As the circumstances demands, hundreds of sarpanches in Telangana have submitted their resignations to the governing BRS in protest of the alleged misappropriation of monies intended for gram panchayats as they in acute debt.
Every succeeding administration has put up plan after plan to “rescue” the indebted gram panchayats, but none of them appears to have had any effect. According to a new report from the government-owned NABARD, 958 Telangana gram panchayats, spanning across 48 villages in six districts, were surveyed to see how many are failing to pay back their loans on time: 79%. The high sarpanchs suicide rate is therefore not surprising in these circumastsnces.
Numerous districts were home to thousands of sarpanchs from all political stripes who offered the Telangana government one week to return the funds that were meant for them or face a “Chalo Pragathi Bhavan” protest to press their claim because they are in debt.
In protest of the alleged misappropriation of funds intended for gram panchayats, hundreds of sarpanchs have submitted letters of resignation to the BRS. Several hundred more have threatened to leave the party if the government does not return the funds within a week.
According to sarpanchs, the government owes each gram panchayat up to ’20 lakh, and because the government diverted the monies it received from the Center for that reason, the gramme panchayats had to spend their own money on village development.
They said they were in debt as a result of the money being diverted. Sarpanchs claimed they had to raise money on their own to pay salaries for sanitation workers in villages, to carry out development projects like Haritha Haram and Prakruthi Vanam, to lay and maintain roads, to carry out sanitation projects, and other things because the state government had been unable to release funds for six months.
They argued that by borrowing money from private lenders and mortgaging their homes to fund village development projects, all sarpanches in the state fell into a “debt trap.”
“Despite claims from officials that we are receiving money, our account has not yet been credited. Even though Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao promised to provide funds of Rs 15 lakh for consensual local body elections, he did not. I started working as a security guard in a private apartment because I won’t even receive my honorarium for another six months “Irusu Mallesh, the village sarpanch of Arepally in Dichpally mandal in Telangana’s Nizamabad district, says.
A little over 400 people live in the small settlement of Arepally. The State Finance Commission is required to give the village Rs 37,000 a month based on its population. Mallesh claims that the village does not receive this amount and that, as a result of a lack of funding, he had to pay for the state government’s Palle Pragathi programme out of his own pocket.
Although the district collector, Narayana Reddy, denied the charges and said that the village had received all monies as of this point, it appears that this is the case in many gramme panchayats around the state. According to reports in local media, other rural sarpanches have voiced similar worries and claimed they are becoming trapped in a debt cycle due to delay in the release of funds.
When the Centre last week credited the Finance Commission grants directly into the bank accounts of gram panchayats, the state government fraudulently diverted the amount into its accounts without their notice instead of clearing pending bills, sarpanchs alleged.
They asserted that the government started paying Rythu Bandhu payments to farmers on December 28 after diverting Central monies to do so.
“To stop the diversion of federal monies, the federal government immediately credited money to gram panchayat bank accounts. The only people with the authority to withdraw these funds online using digital signatures are sarpanches and up-sarpanches. However, panchayat secretaries took advantage of our digital signatures and secretly transferred the money to state government accounts. According to Telangana Panchayat Raj Chamber President Satyanarayana Reddy, this amounts to financial fraud and cybercrime.
He said that they will file complaints with various investigating authorities and file cases against district collectors, district and mandal level panchayat administrators, as well as panchayat secretaries, for “taking our digital signatures and monies.”
In response to the sarpanches’ charges, the panchayat raj minister Errabelli Dayakar Rao charged the BJP with inciting sarpanches to rebel against the state administration.
“The Telangana Panchayat Raj Act gives the state government the authority to use federal funding. The money was used to settle gramme panchayats’ long-standing arrears on their power bills. Gram panchayats are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the Centre’s April funding cutoff. It very lately began disbursing the money. Gram panchayats, on the other hand, are receiving regular funding from the state government. I implore sarpanches to avoid the BJP’s trap” Dayakar Rao added tohis statement.
The president of the Telangana Sarpanches Association and the sarpanch of Gangavelli in Shadnagar in the Rangareddy district, Venkatesh Yadav, says to #KhabarLive, “All the 12,000 gramme panchayats together are supposed to get Rs 350 crore every month but the government is not even giving us Rs 100 crore. How will this amount be sufficient for all the gram panchayats?”
He continues, “Many sarpanches have incurred debt as a result of using their own funds to build the hamlet. Additionally, no local MLA money are being distributed. Before it’s too late, the government needs to take immediate action on these challenges.”
According to Venkatesh Yadav, their organisation has made an effort to get in touch with the Chief Minister and the Commissioner of the Panchayat Raj and Rural Development department in order to voice their concerns.
Sandeep Kumar Sultania, the secretary of the state’s Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Department, responded to #KhabarLive’s request for comment on the claims made against sarpanches by stating that the government is disbursing the money that is owed each month. Added Sandeep Kumar: “The money is being distributed by the government to each and every gram panchayat without any delay.” However, when asked why the allegations of sarpanches contradict claims of the government, he said that officials will verify complaints from specific gram panchayats. #KhabarLive #hydnews #hydlive #hyderabadlive