With just a few days left for August 15, India’s Independence Day, the Gram Sabhas in Maharashtra are in a state of confusion. This confusion has been created by some mixed instructions coming from the state government on the convening of the Gram Sabha meeting on Independence Day as is the practice in accordance with law. As per section 7 of the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat Act, 1959, Gram Panchayats are required to hold at least four Gram sabhas in every financial year. One of these meetings is held on August 15 every year. Failure to convene these meetings invites disciplinary action against the Sarpanch or Upa-Sarpanch as the case may be and the decision of the Collector in this regard is final.
There are three decisions from the government which have created this confusion. An order dated May 12 states, “Gram Sabhas have been postponed due to the emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic”. The Government Resolution of August 5 instructs, “prepare necessary labour budget for Employment Guarantee Scheme and discuss in the Gram Sabha on August 15 and get approval for the same”. The subsequent government order dated August 6 states, “As the women’s meeting of August 15 has been cancelled, Gram Panchayats should solve the problems of women by using digital technology like phone, Whatsapp, email”.
The August 6 order addresses subsection 5 of section 7 of the Act which states that meeting of women members of Gram Sabha shall be held before every regular meeting of the Gram Sabha.
A marathi daily Dainik Divya Marathi has reported that the confusion has arisen because Gram Sabhas have been put on hold since May 12 in order to maintain physical distancing in villages but the August 5 order directs that labour budget should be discussed during the August 15 Gram Sabha while subsequently mentioning that the women’s meeting shall not be held physically but their concerns may be addressed over Whatsapp or email. Hence, Gram Panchayats are unable to take a definite call on whether or not to convene the August 15 Sabha (meeting).
Some important matters are considered and decided during the August 15 Gram Sabha and hence it holds significance in rural Maharashtra. Tasks such as approving the annual action plan of the development works in the village, passing resolution for inclusion of development plan in District Planning Scheme, selection of beneficiaries, recommending names of beneficiaries of the village for various schemes are undertaken during the August 15 Gram Sabha.
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