PACHU MENON, MARGAO
The news that the Sangolda gram sabha was called off due to a fight between two families in the panchayat hall over alleged dispute on paddy fields on Sunday last should compel the government to have second thoughts over the efficacy of a medium that exemplifies the vibrancy of grassroots governance, which has a stellar role to play in any democracy. As the fulcrum of the Panchayati Raj and village development, people use the forum of gram sabha to discuss local governance and development, making need-based plans for the village. Yet, the manner in which squabbles and personal enmities have been hijacking such proceedings says a lot for the immaturity of the villagers, who consider such platforms as the apt place to settle their differences. Moreover, the manner in which these meetings are conducted leaves a lot to be desired. Where matters relating to the village should have been gaining prominence at such meetings, everything but that keeps the assembly busy. With discussions turning into heated arguments, the bedlam that ensues is so typical of a market-place din that the very purpose of these mandatory meetings is lost on one. If discussions on local governance and development necessitate the token presence of police at the venues, is it to be assumed that the congregation would definitely witness spats in the course of the meeting! Well, in that case, the conspicuous absence of women police constables at the Sangolda gram sabha needs to be taken up seriously by the higher authorities. In any case, the incident was indeed a shameful one and needs to be denounced in the harshest of terms.
Such meetings need to be seen as a get-together of the villagers to take up issues pertaining to the development of their village with differences in opinion, if any, to be sorted out amicably. The panchayat members should ensure that they have a firm control over the proceedings. Gram sabha meetings continue to be seen as that opportunity eagerly awaited by the villagers to haul the panchas over the coals for their alleged inactivity over a host of issues, but none of which hardly pertain to the development of the village. For once at least, the united stand almost all villages have put up against a notification on CZMP is really appreciable.