State

BJP MDC against VECs, calls for rural local bodies

Shillong, Feb 28: The BJP MDC from Tura, Bernard N Marak said the state ministers are trying to take away the funds allocated to the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) through the rural local bodies (RLBs).

In a statement issued on Monday, Marak said that the basic and tied grants recommended by the Fifteenth Finance Commission to be routed through the RLBs under the ADCs are targeted by the state government in its letter to the Union Minister.

The Union Minister declined the proposal of the state to recognize VECs as the traditional bodies as the funds are meant for ADCs, he said.

Bernard added that the reason why state constantly interferes in the matters of ADCs now becomes very clear as they want to stop ADCs from being strengthened.

“Their attempt to divert the funds meant for ADCs is clear in a letter addressed to the Union Minister of Rural Development,” he said

He was referring to a letter sent by Sniawbhalang Dhar in 2020, when he was then holding charge of the C&RD department.

The MDC said the minister concerned highlighted the role of ADCs in a sixth scheduled area stating that, “Meghalaya is a state under the sixth schedule of the constitution of India and has Autonomous District Councils to safeguard the interests of indigenous population. The ADCs were envisaged as an institution which incorporates and accommodates and protects the interest of the people and the state and they deal mostly with the traditional customs and laws, issues related to land and licences related to trade. The 93rd Amendment of the Constitution does not extend to the state and the villages have been governed by traditional headmen with the consensus of the residents.”

However, in the second paragraph the minister stated that with the shift in developmental paradigm and coming of rights based acts such as the NREGA the state government came up with a village level body which incorporates the modern and traditional practices. As the tribal institutions (ADCs) were neither equipped nor empowered to implement developmental programmes, the state government decided to adopt the system and created Village Employment Councils (VECs) in each and every village that implements MGNREGA.

He said, it can be seen here that the state government secretly made attempts to impress upon the Centre to recognize state run VECs as traditional bodies instead of RLBs under ADCs stating ADCs are unequipped and not empowered to implement developmental programmes.

Marak said that the attempt to divert the funds meant for rural local bodies to the VECs was ruled out by the Centre government which honours the agreement signed by two groups of ANVCs in 2014.

“State claimed VECs were village level bodies which incorporate modern and traditional practices but in reality, it was totally wrong as VECs were not traditionally based but are actually politically backed where office bearers are appointed without election, Centre’s order to empower women remains impractical, people are made to work but their wages are not cleared and their accounts are not updated to the centre,” he said.

He further alleged that the wages were never paid in the accounts of the villagers but the secretary of VECs control the funds, work demands and enrollments adding that anyone who challenges them gets their names removed from the VECs.

The MDC said this all can be seen as a desperate attempt of the state government to sabotage the funds meant for rural local bodies and weaken ADCs, which are recognized under the Fifteenth Finance Commission to implement the grants under it. .

Marak said that the funds are streamlined through the implementation of the Agreed Text for Settlement (ATS) signed by ANVC and ANVC (B) in 2014 where it is agreed in para. 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, 7.6, 9.3 that the funds should devolve to village level traditional institutions under ADCs, not VECs.

“State deliberately dishonors the Agreed Text signed for strengthening of ADCs in spite of it being a party in an agreement.

State also did not convene even a single meeting after signing of the agreement to monitor its implementation because it dishonoured the agreement signed to strengthen ADCs in Meghalaya,” he said.

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