Panchayati Raj System (Download PDF)

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  • Mahatma Gandhi argued for a four tier system of governance i. e. Center, State, District and Village level administration.

  • Villages to be raised as an important unit of democracy.

  • He wanted a bottom-up approach of governance, i. e. , village to central level governance.

Constituent Assembly and Panchayati Raj

  • The Constituent Assembly preferred two-tier system of governance.

  • There was no specific reference to the villages and their governance, when the resolution was presented on the aims and objectives of the India’s Constitution before the Constituent Assembly in December 1946.

  • Provincialism favoured by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar:

  • Village republics in India are dominant by casteism and localism.

  • Reforming Indian villages and bringing social development at the grassroots level requires a lot of time and effort.

Pre-Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1993

  • Community Development projects were inaugurated in 1952 in line with the experiments at Santiniketan, Vadodara and Nilokheri after independence and adoption of the Constitution of India.

  • Balwant Rai Mehta Committee, 1957:

    • Public participation in community works should be organized through statutory representative bodies.

    • This included agencies at the village level which can represent the entire community, assume responsibility and provide leadership in the rural development programmes of the government.

  • First three-tier Panchayati Raj system was inaugurated on 2 October 1959 in Nagaur, Rajasthan.

The Jayaprakash Narayan Committee

  • Strengthened the idea of Panchayati Raj.

  • The Ministry of Community Development was brought under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in 1971.

  • The word ‘Community Development’ was replaced with the ‘Rural Development’.

The Ashok Mehta Committee, 1978

  • Recommended for introducing the Panchayati Raj as a Constitutional institution through an amendment.

  • The States including West Bengal, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh brought in new initiatives by reviewing their local bodies by entrusting more powers and finances.

The West Bengal Panchayat Act, 1973

  • Brought direct elections at regular intervals as a compulsory provision.

  • Deleted the discretionary power of the State in postponing the elections.

  • The Act further provided the financial powers to the third tier of the governance, such as tax collection, non-tax revenues etc.

64th Amendment Bill

  • Introduced stating that, Panchayat Raj is an important facet of democracy.

  • Its constitutional protection is must for their functioning as representative institutions of the people.

  • The 64th Amendment Bill was followed by 65th Amendment Bill that sought to endow urban local bodies in similar lines of Panchayat Raj.

  • Despite receiving the required constitutional majority, the bills failed to take the shape of amendment legislation.

Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1993

  • In the year 1992 - 93,73rd and the 74th amendments were brought into the Indian Constitution.

  • These amendments recognized local self-governance as the third stratum of government.

  • The statement of objects and reasons of the 73rd Amendment, 1992 the Parliament recognized the existence of Panchayat Raj Institution in India as a social institution.

  • The aim was to provide it the constitutional status by introducing relevant provisions into the Constitution. Article 40 of the Constitution which is part of Directive Principles of State Policy:

    • State shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.

    • Recognized that Panchayat Raj Institution in India should be granted certainty, continuity and strength for acquiring the national development.

    • Part IX was introduced which consists of the provisions relating to Panchayats.

Objectives

  • The 73rd Amendment Act introduced direct elections for Panchayats, reservation of seats for the SCs and STs.

  • Proportion to their population:

  • For membership of Panchayats and office of Chairpersons.

  • Reservation of not less than one-third of the seats for women.

  • Fixed tenure of five years for Panchayats.

  • Holding of elections within a period of six months.

  • Created financial powers for the Panchayats through grants-in-aid from the consolidated fund of State, assignment to Panchayats by State or appropriation of revenues by Panchayats of designated taxes, duties, tolls and fee, setting of finance commission etc.

Post 73rd Amendment

  • Nagaur district of Rajasthan followed by Andhra Pradesh conducted the first elections for Panchayat Raj.

  • The incorporation of Panchayat Raj system into the constitutional framework brought the disadvantages section of population into the mainstream social and political empowerment.

  • 2.4 lakh Panchayats and 2.8 million elected representatives, among them over 30 % were women, 19 % were SC, and 12 % were ST and also OBCs in proportion to the population in the most States.

The Digitalization Process of Gram Panchayats

  • Transparency and good governance principles into the Panchayati Raj system.

  • To develop discipline and progress within the institution, Ombudsman, Social Audit, Model Accounting System, Panchayat Performance Assessment initiatives were introduced.

  • Policies such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) were introduced which mandates Panchayats as the planning and implementing agency.

  • Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF) has been introduced as a financial backup for the Panchayats for promoting decentralization.

  • Bridging critical gaps in the development and implementation of schemes and to build capacity of the Panchayats.

  • By devolving a share of the divisible tax pool for panchayats, by granting them defacto recognition as third tier of governance, The 13th Central Finance Commission award has brought radical changes in the Panchayat Raj System.

Way Forward

  • The Panchayati Raj system made significant progress in the last 17 years.

  • Agendas yet to be implemented for achieving full Swaraj as desired by Mahatma Gandhi since 1993:

    • Providing sufficient staff, office space and infrastructure.

    • Allocating funds sufficient for carrying out the objectives of the Panchayati Raj Institutions.

    • Removing the word ‘Discretion’ [Article 243G] and creating mandatory obligation upon the States for devolution of 3Fs (Functions, Functionaries and Finances).

    • Implementing the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) to address the demands of the tribal population living in rural areas.

    • Urgent need of the effective functioning of the State Finance Commission with a priority of sustenance of PRIs.

    • Special focus to be laid down on North Eastern States, 6th Schedule Areas.

    • Focusing more on the effective functioning of Gram Sabhas.

- Published/Last Modified on: August 21, 2020

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