They kept submitting memorandums to the ministers and the officers concerned and finally their term got over but they didn’t get the promised Rs 1,200 monthly honorarium
Punjab is all set to undergo the Panchayat elections on December 30 and the process to file the nomination papers got begun from Saturday. Interestingly, with an objective to win the polls, all candidates would now approach the voters with the bunch of lucrative promises. However, the Sarpanches who got elected five years ago are now stepping down with pale faces as they could not even get their own monthly honorarium. The honorarium, which was enhanced by the previous SAD-BJP government from Rs 600 to Rs 1,200 a month in 2013, has not been paid even once in various districts, as learnt. Amid such situation, one can well assess the chances to get their promises fulfilled.
The honorarium for Sarpanches was started in 2002 by the then Congress government, also led by Capt Amarinder Singh, at Rs 600 per month. However, the SAD-BJP alliance doubled it to Rs 1,200 in 2013 but forgot to pay them later on. Interestingly, a few months back, while realising the elections approaching, Amarinder Singh in his second stint as CM had announced to clear the arrear, which the Rural Development minister Tript Rajinder Bajwa had assessed as Rs 55 crore that time. Highly placed sources in the Rural Development and Panchayat department informed that the Finance Department had once given its consent in December 2014 to release honorarium to all Sarpanches in the state and an amount of Rs 18.46 crore was earmarked for the purpose. Some amount was released and few sarpanches were paid too but that amount was insufficient as an honorarium of previous years was too huge to clear with the said amount. There was also some confusion as to which year the government paid the Sarpanches with that installment of arrear.Considering a PIL filed by RTI activist Parvinder Singh Kittna of Hoshiarpur district in 2015, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had also directed the Principal Secretary, Department of Rural Development and Panchayats, to decide a legal notice on the entitlement of sarpanches to honorarium with effect from July 2013. The Division Bench of Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal and Justice Anupinder Singh Grewal had issued the direction while disposing of the PIL, even then nothing could move ahead in the right direction. Notably, a number of sarpanches in Punjab belong to Scheduled Castes and a big number of these elected representatives could not afford to discharge their functions without such honorarium.Speaking to Daily Post some outgoing Sarpanches said that as Sarpanch, they spent a lot in the hospitality of the villagers and government officials visiting them. But as they hadn’t been paid even whatever the meager amount they were promised of, it was much difficult to run the operations. They also disclosed that repeated memorandums to government officials and the ministers in previous as well as current government failed to deliver the needful. The rural Development and Panchayat minister Tript Rajinder Bajwa, while speaking over the phone, confirmed that not only the previous but his own government too couldn’t pay the honorarium to the Sarpanches. He, however, expressed inability to state the exact amount of arrears.
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