Jairam asks Naveen for upkeep of grassroots democracy

Bhubaneswar: Concerned over weakening of local bodies in Odisha's Maoist-hit Malkangiri district, Union Rural Development minister Jairam Ramesh has asked Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to address the problems of village leaders to defeat left wing extremism.
"My belief has always been that local body elections are an essential first step in the process of political dialogue, reconciliation and settlement as far as the Maoist issue is concerned," Ramesh said in a letter to Patnaik.
Ramesh referred to recent en-mass resignation of about 60 village level leaders like ward members, sarpanch and panchayat samiti members in protest against the alleged failure of the state government to meet their demands on irrigation, drinking water and roads.
"Having travelled extensively in the state, I can say that Malkangiri does not appear to be an exception. I have been to Malkangiri myself, stayed there and have met with the elected representatives. Their complaints and demands are genuine," Ramesh said in the letter.
He said that the Union Home Ministry had expressed concern over a number of ward members and panchayat samiti members in eight districts being elected unopposed in the last panchayat elections.
He said these gram panchayats, where elections had been uncontested would continue to get rural development funds.
"I would request your personal intervention on the concerns that have been raised by local body representatives," Ramesh said.