3-member central team arrives, will consult on village authority amendment act

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IMPHAL, April 27(NNN): A 3-member Central team arrived in Imphal today on a 3-day State visit to take stock of the issue that has been raked up vis-à-vis Manipur (village authority in hill areas) (amendment), 2011 and Manipur (hill areas) district council (fourth amendment) Act, 2011.
The 3-member team composed of Rishikesh Panda, additional secretary, panchayat raj, Sambhu Singh, joint secretary, ministry of home affairs and Rohtas Singh, director, DoNER ministry.
Immediately upon their arrival, the Central team had a meeting with chairmen and members of autonomous district councils (ADC) of Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Sadar Hills districts of Manipur.
In a press conference after the meeting, Sambhu Singh stated that the basic purpose of the visit was to revive and encourage grass-root democracy in the State which is the mandate of the government at the Centre.
The team has come to have a wide ranging consultation and interaction particularly with Kuki ethnic community as they are a little disturbed with the Act, he said, reassuring that if the village authority act is passed there will be rapid development in villages as the government can create village-to-government contact channel which is nonexistent today.
If village authority is made functional in villages, an elected chairman will lead the council which can be an easy point of contact between the people and the government on issues of public welfare, he said.
He informed that because of the existence of village authority in Tamenglong district, the people are enjoying the benefit of different government supports and schemes.
Rishikesh Panda informed that the team will visit Churachandpur district tomorrow to meet and interact with members and chairman of the ADC there.
He said that the government is not attempting to enforce the law in the State without the consent of the people concerned, and went on to justify the amendment bill saying, “the idea of decentralization is to give power to the people of the State…the government has formulated the Act with a view to bringing democracy to the lowest level.”
Not implementation of village authority act which is one of the basic provisions of the Act, has rendered democracy inaccessible at the level of the grass-root, he said.
He lamented that despite the fact that ADC elections were held recently after being in suspended animation for more than 20 years, the elected members face the threat of going home to their family.
Gram Sabha has been included in the village authority act so that every person registered in the electoral rolls will have rights in the decision making process through the village authority, added Mr. Panda.
Significantly, a series of mobilization meetings have been underway for sometimes now in the Kuki areas of Manipur entitled “awareness campaign on the proposed “Manipur (village authority in the hill areas) amendment act, 2011, and its effects on the hill tribal lands”. The Kuki chiefs’ associations have been spearheading the movement in putting the issue of the Act in public domain. The meetings have widely attacked the intention of the government saying, “the sole purpose of seeking amendment of Manipur hill village authority act, 1956, is to dominate and control the hills of Manipur.”

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