Mumbai: After the successful implementation of its decision to elect mayors directly, the State has now decided to elect sarpanches directly by voters. The State cabinet also delegated more rights to sarpanches. It amended the Grampanchayat Act, 1956 to give more rights to sarpanches for a smooth functioning of gram panchayats. The rights were delegated after a recommendation by former secretary Dr Sudhir Thackeray.
“Now, sarpanches can present the budget of gram panchayat and other members can approve it in a meeting at their level,” said Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde.
Amending the act, the government added a condition of educational qualification for sarpanches. An aspirant should have passed Class VII to qualify or contest for the post. “Those who are born after 1995 should have passed standard VII to contest the election of a sarpanch,” said Munde.
The cabinet decision will be applicable for 8,000 villages, where the gram panchayat elections are scheduled for September and October.
There are 28,332 gram panchayats in the State, where the sarpanch will be elected directly by voters in the future.
The Opposition criticised the government decision calling it a double standard of the government. The leader of Opposition in the legislative council, Dhananjay Munde, said, “The government is trying to avoid malpractices in the sarpanch election and the power to suspend a guilty member of the local body has been taken away from the district collector and given to the minister.”
Congress leader and former chief minister Ashok Chavan said the government wanted to control gram panchayats. “This provision will block development of villages,” he said.