The BJP has alleged that the state government was using the rural local bodies (RLBs) to try and siphon off funds meant for Autonomous District Councils (ADCs).
In a statement issued on Monday, the party’s MDC from Tura, Bernard N Marak, said that the state government was targeting basic and tied grants recommended by the Fifteenth Finance Commission to be routed through the RLBs under the ADCs.
He said this was revealed in a letter to the Union minister of rural development by Sniawbhalang Dhar in 2020, when he was holding charge of the C & RD department.
The Union minister declined the proposal of the state to recognise VECs as the traditional bodies as the funds are meant for ADCs. He said the government wants to prevent ADCs from being strengthened and hence keeps affairing in their affairs.
The MDC said the government tried to impress upon the Centre the role of the state being over ADCs in a Sixth Schedule area.
“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 ADC was 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 licenses 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,” he said.
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 and 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 recognie state-run VECs as traditional bodies instead of RLBs under ADCs stating ADCs are unequipped and not empowered to implement developmental programmes.
The BJP leader, however, said that the attempt to divert the funds meant for rural local bodies to the VECs was ruled out by the Centre, 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 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.
He said this is a desperate attempt of the state government to sabotage the funds meant for rural local bodies and weaken ADCs, which are recognised under the Fifteenth Finance Commission to implement the grants under it.