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Ministry does not know number of panchayats

In what may come as a surprise, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj itself does not know how many district panchayats are there in the country, according to a Parliamentary panel report.

"It is quite surprising to find that Ministry of Panchayati Raj does not have any information on the exact number of district panchayats in the country as on date," the Standing Committee on Rural Development said in its report on the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.

The report of the Committee headed by BJP MP Sumitra Mahajan was tabled in Lok Sabha.The committee observed that Panchayati Raj Ministry informed it that there are 608 districts across the country while the information provided by the Rural Development Ministry said that there are 619 "rural districts" in the country as on April 1, 2009.

When asked about rural districts which do not have district panchayats as on April 1, 2009, the ministry replied that the exact comparison between the number of districts and number of district panchayats "was not possible".

The ministry maintained that information regarding the number of panchayats available with it was based on data collected in a study on state panchayats during 2007-08 whereas the information regarding the number of districts, villages and habitations was "obtained" from the department of drinking water supply, the panel noted.

"In this age of super connectivity and information technology, ministry was still maintaining the information in this regard which was last collected during 2007-08," committee observed and recommend that it should "always" maintain updated information.

The Parliamentary panel also pulled up the ministry for not having "requisite" information regarding holding of the meetings of Gram Sabha, Mahila Sabha and Ward Sabha across the country.

Maharashtra is the only state which has reported organising Mahila Sabha meetings before Gram Sabha meetings and information in this respect is yet to be collected (by the ministry) from other states and Union territories, it noted.

Committee noted that by "merely" circulating one circular to states regarding regular holding of gram sabha meetings and declaring 2009-10 as the 'Year of Gram Sabha' "does not complete the enormous task entrusted to ministry".

It sought the ministry to find out the details of holding of meetings of Gram Sabha, Mahila Sabha and Ward Sabha in all states and union territories "without any further delay".

It also recommended that a model format regarding conduct of Gram Sabha meetings be circulated to each Gram Panchayat in the country.

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