Friday, January 12, 2007

Under threat, village head gives up control

Faced with death threats, a tribal 'sarpanch' (village chief) in Madhya Pradesh has handed over control of his 'panchayat' to powerful rivals. Rakesh Adivasi, 25, of Maubuzurg panchayat in Tikamgarh district, reportedly surrendered his panchayat - the village council - to the brother of former village head Surendra Singh Gaur.

Rakesh allegedly received periodic threats to his life and to his family members from the family of Gaur, said Virendra Pateria, secretary of the Maubuzurg panchayat. Pateria, who is in Bhopal, told IANS: 'Rakesh used to be harassed since the day he assumed office. Gaur's people would ask him for a cut every time he got funds sanctioned for development works. He was threatened with death if he refused.

'Upset over the regular disputes, he ultimately surrendered. Now Govind Singh, popularly known as 'Raja Sahab', takes all decisions while Rakesh is provided 10 percent of the funds sanctioned.

'Now the work of the panchayat, which is reserved for Scheduled Tribes, is done under the directives of Raja Sahab and the office bearers are left with the job of signing papers whenever they are asked to,' he added.

All work related to the panchayat is conducted by Gaur and he also has control over all the funds although he was not elected by the village people.

Govind Singh denied the allegations. He said: 'Anti-social elements in the village used to harass Rakesh every now and then. Rakesh came to me for help and I agreed to provide him protection.'

Manish Shrivastava, the Tikamgarh district collector, told IANS over telephone: 'I have not come across any such complaint. If it is happening, it is illegal. We will inquire into the matter and take appropriate action.'

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