Chandigarh: A section within the ruling combine of Jannayak Janata Party-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP-JJP) is supporting the agitating sarpanches in Haryana, even as the Manohar Lal Khattar government remains steadfast on its decision of carrying out panchayat works through e-tenders.
In a statement Saturday, JJP leader Digvijay Singh Chautala said the government should accept the demands of the elected representatives of panchayats and empower them.
Digvijay is Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala’s younger brother and is the JJP secretary general.
Later, Digvijay told ThePrint that the government needs to realise that the elected representatives of the panchayats have to face the electorate after five years, not the bureaucrats.
Notably, the agitating sarpanches claim that e-tendering, if implemented, takes away their powers as it routes all development work through government officials.
“The Panchayati Raj Institution elections have provided strength to the BJP-JJP government since 21 out of 22 Zila Parishads are headed by the alliance. A majority of the newly elected sarpanches also come from the coalition’s ideology. Many of them are new and have a lot of energy and enthusiasm to make a difference through development works in their villages. The government should support them,” Digvijay said, adding that he does not understand why the government should have any kind of confrontation with them.
When ThePrint contacted Dushyant for his views on Digvijay’s stand, the Deputy CM said the government has already empowered sarpanches by increasing the financial ceiling from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh for executing works on their own through e-tendering.
Asked specifically whether he wants the e-tendering rule to go, Dushyant said even the works under the MPLAD scheme were allocated through e-tenders.
A government press release Monday said that on the initiative of the chief minister, the panchayats have the authority to give administrative approval for development works.
However, along with this, the responsibility for technical approval of these works has been given to executive, superintending and chief engineers. “E-tender for all works above the value of Rs. 2 lakh will be done through Haryana Engineering Works Portal,” the statement read.
The CM is of the opinion that in today’s era of IT, every system is going online, it said. “Some leaders are doing politics in the name of e-tender for panchayats which is not right. Haryana now has well-educated panchayats who are capable of getting the work done by the officers. They will not allow the politics of such leaders to dominate them; today’s panchayats are well-versed in using IT,” Khattar was quoted as saying in the statement.
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INLD’s Abhay Chautala against e-tender, too
For the first time, the JJP seems to be on the same page with the opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). Leader of Opposition and senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda has already demanded the scrapping of e-tendering in panchayats.
INLD chief Abhay Singh Chautala, who happens to be estranged uncle of Digvijay and Dushyant, has said that if the chief minister is head of the state, the sarpanch is also head of his village. “The panchayats should have the right to spend money the way they want,” Abhay said in a statement Sunday, adding that e-tendering should go.
Meanwhile, sarpanches met at Panchayat Minister Devender Babli’s Tohana constituency on Sunday and resolved to lock the block development offices across the state. Protests took place outside block development offices Monday at Hisar, Fatehabad, Bhiwani, Mahendergarh, Ambala, Karnal and Rohtak.
“We decided to hold protests outside these offices and boycott Babli’s lunch on January 23 where Khattar and Dushyant are (attending as) guests. We will go there and hold a protest to register our disapproval of the e-tendering,” Ranbir Singh Samain, sarpanch of Samain village of Fatehabad, told The Print.
Babli, the JJP MLA from Tohana, has invited Khattar and Dushyant to his programme on 23 January.
In a statement issued Monday, Babli said that like sarpanches, he was also a people’s representative. “We are all public servants. Whatever changes the government is bringing are for the convenience of the public so that there can be more transparency in the works,” he said.
Nothing has changed in the powers of the people’s representatives and only the system has been changed, Babli said. He added that manual work would now be automated in the new system.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
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