An open letter to Shri. H. K. Patil Minister RDPR

Posted on May 18, 2015

Shri H K Patil,

Honourable Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj

Government of Karnataka



15th May 2015

Dear Shri H K Patil,

As you know, I am a social and political activist and was a member of the Karnataka Gram Panchayat Act 1993 Amendment Committee Chaired by Shri Ramesh Kumar, and a Core Member of the said Committee besides being a member of the Activity Mapping and Drafting Sub-Committees. I am also the Convenor of the Gram Panchayat Hakkottaya Andolana.

I write to you out of deep concern and anxiety regarding the Karnataka Gram Panchayat Act 1993 Amendment Bill that we, the Committee drafted and submitted to you in December 2014. We have had several discussions with you and when some of us [members of the Core Committee] met with you on 9thMarch 2015, you gave us your word that the Cabinet Sub-Committee, of which you are the Chair, would complete its work before the 20th of that month and the Amendment Bill would be tabled in the Budget Session. As it happened, only three of the eighty eight amendments were presented, along with one of your own – the controversial and autocratic compulsory voting amendment.

I wish to believe that you are a man of your word and that you are committed to Gram Swaraj as you are reputed to be. Unfortunately your actions so far in this regard have not instilled any confidence that you or your government have any intentions of making the Ramesh Kumar Report a reality – let alone tabling it before the legislature.

Panchayat Raj found its first home in Karnataka and many champions of Gram Swaraj like Shri Abdul Nazir Sab, Shri Ramakrishna Hegde, Shri M Y Ghorpade, and Shri L C Jain, took Shri Rajiv Gandhi’s vision forward, battling great opposition to establish it. Unfortunately, as you well know, the existing Act has been mangled through hundreds of executive orders and reduced to a mere State controlled delivery system manned by officials rendering people powerless. All schemes have been centralised, the bureaucracy strengthened and all the rights, powers and autonomy of the Panchayats and Gram Sabhas systematically taken away. This has set Panchayat Raj back by 50 years.

The Ramesh Kumar Committee was set up by you precisely for this reason to correct this dismal situation and our recommendations reflect not only the letter but the spirit behind Rajiv Gandhi’s Gram Swaraj and the Constitutional provisions. This was the frame within which the Ramesh Kumar Report and Amendment Bill were drafted. They are a ground breaking set of amendments that if legislated will take Local Governments to a higher plane and set a new bench mark for the Nation to follow.  It will also influence the way governance is practiced in larger tiers of government rooting out corruption, the culture of patronage and the corporate-communal binary among other things and ensure that development plans are designed through the participation of ‘all’ and not the select ‘few’. It is radical in its approach, but then this was required in order to honour and respect the true spirit of Gram Swaraj. It ensures the imperative paradigm shift that safeguards the fundamental rights and freedoms of people – the members of the Gram Sabha, which we trust your government and you are committed to.

As you know, there was an overwhelming consensus among the 22 members of the Committee who, except for the 5 of us, were members of the Congress Party and many, your staunch followers. Despite this you do not seem to have taken the outcomes of the Committee aboard, and appear unhappy with the result.

Though the Report and the Amendment Bill were presented to the State Government in December 2014, it was not tabled in the Belgavi Session as you had promised. The opposition and several members of the Congress party raised questions to which your official response was that it would be tabled in the subsequent session. Instead at a Legislative Party Meeting, whose members were given the Report and Bill only on the morning of the said meeting, you decided to focus on the Nanjayya Mutt Committee Report for De-limitation and brushed our Amendments aside until the Chairman of our Committee and some members were allowed to explain the thrust of the Committee’s recommendations. In what now appears a bid to buy time, you set up a Cabinet Sub-Committee to scrutinise our committee’s recommendations and till date it is not known if they have completed their task.

On the very last day of the Budget Session you tabled an Amendment Bill that contained only three of our eighty eight Amendments. When questions were raised again on the floor of both Houses, you explained that as the Panchayat Raj elections were soon approaching and they could not be postponed, only the amendments pertaining to the elections had been tabled. The ones you picked were: a full five year term for Presidents and Vice Presidents; the reservation and rotation of seats once in ten years (two terms) for all tiers; and guaranteeing 50% reservation for women.

If that was the case, then several other amendments pertaining to the elections, such as the single member constituency; the state funding of all Panchayat elections; the ban on the sale of liquor during the election; the election process to be completed in seven working days; and that the State Election Commission as the authority responsible for de-limitation, reservations and the disqualification of members should also have been tabled.

Again, the opposition and several members of the ruling party demanded a special session to discuss the Ramesh Kumar Committee recommendations in its entirety. However, without conceding the need for a special session, you stated that the remaining amendments would be tabled in due course as recommended by the Cabinet Sub Committee. But till date there is no sign of that happening.

The Ramesh Kumar Report and Amendment Bill present a rare opportunity to the Congress party in Karnataka. Such legislation can put Karnataka once more on the front ranks of Panchayat Raj in the country and this government could go down in the annals of history as the ones who for the first time since independence have made a reality of Rajiv Gandhi’s dream for Indian villages.

With the forthcoming Panchayat Raj elections time is of the essence. We therefore request you to act before this opportunity is lost and urge you to ensure that [1] that the conclusions of the Cabinet Sub Committee set up to consider the Ramesh Kumar Committee Report and Bill be made public; [2] that a date be announced by which a  Special Joint Session of the Legislature shall be called to debate and discuss the Ramesh Kumar Committee Report and Bill along with the conclusions of the Cabinet Sub Committee set up to consider it; and [3] the Government of Karnataka tables a Bill that has the consensus of both the Houses of the Legislature.

I hope you will give us a response to the above on or before the 21st May 2015; failing which we will be constrained to consider further suitable action to facilitate the legislation of the Ramesh Kumar Amendment Bill.


Nandana Reddy

Social and Political Activist

Member of the Karnataka Gram Panchayat Act 1993 Amendment Committee

Core Member and member of the Activity Mapping and Drafting Sub-Committees

Convenor of the Gram Panchayat Hakkottaya Andolana