New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today called for ending "sarpanch-pati" culture in panchayats, the practice of husbands of women sarpanches exercising undue influence, as he pitched for a leadership role for elected village representatives to alleviate poverty and promote education.

Recalling a political event in which someone told him that he was an SP (sarpanch-pati), Modi said, "this business of SP is going on. Law has empowered women. When law has given them the rights, they should also get an opportunity. Bring to an end this SP culture. They (women) should be given the opportunity. They should be promoted."

Addressing the National Panchayati Raj Day function here, the Prime Minister also expressed concern over school dropouts and felt that panchayats can play a role in arresting it.

Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, the Prime Minister said,"India lives in the villages. We need to think of how to develop our villages. Even in the remotest village, the dreams of the people are big. Think about what you can achieve in the next 5 years for your village."

Referring to his visit to an all-women Gram Panchayat in Gujarat when he was Chief Minister, Modi said that the sarpanch told him there that her motto was to ensure that no one remains poor in the village.

"Has Panchayats in our country ever thought that there should be no poor

left in our country. If one village brings out five persons out of poverty in a year, what a big change will come in the country," he said.

Modi said issues such as education of children in the village and their vaccination should be given special attention by panchayat members.

The Prime Minister suggested that the sarpanches should take a lead in organizing meetings of all working and retired government employees belonging to a particular village once in a while and ensure community participation to bring about a turn around in a village in all respects.

Noting that all these works are not linked with constraints of budgets, he said, "We will not be able to develop our villages as long as we do not have a feeling of respect and pride towards them...we have to motivate people, provide leadership."

He said this required a firm resolve, rather than any budgetary provision. He gave some suggestions in this regard, such as celebrating a birthday of a village.

He urged Panchayat members to work with a five-year vision with concrete development plans to bring about positive changes in their villages.

The Prime Minister gave away the Annual Devolution Index (States) Awards, and E-Panchayat Awards, and congratulated the Zila Parishads and Gram Panchayats who were being felicitated on the occasion.

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