The amended Panchayat Raj law also imposes a fine of Rs 500 on those who use drinking water to wash clothes, cattle.

 

Bathing with drinking water in Telangana villages will now attract a penalty of Rs 500. This and many other penalties are included in the newly enacted Telangana Panchyat Raj (Amendment) Bill-2018, which was passed by the Assembly on Thursday. This provision is made in the amended Act to prevent a Cape Town type of crisis of drinking water, the government asserted.

The amended Panchayat Raj law also imposes a fine of Rs 500 on those who use drinking water to wash clothes or wash cattle and other animals. The responsibility of monitoring the use of drinking water and reporting offences has been entrusted with the gram panchayat secretaries and the newly elected sarpanches under the law.

Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), who piloted the Bill and replied to a debate on it, told the Assembly that the new provisions for penalties were made to see that elected representatives of villages become the custodians of precious resources like drinking water, sand, and other community assets. “These penalties will act as deterrents against violations,” said the CM.

The opposition BJP, TDP and the CPM dismissed the provisions as “harsh” and expressed doubts that these might land as a tool in the hands of the elected Panchayat bodies’ officials to harass political opponents in the villages. These penalties come in the wake of the extension of the Mission Bhagiratha, a piped drinking water supply scheme to all villages.

The new Panchyat Raj Bill also includes punishments by penalties on those who dig pits on roads, quarrying sand on streets and contaminating drinking water sources in the villages. A fine of Rs 1,000 will be imposed on those who create nuisance in residential areas, burying or throwing dead bodies or carcasses in banned areas, conducting entertainment events without permission from the authorities.

A fine of Rs 2,000 will be levied on those who cut trees, and also for stealing gravel on streets or slaughtering animals outside permitted places. A penalty of Rs 5,000 will be imposed on those who open a private market on streets or roads and at unauthorised places in the villages as well as those who construct buildings on drainages and divert drainage canals.

The Bill, mainly intended to provide for direct election of gram panchyat sarpanches on non-political party basis, paves the way for making the elected representatives as well as the staff of the panchayats responsible for implementation of many welfare and developmental schemes by the government. These provisions will come into force once the new panchayat bodies are elected by July/August.

As per the changes made in the Act, protection of trees planted by the village bodies would be the job of the sarpanches and the village secretaries, paid employees of Panchayat Raj department. The amended Act stipulates that if less than 85% of the saplings planted in a village survived, the sarpanch and the secretary would lose their jobs.

Similarly, the sarpanch and the village secretary would lose their jobs if the tax collection in a village falls below 85% of the total demand. The CM said that these measures were necessary as the present sarpanches and secretaries were either not bothered about or discouraged collection of taxes in the villages. “I want to make them accountable,” said KCR in the Assembly.

The fixing of accountability on gram panchayat sarpanches and village secretaries were the first of its kind move in the country, though they are in operation at the unofficial level in some states. As many as 17 officials working for different government departments at the village level are made the members of the village development committees that work in tandem with the elected gram panchayats.

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