A coalition of citizens’ groups such as Voice of People, Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, Arappor Iyakkam, Thozhan, Illaya Thalaimurai and HRF, led by Thannatchi Iyakkam, has released a manifesto detailing key demands for reforms in the local bodies.
The key features of the manifesto include payment of a salary for local body representatives at all levels, strengthening of gram sabhas, setting up of ward committees and area sabhas and setting up of an ombudsman. Many recommendations in the manifesto highlight how such interventions have proven to be successful in the case of a much more evolved and participatory local government structure as seen in Kerala.
The key demands outlined in the manifesto are as follows:
- Fixing of monthly salary for all the local body representatives. It must be noted that currently Councillors do not receive any salary for their time and efforts. This could lead to intrest in amassing wealth by other means.
- Strengthening the functioning of Gram Sabhas as per the required procedures
- Creation of a separate ministry in Tamil Nadu for Panchayat Raj
- Establishment of the Ombudsman system for both Urban and Rural local bodies in Tamil Nadu
- Expansion and strengthening of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS)
- Appointment of more administrative staff at the local bodies for efficient discharge of duties
- Greater transparency in working of local bodies and dissemination of financial information through a dedicated website along the lines of PRIAsoft
- Provision of guidance and training to all the elected representatives from the reserved categories
- Implementation of the devolution of power in the local bodies as per L.C.Jain Committee’s recommendations
- Transfer of control of subjects mentioned in schedule 11 and 12 of the Constitution to local bodies
- Framing of laws separately for each type of Urban Local Bodies and the constitution of Ward Committees and Area Sabhas in all Urban Local Bodies
With the rural local body polls scheduled for December 27 and 30, and the urban local body polls expected to follow soon after, the set of demands placed by the civil society organisations highlight the various aspects of local governance that need greater attention and change.