BHUBANESWAR: Every time when there is a natural calamity, the residents of Talapada, a seaside panchayat in Balasore district are the last ones to get relief materials and attention from the administration.
As the coastal panchayat comes under Remuna panchayat samiti, which is 45 km away, hardly any official visits it to oversee the development works. It is also a cumbersome affair for the habitants dominated by scheduled caste to travel a long distance to get things done.
The situation in tribal-dominated districts like Malkangiri, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Nuapada, Balangir and Kalahandi is worse as a number of villages are located at a long distance from their respective block headquarters.
Although the panchayats get adequate funds from the government, monitoring of developmental works is largely affected due to inadequate officials at the block-level.
With the government diverting financial autonomy to panchayats, it is high time to create more panchayat samitis for better implementation of welfare schemes, representatives have demanded.
The State has 314 panchayat samitis/blocks at present and those were created during a span of nearly one decade between 1952 and 1964. Although the growth of population has been over three times - from 1.46 crore in 1951 to around 4.5 crore now - the number of blocks remains the same.
In a bid to ensure extension of government schemes and benefits to people residing in hamlets, the State government has already begun the process to accord revenue village status to over 4,000 hamlets. But there has been no decision on creation of new panchayat samitis on the basis of population and distance.
“Is the management and operation of works entrusted to panchayat samitis in 2021 possible with the infrastructure provided during 1952 to 1964? Inadequate manpower and lack of infrastructure will lead to corruption,” pointed out Anirudha Prasad Das, a local leader and former president of Cooperative Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) Bank, Balasore.
Ahead of the three-tier panchayat elections scheduled early next year, the demand for creation of at least 60 new panchayat samitis grows louder with a group of panchayat leaders demanding bifurcation of some big blocks for better implementation of welfare schemes.
“A number of schemes are being implemented apart from huge infrastructure works involving hundreds of crores. But no step has been taken over the years to increase the staff strength at the blocks. It is difficult to monitor everything with skeletal staff,” admitted BP Mohanty, a retired officer.
Meanwhile, some panchayat leaders have written to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik seeking his immediate intervention for creation of new panchayat samitis for proper supervision of various developmental works at bottom level and effective implementation of welfare schemes.