Gram sabha meetings needn’t necessarily make news. However, an online gram sabha meeting is something unique. In a first, a village in Kerala attempted to provide a (virtual) platform for Non-Resident Keralites (NRKs) to participate in the ward level meetings by connecting them through video call.
Peruvanthanam, a remote village in Idukki, organised the online sabha, which was attended by over 20 members of the village who currently reside in Gulf countries.
“We had participants from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Muscat, Qatar and other gulf countries. They all expressed an interest in participating in the grama sabha meetings, which are held every three months, when we pitched the idea of an online grama sabha. And then it took off,” said Nizar Parackal, Health and Education Standing committee chairman of the panchayat.
The meeting was held at the Community hall in the Panchayat. A TV screen was set up and the video calling app IMO was used to connect with those sitting at the venue with the 20 participants abroad.
The grama sabha meetings are held every three months, to discuss issues and development works in the locality. This is to ensure the smooth and efficient functioning of the local self-government bodies in the villages.
Explaining how the committee members came up with the online grama sabha idea, Nizar, an organiser of the meet, said, “We initially planned to organise a model grama sabha where we would get Non-Resident Keralites to participate and discuss issues concerning the village. However, once talks started, we decided to organise an actual online grama sabha meet. When I discussed this with friends abroad, they were all quite eager to participate.”
The meeting which went on for four hours included discussions on the development works taking place in the village.
“We decided that the Peruvanthanam General Hospital required an ambulance. Educational needs of underprivileged children were also discussed. In fact, one of the participants who worked in Saudi volunteered to sponsor the education of one underprivileged child from a UP school in the village,” Nizar added.
The motive of the organisers to actively involve participants residing outside Kerala through social media resulted in the successful and unique grama sabha.
Peruvanthanam is set to witness more such online sabhas in different wards in the coming months, Nizar added.