The Andhra Pradesh government on Tuesday announced attractive financial incentives up to Rs 20 lakh in the forthcoming panchayat polls, to encourage unanimous elections and thereby enable gram panchayats to concentrate on developmental work. However, the move raised eyebrows as it comes amid an escalating row between State Election Commissioner (SEC) Ramesh Kumar and Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.
"The government with a view to encourage unanimous elections to the post of sarpanches and members of gram panchayats issued incentive awards for such the gram panchayats (GPs) where the elections to the office of the sarpanches and ward members are unanimously held," said chief secretary Aditya Nath Das.
Unanimous elections in gram panchayats with a population less than 2,000 will receive a financial incentive of Rs 5 lakh, while those with a population between 2,001 to 5,000 will receive Rs 10 lakh. Likewise, those with a population between 5,001 to 10,000 will receive an incentive of Rs 15 lakh for a unanimous election, while those with a population above 10,000 will receive Rs 20 lakh.
Incidentally, a similar government order highlighting incentives for peaceful unanimous elections did not go public as the polls were postponed after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, prompting its reissue on Tuesday.
"The commissioner, Information and Public Relations, is directed to give wide publicity and create awareness among all gram panchayats in the districts about the incentive scheme for unanimously elected panchayats as the elections are being conducted on a non-party basis to preserve the peace and harmony that exists in the villages," said Das.
According to the Chief Secretary, a large number of states such as Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana and Punjab continue to have elections to GPs on a non-political party basis.
"If elections to gram panchayats are held on party basis, there is a possibility that political rivalry, enmity and intense animosity may grow among competing parties, thereby hampering harmony and speedy development," he noted.
State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar has scheduled a four-phase rural local body election in the southern state.
Meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission censured two top officials with the Panchayath Raj Department for allegedly disenfranchising new voters. Censure orders were issued against Principal Secretary Gopal Krishna Dwivedi and Commissioner M Girija Shankar. The censure order will go into the service record of both the officials. Incidentally, Gopal Krishna Dwivedi had earlier served as the Chief Electoral Officer of Andhra Pradesh.
According to the Central Civil Service Rules, 1965 an "order of Censure is a formal and public act intended to convey that the person concerned has been guilty of some blameworthy act or omission for which it has been found necessary to award him a formal punishment,â A record of the punishment is kept on the officerâs confidential roll and the fact that he has been âcensuredâ will have its bearing on the assessment of his merit or suitability for promotion to higher posts.
The SEC said that thePanchayath Raj commissioner was directed in November 2020 to instruct all District Panchayath Officers (DPOs) to undertake a revision of electoral rolls to conduct the gram panchayat elections. A deadline of January 25 was also set for the publication of electoral rolls to hold the elections in February.
However the SEC found that apart from the DPO of Visakhapatnam, no other DPO had complied with the instruction. The SEC called the act by the officials âwilful and deliberate acts of omissionâ.
(with IANS Inputs)