Panchayati Raj System overlooked in Sikkim: Citizen Action Party
Citizen Action Party members at a press conference in Sikkim.

Gangtok: At a press conference, the Citizen Action Party (CAP) president LP Kafley on Thursday expressed concerns about the failing Panchayati Raj System in Sikkim.

CAP leader Kafley cited the lack of implementation of 29 diverse subjects, the absence of Panchayat Sammelans, and the government’s delay in sanctioning two quarterly grants for Panchayats this year, despite it being September.

Kafley criticised the centralisation of power working against the Panchayats, stating, “The Panchayati system has been intended for poverty alleviation through various means, yet the same has not happened. The government has taken power from the Panchayats and given it to Block Division Officers. Power needs to be decentralised; instead, Panchayats are being made to align with political parties. The elections happened with independent candidates, but most have been forced to join parties. Even the list of beneficiaries has to be decided along party lines and not by Panchayats.”

CAP called out the Rural Development Department for neglecting the Panchayati Raj System due to insufficient staff, with one rural development assistant overseeing 2-3 Gram Panchayat Units.

Additionally, it pointed out that Panchayat Development Assistants and Panchayat Account Assistants had not been regularised despite 8-10 years of service. The party also criticised the former SDF regime for taking away tender floating rights from the Panchayats, which it demands to be reintroduced.

CAP promised to strengthen local self-government with 30% of the budget allocated to urban and rural bodies, decentralising 29 subjects, introducing a composite administrative centre, and ensuring immediate benefits for the public through Panchayats without the need for events or elections. Elected officials will receive cabinet rankings, salaries, and monthly pensions, while Panchayats will have control over discretionary grants, the party stated.

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Meanwhile, on young Panchayats being overlooked, CAP shared, “Young graduates are made Panchayats. In 5 years, they learn, but at the time of elections, seat reservations change, and they are made redundant. When the electoral rotation of constituencies happens, they must not be rotated for 2-3 terms so that young or old Panchayats get more opportunities to work for more terms than one.”

Promising to make GPUs paperless and digital, CAP promised to give powers such as the issuance of Certificates of Identification and birth and death certificates to the Panchayats.

CAP pledged to digitise GPUs and empower Panchayats with authority over IDs and vital records. Kafley, a former Panchayat member, emphasised their historical commitment to decentralisation and criticised the current government’s lack of implementation planning. He said, “The current government doesn’t even have an implementation plan in place or an idea.”

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