Article 243(B) of the Constitution defines the Gram Sabha as a body consisting of persons registered in the electoral rolls relating to a village comprised within the area of the Panchayat at the village level.
Gram sabha is to perform numerous functions like discussing the report on socio-economic development programmes implemented by the Gram Panchayat (GP) in the previous financial year, examine the annual statement of the accounts and audit report as well as annual report of administration of the GP in the last financial year; (c) examine the budget of the GP for the next financial year, identification of the beneficiaries of various anti-poverty and rural development programmes; scrutinize on-going and completed schemes and works of the GP, undertake programmes of adult education and family welfare in the village mobilisation of voluntary labour and contributions in kind or cash or both for community welfare programmes and promotion and unity and harmony among all sections of society in the village.
In this village Patha or in nearby villages of Block Mehroni or even in District Lalitpur there were no examples which could be followed. We have never heard of any village in our district where gram sabha is held on regular basis or for that matter even once in Five Year term of Panchayat(village). Although on paper there might be numerous meetings held every year in each Panchayat but none is practiced.
But thanks to our team, which was determined enough to get the Gram Sabha held in village Patha, but not without administrative support from SDM office. Neither Gram Pradhan nor Village Development Officer( Secretary-Panchayat) was interested in any such activity which might get them in trouble(though possibility was very remote). Everybody knows about the prevailing corruption in government offices where poverty alleviation, welfare and employment programmes are marred with corrupt practices. MGNREGA, Widow Pension Schemes, Old Age Pension Schemes are some examples where occurs the large level manipulation in payment and irregularities in maintaining the records and selecting beneficiaries. The same is true with this village. But now the RaiseThyVoice team has taken the reins of the situation and the team would not give it up.
Gram Sabha was scheduled to be started before noon but as was expected, Gram Pradhan managed to get it delayed in time and Secretary came at around 2.30 pm just after ADO(development officer) had arrived. The people do not know about the functions and powers of Gram Sabha. They even did not know for what purpose they had gathered but only one thing that officers would come and might announce some favourable thing of their interests. VDO started with different public programmes being implemented in Gram Panchayat and after giving brief information about each of these schemes, he started calling names of some beneficiaries who were present there to guarantee the same. But we knew and so did everyone that everything was planned in before by Pradhan and Secretary. Only those names were announced who were getting benefit(and planted by Gram Pradhan) and not those who had not got the benefits even after being selected as beneficiary. There were many complaints but not heard properly and at the same time the people were afraid of expressing their concerns and get addressed their grievances because of possible ill-treatment later on. Even Ration Card holders once voiced that APL card holders were not being given ration and kerosene was not being distributed for last three months but VDO was not ready to listen and everything was being hastened to sum up the things. Then there was also large crowd which was also to be managed by the team so as to avoid any mishappening of any kind. And the First Gram Sabha in last month of this Panchayat of Five Year Term ended with around TEN PROPOSALS voiced by our team on behalf of villagers which were listed in an application addressed to Sub Divisional Magistrate(SDM) and was signed by Gram Sabha and Gram Pradhan.
The proposals included a number of village level access roads and electricity availability in distant localities.
Our Block Development Officer asked us that what did we get from getting arranged the Gram Sabha meeting and we replied that as such no result but yes the process has begun and the people have started believing, if not all then atleast our team members have started believing that something can be done instead of doing nothing.
We will have to start somewhere and we have started at our place.
We will have to start sometime and we have started it now.