M A I N   N E W S

All gram sabha meetings to be videographed
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 20
For the first time in the history of panchayati raj in India, the government is planning to bring statutory provisions to mandate videography of gram sabha meetings and scheduling of these meetings at predetermined dates, to be communicated to villagers in advance.

The Ministry of Panchayati Raj in seeking legal advice to see how these provisions can be brought into the statute and made mandatory for states to implement. The government said it could also go for a constitutional amendment to realise these goals.

“We are finding ways to make it mandatory for states to have gram sabha meetings at predetermined dates and videograph such meetings. We have received several complaints regarding contrived resolutions being passed in gram sabhas with respect to land related issues and diversion of land from forest to non forest use. We must end corruption at that level as gram sabhas are the foundations of our panchayati system,” Kishore Chandra Deo, Panchayati Raj Minister told The Tribune in a exclusive interview.

He said the government could go in for changes to the 73rd Constitutional Amendment if required. “We will see if we need a constitutional amendment or whether we can mandate these provisions through rules under the existing statutes,” Deo said.

Another major move in the pipeline is an amendment to the Panchayat Extension to the Scheduled Areas Act (PESA), 1996 wherein gram sabhas simply need to be consulted in respect of diversion of forest land for non-forest use and other critical issues.

“Mere consultation won’t ensure justice. We will amend PESA to make it mandatory for states and interested private parties to seek the consent of gram sabhas for such diversion. We have also noticed that for matters, especially land related matters under PESA, most states are treating village as the unit whereas that’s not legal. We will clarify under the Act that every state, for all purposes under PESA, must treat gram sabhas and not villages as the principal unit. When village is treated as the unit, a vast section of stakeholders automatically get excluded from discussions,” the minister said.

Regarding the need to fix dates for gram sabha meetings, Deo said, “We will mandate meetings of gram sabhas once in every quarter. Right now these meetings take place twice a year.

The need to fix dates can’t be overstated. In areas with difficult terrains, especially scheduled areas, communication is a huge challenge. Most people can’t attend meetings because they don’t know when the meeting is held. We will make statutory provisions and ask state governments to fix dates and days for gram sabha meetings and announce these before hand to ensure villagers’ participation. For instance, they can choose the first Sunday of every month for a meeting,” Deo explained.

He justified the government’s proposal to video record gram sabha meetings. “We need to know what goes on. We have encountered several instances of gram sabha resolutions being contrived against the will of villagers. That has to end. Rights of villagers especially those in tribal scheduled areas have to be protected,” Deo said.

Saving from exploitation

  • PESA Act seeks to preserve the tribal population from exploitation with active involvement of the Gram Sabha.
  • Under the Constitution, Gram Sabha is to be involved in approval of development plans, land availability and rehabilitation of displaced persons. It has control of land, forest and water.





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