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Over 8,000 Mukhiyas on Strike in Bihar, Demand Hike, Arms License

The Mukhiyas plan to boycott all government works and meetings related to different schemes.
Andhra Pradesh: Govt Employees Serve Strike Notice from Feb 7 Over Pay Revision Order

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Patna: More than 8,000 Mukhiyas (elected village body heads) began their 16-day long strike in Bihar on Wednesday demanding the BJP-led central government and the Mahagathbandhan-led state government to fulfil their demands. 

During their protest, the Mukhiyas plan to boycott all government works and meetings related to different schemes.They will also stage dharna on August 22 at block headquarters, and on August 29 at district headquarters to protest against the Centre and state government's indifference to them.

This is set to badly affect development works in rural areas in Bihar.

Mukhiyas are protesting to expose the snatching of rights and powers of Panchayati Raj institutions by the Centre and state governments in implementation of development and welfare schemes.

Their main demands include a hike in monthly allowance of Rs 10,000 to Mukhiyas, Rs 7,000 to deputy Mukhiyas, Rs 5,000 to ward members and other elected panchayat representatives. They also want the Centre to provide grants to the panchayats as per the recommendationof the 15th finance commission, security, and compensation of Rs 50 lakh to families in case of panchayat representatives being killed in criminial incidents, right to the payment of MGNREGA to panchayats, and the implementation of Nal Jal Yojana to panchayats in place of PHED.

"All Mukhiyas across the state went on strike to protest the Centre and state government's move to weaken panchayat body and take away rights. Mukhiyas are demanding hike in monthly allowance to panchayat representatives, provide security and arms licence to Mukhiyas and other demands," Mithilesh Kumar Rai, president of Bihar Mukhiya Sangh told NewsClick.

Rai said the Mukhiyas are protesting on the call given by Sangh. "We will intensify protest after August 31 if the government failed to fulfill our demands,” he said.

In Bihar, there are 8,442 village body heads, 8,422 sarpanches, 1,15,542 panchayat members, 11,534 panchayat samiti member,s and 1,162 zila parishad members.

Furqan Khan, Mukhiya of Purhara panchayat under Haspura block in Aurangabad district, told NewsClick that Mukhiyas were often denied their rights and powers despite being granted the same by the Constitution to strengthen three-tier Panchayati Raj institution"Mukhiyas are acing many challenges, including threat to their lives from gangsters, criminals and rivals and unnecessary interference by officers of different departments in implementation of development works,” Khan said.

Khan said Mukhiya should be given security and arms licence for protection.

Another Mukhiya in rural Patna told NewsClick that local criminals demand tax and threaten the village heads with dire consequences if they are not paid. "It is common in rural areas".

Security threat is an old concern among Mukhiyas in the state and time and again. They have demanded an arms licence to bodyguards, but so far the government has not paid heed.

According to activists working in rural areas, rampant corruption in state and central government-funded development schemes in rural areas, the Mukhiyas have become powerful and neo-rich, which makes them easy targets of criminals as well as their political rivals. With a large number of youths without jobs or work, they are hired by gangs to target Mukhiyas for money.

Most Mukhiyas are murdered over disputes with local criminals, gangsters, or rivalry related to development work in their areas,they said.

According to police records, this year, three Mukhiyas were killed by criminals in Bihar and half a dozen were attacked, shot, and injured.

After Bihar government reserved 50% seats in panchayat polls for women, hundreds of women Mukhiyas have got elected, but their husbands reportedly run the show on the ground. This has led to the emergence of a different kind of power play as well.

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