Dalit panchayat presidents meet in City

CHENNAI: Panchayats headed by the Dalit presidents are being controlled by the dominant caste groups in their day-to-day administration, members of the Tamil Nadu Federation of Dalit Presidents of Panchayat Government alleged on Wednesday.

A resolution was passed at the first state-level Dalit Panchayat Presidents Convention, organised by Human Rights Forum for Dalit Liberation (HRFDL) and Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation (HRF).Inaugurating the convention, Social Reforms Department Secretary Christudoss Gandhi said that Dalit leaders should realize their potential and succeed in overcoming oppression by upper caste people which prevented them from functioning effectively.

Stating that the Village Panchayat Government was being perceived as an executive body for undertaking developmental works of Central and State Governments, Gandhi said the respective Panchayat Councils should have the power to grant administrative sanction.He stressed the importance of empowering Dalit presidents rather than the Village Administrative Officers and opined that all Government staff should come under the management of Panchayat Government.

The State Government should release additional funds to Dalit-led Panchayats in particular, he said. The State Government had contributed Rs 415 crore during the financial year 1999-2000 for the Panchayats, on an average of Rs 3 lakh to each Panchayat, he added.

If Dalit Panchayat leaders and members had expressed their solidarity in advance, the brutal murder of Melavalavu Panchayat president Murugesan and Oorapakkam Panchayat president Menaka would not have taken place, he said.

Save Panchami Land Movement Convenor V Karuppan said Dalit leaders could not convene Panchayat meetings in several places of the state and could not even pass resolutions due to lack of support of non-Dalit members in the council. He called upon the Dalits to strive for their rights which were being denied by the upper caste people and political party functionaries.

Dalit leaders were not even allowed to sit on chairs in Vadagarai Panchayat in Nagapattinam District and Iyankarampulam Panchayat near Vedaraniam, Human Rights Activist and Writer S V Rajadurai said and added that they had to wait for a few years even after resolutions pertaining to the subject had been passed in the council.

Vellore District Panchayat president Shanthi Jagan said that all elected Dalit representatives in the state should be given fire-arms to protect themselves, under Prevention of Atrocities Act.Later, in a resolution the federation said that Section 205 of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Act 1994, dealing with the removal of Panchayat presidents by the District Collector as Inspector should be repealed, as it is often misused.

Another resolution strongly condemned the Melavalavu killings of Murugesan and his ward members and the murder of J Menaka of Oorapakkam Panchayat in Kancheepuram District.

Monthly remuneration of Rs 4,000 per month for each Dalit Panchayat president, a separate Village Panchayat for a population of 500 Dalits and permission for Panchayat presidents to arrest a person under any law including detention laws were the other resolutions passed in the meeting.

Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: April 16, 2001
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