Mumbai: Members of 28 out of the 30 gram panchayats (village councils) in a Maoist-affected district in Maharashtra have resigned, virtually ending the influence of the state government in the area.
Though some experts and district administration officials said the resignations could be because of threats from the Maoists, the members claimed they resigned because of prolonged neglect of their developmental needs by the district administration.
These villages are in Korchi taluka in the tribal-dominated Gadchiroli district.
“There is scope to believe that these resignations have come due to threat of Naxals as some of the demands we have received are demands about non-existent issues like (not to give) licence for coal mining. No licence even for prospecting activity for coal or any other mineral has been given in the area,” said Abhishek Krishna, district collector of Gadchiroli.
Some villages in Korchi taluka had declared a boycott of the zilla parishad and panchayat samiti polls held in February until the administration accepted their demand to not give any mining licence in the area, Krishna said, adding that the villagers were then persuaded to join the electoral process and nothing has changed since.
The administration is investigating the reasons behind the mass resignations, he said.
“Korchi taluka is one step away from being declared a liberated zone by the Naxals,” said Shirish Inamdar, a retired superintendent of police from the Maharashtra state intelligence bureau.
“Gram sevaks (heads of village administration) and other officials will continue to work in the area but we are trying to convince the people that it is democracy which is getting affected by their move and it is not in the interest of society to remain aloof from the democratic process,” Krishna said.
Nandkumar Vairagade, secretary of Korchi Taluka Sarpanch Organization, denied that the members resigned because of threats from the rebels.
“We strongly refute this charge that we have submitted our resignations under threat from Naxals. Our demands are related to developmental works and everyone knows Naxals are against development,” Vairagade said. “Our main demands are that wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme should be given to labourers in cash and on a daily basis as in this area as one has to travel 25-30km to reach the nearest bank. All farmers in the area should be given a grant of Rs 1 lakh for digging wells in their farms, which is a declared scheme of the government.”