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Strengths and weaknesses of LG Act discussed


May 5, 2019

LAHORE: The recently passed twin laws, the Punjab Local Govt Act 2019, and the Punjab Village Panchayats & Neighbourhood Councils Act 2019, were hastily passed, without going through the due consultative process with key stakeholders.

Like the previous political governments the current provincial government too, has ensured real powers vested with itself, through the enactments. Not only the ratio of women representation has been decreased, but the seats of youth have been completely abolished, which negates the spirit of Article 140-A/ of Constitution. Meanwhile, the appointment of unelected administrators is undemocratic.

Therefore, new LG elections should be announced to fill the system with elected people within 90 days. These views were expressed at a stakeholders’ dialogue on “Punjab Local Govt Act 2019”, organised by NGOs at a local hotel. Representatives of civil society, LG experts, govt officials, academicians, lawyers and former councilors attended the event.

Addressing the event, the speakers discussed the weakness and strengths of the new LG laws in Punjab, introduced by the current government. Discussing the strengths, they appreciated provisions like; direct transaction of development funds to Village Panchayats & Neighbourhood Councils, putting basic education and health units under the control of the elected representatives and citizens’ participation through “commons assemblies”.

However, the weaknesses outnumbered the strengths. They said the women representation has been decreased while youth was totally ignored, which was upsetting. At least 33 percent representation for women should be ensured.

They said in the new LG law, local boards have been established for the monitoring of council with the right of suspension and dismissal of the councils anytime, which means powers have not been decentralised, which was undemocratic and in contradiction to the spirit of the constitutional provisions.

Similarly, the peasants, labourers and workers, have been ignored in the new LG laws. Their reasonable representation should also be ensured through reserve seats on all tiers.

They also criticised the unnecessary increase in the minimum age limit for the candidates from 21 to 25 years, which deprives representation of youth. The huge chunk of population must have its sufficient representation in the new system, they demanded.

The Punjab Village Punchayats and Neighbourhood Councils Act 2019 provides elections on non-party basis, which is a disservice to democracy at grass roots level, they viewed, adding that polls should be held on party basis and the duties and functions of the Village Punchayats and Neighbourhood Councils should be increased. The participants pointed out some errors and omissions in the drafting of the twin laws; for instance, Punjab Local Govt Act 2019, calls for nine metropolitans (at divisional levels), while The Punjab Village Panchayats & Neighbourhood Councils Act 2019 mentions only three metropolitans. Similarly, the language of the draft bills is also gender blind.

They said the neighbourhood councils have been introduced but they have no link with urban local governments both legally or administratively.

Hailey College convocation: Punjab University’s Hailey College of Banking & Finance (HCBF) organised its 5th convocation at a local hotel in which over 350 graduates were awarded with degrees.

The event was organised for the graduates of MBA Banking & Finance and Insurance & Risk Management, evening programs, of the academic sessions 2012-16 and 2013-17. Faculty of Commerce Dean Prof Dr Mubbsher Munawar Khan was the chief guest.

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