VAOs, forest officials found absent at gram sabhas in three tribal panchayats in Pachamalai
TNIE visited all three panchayats -- Kombai, Vannadu and Thenpuranadu -- and found the works were performed by clerks or panchayat assistants.
TIRUCHY: In three tribal panchayats in Pachamalai, Village Administrative Officers (VAOs) and forest officials remained absent during the gram sabha meetings on Monday. TNIE visited all three panchayats -- Kombai, Vannadu and Thenpuranadu -- and found the works were performed by clerks or panchayat assistants. The Kombai panchayat, housing 12 tribal hamlets, held its grama sabha meeting in Sembulichanpatti village.
Baring Anganwadi workers, who were busy issuing pamphelts on awareness related to nutrition levels for children and mothers, none of the officials of agriculture department, forest department were present. The VAO too skipped the meeting. J Raveendran, the panchayat president, told TNIE that he had informed all the officials prior, but all gave it a skip.
In the meeting, that lasted for less than 20 minutes, requests were made to ensure proper road connectivity and bus facility in four tribal villages - Maruthai, Kundur, Erumaippatti and Erikkadu - in the panchayat as residents have to walk six kilometres to areas difficult for vehicles to enter. The Vannadu panchayat, housing 21 tribal hamlets, held its gram sabha meeting in Thonur village in which only officials from agriculture engineering department, cooperative department and few others were present. Notably, VAO and forest officials were absent.
The meeting lasted for more than two hours with residents raising various issues such as the need to increase bus service from Thuraiyur to Vannadu, widening of forest department roads and establishment of a PHC. Panchayat president Saroja Muthuraman told TNIE that the VAO is present on other days and was missing only for the grama sabha meeting. Meanwhile, in the grama sabha meeting held by Thenpuranadu panchayat in Nachilipatty, the VAO and forest department officials were absent.
In the meeting, attended by over 100 villagers, a demand was made to renovate the 65-year-old primary school and increase the beds in PHC from two to 30. Speaking to TNIE, panchayat president Banumathi K said the VAO does not visit their panchayat regularly. "For a signature, we have to go to the plains as the VAO would not be present in the panchayat office.
We live in areas that come under forest limit, when they do not come to grama sabhas then how else they [forest officials] would understand our needs," said another resident. However, one of the VAOs TNIE spoke to cited personal reasons for his absence in the grama sabha meeting. When contacted Collector M Pradeep Kumar and a senior forest department official assured to look into the issue.