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4 Feb 2017

Panchayat pay to 'fight graft'

TT, Calcutta, Feb. 3: Mamata Banerjee today announced that the government would pay a monthly honorarium of Rs 1,500 for elected members of panchayats, panchayat samitis and zilla parishads and include them in the state's heath scheme.
Government sources said the objective was to stop corruption in rural bodies.
The chief minister also raised by amounts ranging between Rs 800 and Rs 1,500 the salaries of office-bearers such as the sabhadhipatis and upa-sabhadhipatis of the zilla parishads, the sabhapatis and saha-sabhapatis of the panchayat samitis, the pradhans and upa-pradhans of the gram panchayat and the karmadhaykshas of the panchayat samitis and zilla parishads.
Several government officials wondered whether the move betrayed the government's concerns about the allegations of corruption in the rural bodies. Around 80 per cent of the state's 3,345 gram panchayats are controlled by Trinamul.
"The elected members of the gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and zilla parishads don't get any salary. They have been neglected over the past 35 years. If they don't get anything for the work they are doing, won't they get involved in corruption?" the chief minister asked while addressing a gathering of panchayat functionaries at Netaji Indoor Stadium.
Mamata said she wanted panchayat members to be known for their honesty and hard work for the benefit of common people and so she would introduce the honorarium for the elected members from March.
Office-bearers get monthly salaries ranging between Rs 3,000 and Rs 3,500, but the elected representative don't.
A section of the government officials welcomed the move, saying it would help in ensuring that the 65,000-odd elected members get more involved in the functioning of the rural bodies, but wondered if it would weed out corruption.
"Municipal councillors get a monthly honorarium of Rs 1,500, still there is corruption," a senior official said.
Another official said the honorarium of Rs 1,500 would not bring down corruption in the rural bodies.
"The elected functionaries have the authority of sanctioning projects. There are several avenues of earning money through unfair practices. The amount that can be earned through such ways is much more than Rs 1,500," a panchayat department official said.

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