Sarpanchs quit in Gadchiroli, alarm bells ring in Delhi

FP

More than 100 elected local leaders at the panchayat and district level have resigned in Gadchiroli in the past few months following a Maoist diktat. Not just that, no nominations were filed in 172 of the 225 gram panchayats that went in for recent by-elections, setting off alarms bells in Delhi.

While district authorities have been asked to negotiate with sarpanchs and panchs and find a way for them to retract their resignations, sources said there is unease in the Centre that the government may be losing ground in Gadchiroli, where plans have been underway for a major political push.

Until October, 127 public representatives belonging to various panchayati raj institutions had tendered their resignations. Of these, 99 were either sarpanchs or panchs while 18 were from Tanta Mukti Samitis and nine from other local bodies.

Elections in Gadchiroli were held earlier this year and the first spate of resignations happened in June, following which there was a concerted effort to get them to retract their resignations but without much success.

According to official estimates, nearly 30 per cent of Gadchiroli district is under Maoist control and the panchayati raj institutions were meant to counter their influence. Since the elections, there have been diktats and individual threats to elected members, asking them to give up their posts to avoid persecution.

Last week, The Indian Express reported the killing of Narayan Shrirange, 35, a deputy sarpanch of Motla-Tekda village. Shrirange was dragged out of his house and shot allegedly by a Maoist group on Tuesday night. His was the 24th civilian killing by the Maoists in Gadchiroli this year.

The matter is being closely examined at the highest levels with senior leadership in the Maharashtra government even paying a visit to the place. However, the progress has been slow, with the Centre now weighing the option of increasing paramilitary presence. The assessment is that may be there is a need to first fill the security void by undertaking more operations against the Maoists, particularly given the slowdown in recent months.

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