay affects lives, as it’s the daily wagers, who will have to bear the brunt.