Have an Ombudsman for local bodies, say citizens in their manifesto ahead of civic polls

With local body elections approaching, a coalition of civil society organisations has released a manifesto demanding various reforms in the local governance infrastructure of the state.

With the state all set to conduct local body polls after a gap of three years, civic activists have called for sweeping changes in the system and functioning of local bodies, both rural and urban, with a view to improving them. A coalition of citizens’ groups such as Voice of People, Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, Arappor Iyakkam, Thozhan, Illaya Thalaimurai and HRF, led by Thannatchi Iyakkam, has released a manifesto detailing key demands for reforms in the local bodies.

Charu Govindan, a member of Voice of People commented on the need for reforms and mobilisation of support from the public for the same. She said, “It is up to us as citizens now, to take this manifesto and its demands far and wide, so that not only those in power and authority get to notice them, but common people are also sensitised. After all, most of these demands have been raised constantly for many years now by lone voices here and there. It’s time now to make these demands loud and clear.” 

The key features of the manifesto include payment of a salary for local body representatives at all levels, strengthening of gram sabhas, setting up of ward committees and area sabhas and setting up of an ombudsman. Many recommendations in the manifesto highlight how such interventions have proven to be successful in the case of a much more evolved and participatory local government structure as seen in Kerala.

The coalition has also in the past held sessions on the learnings for Tamil Nadu from other local governance frameworks in Kerala and Bengaluru.

The key demands outlined in the manifesto are as follows:

  1. Fixing of monthly salary for all the local body representatives
  2. Strengthening the functioning of Gram Sabhas as per the required procedures
  3. Provision of guidance and training to all the elected representatives from the reserved categories
  4. Implementation of the devolution of power in the local bodies as per L.C.Jain Committee’s recommendations
  5. Transfer of control of subjects mentioned in schedule 11 and 12 of the Constitution to local bodies
  6. Framing of laws separately for each type of Urban Local Bodies and the constitution of Ward Committees and Area Sabhas in all Urban Local Bodies
  7. Creation of a separate ministry in Tamil Nadu for Panchayat Raj
  8. Establishment of the Ombudsman system for both Urban and Rural local bodies in Tamil Nadu
  9. Expansion and strengthening of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS)
  10. Appointment of more administrative staff at the local bodies for efficient discharge of duties
  11. Greater transparency in working of  local bodies and dissemination of financial information through a dedicated website along the lines of PRIAsoft

A detailed copy of the manifesto can be accessed here.

With the rural local body polls scheduled for December 27 and 30, and the urban local body polls expected to follow soon after, the set of demands placed by the civil society organisations highlight the various aspects of local governance that need greater attention and change.

(This post is based on information shared on her Facebook page by Charu Govindan.)

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