BHUBANESWAR: Former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar on Saturday asserted that a strong and empowered Panchayati Raj system can root out the menace of Left wing extremism in the country.
True power should be vested in the hands of the people at the lowest strata to decide what their priorities are and implement the programmes. This will stem the rising dissatisfaction among the populace and counter the influence of the Maoists, he said.
Delivering a talk on “Power to Panchayats: power to people”, organised by the Citizen’s Apex Association (CAA), Aiyar observed that there was a total disconnect between reality as the poor saw it and the progress as seen by the elite. The GDP growth has been projected at an average of 8 per cent on the one hand but on the other, the rate of poverty alleviation has not risen above 0.8 per cent.
The rich are getting “obscenely richer” while the status of the poor has not changed over the decades since Independence. More than 77 per cent of the population still survives with Rs 20 a day. Such persistent neglect has bred LWE to such an extent that one third of the districts in the country are partially or seriously affected by Maoists.
The solution to the problems lies in breaking the system off the shackles of bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is not responsive to the people owing to the fact that the whole system is designed to show that the administrator is the priority and not the administered.
The Central Government has no solution to offer. It has been reduced to pandering to the elite and the rich. The decision-makers and the Planning Commission heads are also pursuing wrong goals that would only benefit the rich and hardly better the lives of the poor.
“We have to get out of the bureaucratic mould. With the real power in the hands of the people, administration officials should be put under Panchayati Raj system at different levels, at least those who are in charge of implementation of the 29 subjects of development and welfare at the grassroots,” Aiyar emphasised.
Crediting Rajiv Gandhi as the true architect of PR system in the country, Aiyar said the former prime Minister had the vision to empower the most neglected sections. Bringing women into the mainstream is the single largest achievement of the system. There may be overriding complaints over proxy or emergence of the breed of “sarpanch patis” but the situation is changing fast. Women who have been propped up by their husbands are beginning to assert themselves, he stated.
“Rajiv Gandhi did not resort to sleep over in Dalit households, he tried to understand the actual needs of the people. He had the vision for transformation of India and unless effective measures are taken, his legacy is set to be buried,” Aiyar warned.
Among others, CAA president NK Panda, former chief secretary SB Mishra, IIPA secretary Dr PK Mishra and SKB Narayan were present.