Bhubaneswar ( Orissa) : Former Ganjam Zilla Parishad president Dharanidhar Behera, the victim of the anger of bureaucrats and legislatures, finally lost the battle by losing in the no-confidence motion on April 8.
The mistake of Behera was to question the system and assert the constitutional powers and authority vested to Zilla Parishad in general and Zilla Parishad President in particular.
The most powerful bureaucracy of the State, who rules the State with the help of the ruling BJD, finally won the battle not only against Behera, but also proved their strength.
The MLAs, who are always against decentralisation and Panchayati Raj Institutions, joined hands and finally succeeded to throw Behera out of power and sent the message for others that if any PR representative raises voice against the Prasashan Raj or MLA Raj then s/he has to face the consequence, as faced by Behera.
The ruling party along with its bureaucracy had used all its strength to dethrone Sankarsan Parida , Zilla Parishad President, Puri, but failed. This time BJD, with all preparations, entered into the battle field and finally succeeded.
Being the President of Zilla Parishad President of Ganjam district Behera was neither informed nor invited by the District Collector to the national workshop on MGNREGS held on 6th January 6 this year, which was held in his own district headquarter.
It was reported that when Behera rushed to the meeting without being invited and asked the reason for not being invited to the APD, DRDA and other Govt. officials present there, he was falsely charged with the allegation of manhandling of the OAS officers and as a result an FIR was filed against him by the President and Secretary of OAS Association.
The District Collector also brought similar kind of allegation against Behera. On that ground, he was suspended from the party, arrested by police and sent to jail. When Behera raised his voice against the nexus between the Ministers and MLAs of the ruling party and district administration, he was sidelined and faced non-cooperation by the Govt. officials.
The above situation helped the BJD leaders including two Ministers Surya Narayan Patra and Bikram Keshari Arukh, MLA of the district Sugyan Kumari Deo and all the Zilla Parishad members got united and moved no-confidence motion against Behera.
It is reported that the Congress and BJP Zilla Parishad members were bought by the ruling party towards this political move, as BJD had only 42 members in the ZP out of the total strength of 89. The reason for no-confidence motion as cited by the members of the zilla parishad that Behera had failed to call the meetings of Zilla Parishad since last few months. It is worth mentioning here that the last meeting of the Ganjam Zilla Parishad was held on 8th Sept 2009.
According to Behera, he had said several times to the District Collector, who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Zilla Parishad, to call the meeting of Zilla Parishad, but the CEO had avoided the same. The District Collector is backed by the local BJD leaders, MLAs/ Ministers.
Once upon a time, late Mr. Biju Pattnaik, the legendary leader of the state, who was sincerely committed for devolution of power to rural local bodies, rejected the request of one of his MLAs to allow the local MLA to be the member of the Panchayat Samiti. He vehemently opposed the idea and said that the State Legislative Assembly, which has vested power to the panchayat bodies in one hand, can't take it back in the other hand.
He was well aware that interference of MLAs or MPs in PRIs will disturb the whole spirit of decentralisation. But the sorry state of affair is that the present ruling party of the state, founded in the name of late Biju Pattnaik, does not even respect his ideas and ideology.
If one looks at the present situation, MLAs are not only the members of the Panchayat Samiti, rather they are the chairman of the Committees lke BLAC (PDS), Block level Teacher's Transfer Committee, Block level Works Committee and Block level Monitoring Committee.
On the eve of Panchayati Raj Divas declared to appoint the Chairman of the Panchayat Samiti as the Vice-Chairman of the block level Advisory Committee of Civil Department and the Zilla Parishad President as the Vice-Chairman of the District Planning Committee (DPC).
One will find the similar scenario at district level. The MP of the district is the Chairman of District Vigilance and Monitoring Committee; and Monitoring and Implementation Committee. District Collector is the Chairman of more than 10 committees like SSA, Biju Jyoti Yojana, Gopabandhu Grameen Yojana, RGVY, District Monitoring Committee, Natural Calamity Committee, Disaster and Rehabilitation Committee, Zilla Sikshya Sansthan, Rogi Kalyan Samiti. PDS Committee, ATMA Committee, etc. Now think of the position of Zilla Parishad President?
Even Gram Panchayat is not free from the clutches of the MLAs. The list of beneficiaries under various schemes/ programmes finalised and approved by Palli Sabha and Gram Sabha is rejected in most of the cases by the local MLA. Even BDO and concerned Block level officials asks for recommendation of MLA in the Application Form under various social security or poverty eradication schemes for approval of the same.
Power devolution to PRIs as mandated under 73rd Constitutional Amendment is still a far cry in Odisha. The PRIs run at the mercy of the bureaucrats and MLAs. When the question of power devolution to PRIs comes in state legislative assembly, the MLAs irrespective of their party affiliation get united and oppose the issue.
There is lack of political will to empower the PRIs and strengthen democracy at the grassroot level. Even power devolution to PRIs is not an issue for the political parties. The situation will not improve and there would be no end to Prashasan Raj or MLA Raj unless a social movement takes place in the state and the common citizens come forward for demanding devolution of power.