//`Panchayati Raj only in name in Lakshadweep' : Minister

`Panchayati Raj only in name in Lakshadweep' : Minister

NEDUMBASSERY: Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas and Panchayati Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar on Tuesday expressed shock at the state of the Panchayati Raj system in Lakshadweep. He said that there was no Panchayati Raj worth its name in Lakshadweep.

He was talking to reporters at the Nedumbassery airport on completing a one-day visit to the Union Territory during which he attended a combined meeting of village and district panchayats at Andrott. Lakshadweep being a Union Territory, S. Reghupathy, Minister of State for Home Affairs, accompanied Mr. Aiyar.

Mr. Aiyar said that it was a tragedy that the governance was virtually concentrated in the hands of bureaucrats rendering the panchayats mere appendages to a wholly government-run administrative system of planning and representation.

He said that unless the Centre sets an example of outstanding panchayati system in Union Territories, as it is responsible for Union Territories, it would become an embarrassment for the Government to urge for better panchayati raj system in States.

Mr. Aiyar said that he along with Mr. Reghupathy had worked out a draft action plan for reviving the panchayati raj system in the archipelago, which was agreed on between the Central officials and a spectrum of elected village and district panchayat members.

The action plan would be finalised in Delhi.

He said that he would visit Lakshadweep in October to see the progress towards making it a model of panchayati raj among the Union Territories.

Earlier, while thrusting the importance of energy security, Mr. Aiyar opined that eradication of poverty was not possible without securing and sustaining a growth rate of over seven per cent for the next 20 years and said that oil and gas were needed to fuel such a growth rate.

Stating that access to Iranian gas was critical, Mr. Aiyar expressed hope that the U.S. would be sensitive towards India’s energy security requirements.

He said that individual talks were held between the countries involved in the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project while adding that a joint discussion between the petroleum ministers of all the three countries would soon be held.

During his visit to Lakshadweep, Mr. Aiyar visited the family of late P.M. Sayeed, whom he regarded as a personal friend, to pay his respects.