Nellore: Though the elected members have been boasting over their success in Zilla Parishad polls, they are grim-faced; they are faced with the sight of empty coffers. The ZPs lack not just funds but even powers to exercise both for their chairpersons and ZPTC members.
The major source of funds for ZPs was collections from the auction of sand but the government had, a while ago, taken over the entire operation.The share of each ZP and mandal from sand auction used to be 25 per cent while 50 per cent goes to the village where the sand reach was located.
The ZP had, among other things, provided dual desks to the students of the high schools in Nellore district for the first time in 2007 with the funds from the sand auctions. Similarly, state finance commission grant had also been stopped to the ZPs.
Now the sources for ZP funds are the per capita grant (based on population) of Rs 4 per head, the seigniorage grant from Panchayat Raj and1 the surcharge on stamp duties. ZPs may get Rs 30 crore to Rs 35 crore from these sources per annum. Incidentally, it would be from these funds that the ZP has to also pay pension and retirement benefits to the staff.
In addition, the Zilla Parishads have to earmark 35 per cent of the general fund for maintenance works, constructions of community halls, compound walls, CC Roads, side-drains, culverts and road formations.
Similarly, nine per cent of the general fund is earmarked for drinking water-related activities such as drilling of bore wells, purchasing of pump sets, pipelines and construction of mini water tanks.
Apart from this, four per cent fund is earmarked for fairs and festivals, 15 per cent funds for SC welfare, six per cent for ST Welfare, 15 per cent for Women and Child Welfare and 16 per cent for office maintenance.
According to ZP officials, two-thirds of the amount from SC & ST welfare fund should be utilised for construction of community halls, compound walls, maintenance works, erecting CC roads in SC/ST colonies, side drains & culverts in SC colonies and drilling of bore-wells, purchase of pump sets, pipelines, construction of mini-water tanks in SC & ST colonies and road formations.
Apart from these, one-third of the amount earmarked for SC welfare should be transferred to executive director, SC Corporation and one-third for ST welfare to district tribal welfare officer.
ZPs having sizable mining activity in their operational areas are better-placed as they benefit from the seigniorage.
Funds from the 15th Finance Commission are likely to be given to ZPs this time, much to the joy of the new members, a former ZP official said.
Notably, Telangana Chief Minister Chandrashekar Rao had, during a meeting of ZP chiefs a while ago, promised to make a provision in the budget for ZPs. Citing this, the official suggested AP follow suit and allot at least Rs 30 crore to each ZP to carry out development works.
When asked about the plight of ZP chairman in the absence of funds and powers, former ZP chairman and Sarvepalli legislator Kakani Govardhan Reddy said 75 per cent of the ZP chairman’s job is of administration and they can review and raise questions on all activities being carried out in rural areas.
He said powers vested with ZPs were diluted over the years and yet the dynamic individuals among chairmen can perform with the powers vested in them.
Govardhan Reddy said that during his tenure as ZP chairman, he had gone to court and won back his powers when those were undermined through a GO, which asked him to take approval from the in-charge minister for laying of some metal roads, the sanction for which had already been given by the ZP.
Responding to a question, former ZP chairman B. Raghavendra Reddy said the ZP chairman post is more powerful than that of a minister but there is no scope for executing their powers now due to lack of funds.