“When the panchayat raj is established, public opinion will do what violence can never do”. — Mahatma Gandhi
|ORIGIN AND PRE-INDEPENDENCE PERIOD|
- A three-tier structure of the Indian administration for holistic and inclusive rural development and
envisages grass root participation in developmental process is called Panchayati Raj.
- Aim – To develop local self-governments in districts, zones and villages i.e at three tiers of administration.
- Mahatma Gandhi advocated panchayat raj as the foundation of India’s political system – “Gram Swaraj”
- Lord Mayo’s Resolution 1870 –For decentralization of power to bring about administrative efficiency in meeting people’s demand and to add to the finances of colonial regime from development of local institutions.
- Ripon Resolution 1882 – Magna Carta of local democracy in India. Focused on towns, provided for local bodies consisting of a large majority of elected non-official members and presided over by a non-official chairperson. Resolution recognized the twin considerations of local government: (i) administrative efficiency (ii) political education.
- Royal Commission on Decentralization (1907)– Recognized the importance of panchayats at the village level.
- Montague-Chelmsford reforms(1919)- Brought local self-government as a provincial transferred subject. Due to organisational and fiscal constraints, the reform was unable to make panchayat institutions truly democratic and vibrant.
- Government of India Act, 1935 – The provincial autonomy scheme marked the evolution of panchayats in India. Local self government was provincial transferred subject.
- In course of national movement – from the 1920s to 1947, emphasized the issue of all-India Swaraj. There were divergent views on the subject- On the one end Gandhifavoured Village Swaraj and strengthening the village panchayat to the fullest extent and on the other end, Dr. R. Ambedkar believed that the village represented regressive India, a source of oppression, so opposed it.
- Drafting of the Constitution of India – Panchayati Raj Institutions were placed in DPSP under Article 40 as non-justiciable part of the Constitution.
- Article 40 – reads ‘the 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’.
Evolution in Post independence period
Rajasthan was the first state to establish Panchayati Raj. The scheme was inaugurated by the prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru on October 2, 1959, in Nagaur district.
|COMMITTEES ON PANCHAYATI RAJ –|
- Balwant Rai Mehta committee 1957 –
- To examine the working of the Community Development Programme (1952) and the National Extension Service (1953).
- Establishment of an organically linked three-tier panchayati raj system through a device of indirect elections.
- Village panchayat – constituted with directly elected representatives
- Panchayat samiti and zilla parishad – constituted with indirectly elected
- Genuine transfer of power and responsibility to these democratic bodies.
- Adequate resources should be transferred to these bodies to enable them to discharge their functions and fulfil their responsibilities.
- Chairman of the zilla parishad – District collector
- Ashok Mehta committee 1977 –
- Three-tier system of panchayati raj should be replaced by the two-tier system – zilla parishad and mandal panchayat (consisting of a group of villages with a total population of 15,000 to 20,000)
- District as first point for decentralisation under popular supervision below the state level.
- Official participation of political parties at all levels of panchayat elections.
- Compulsory powers of taxation to PRIs to mobilise own financial resources.
- Regular social audit by a district level agency and by a committee of legislators to ascertain spending mandate.
- Elections should be held within six months from the date of supersession, if any.
- Nyay panchayats should be kept as separate bodies from that of development panchayats. They should be presided over by a qualified judge.
- Minister for panchayati raj in the state council of ministers.
- Reservation of Seats for SCs and STs on the basis of their population.
- Constitutional recognition should be accorded to the PRIs – Will ensure sanctity and stature and an assurance of continuous functioning.
- G V K Rao committee 1985 –
- Committee to review the existing “Administrative Arrangements for Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation Programmes”.
- Zilla Parishad (District level body ) should be of pivotal importance in the scheme of democratic decentralisation.
- A post of District Development Commissioner should be created. He should act as the chief executive officer of the Zilla Parishad and should be in charge of all the development departments at the district level.
- Regular elections to the Panchayati Raj institutions.
- L M Singhvi committee 1986 –
- Committee to prepare a concept paper on ‘Revitalisation of Panchayati Raj Institutions for Democracy and Development’.
- Constitutional recognition to PRI with addition of new chapter in the Constitution of India.
- Nyay Panchayats should be established for a cluster of villages.
- Reorganisation of villages to make Gram Panchayats more viable.
- Committee emphasised the importance of the Gram Sabha and called it as the embodiment of direct democracy.The Village Panchayats should have more financial resources.
- Judicial tribunals should be established in each state to adjudicate controversies about election to the Panchayati Raj institutions, their dissolution and other matters related to their functioning.
- The Committee concluded that the developmental process was gradually bureaucratised and divorced from the Panchayati Raj and called PRIs as ‘grass without roots’.
- Thungon committee 1988
- To examine the political and administrative structure in the district for the purpose of district planning.
- Constitutional recognition to Panchayati Raj bodies.
- Three-tier system of PRIs with panchayats at the village, block and district levels.
- Zilla Parishad should act as the pivot of planning and development agency in the district.
- Fixed tenure of five years to PRIs.
- The maximum period of super session of a body should be six months.
- A detailed enumerations of subjects for Panchayati Raj should be prepared and incorporated in the Constitution.
- Reservation of seats in all the three-tiers – SC, ST, Women.
- State finance commission should be set-up in each state.
- Chief executive officer of the Zilla Parishad- district collector.
- Gadgil committee 1988-
- The Committee on Policy and Programmes.
- Constitutional status should be bestowed on the Panchayati Raj institutions.
- Three-tier system of Panchayati Raj with panchayats at the village, block and district levels.
- Fixed five years term of Panchayati Raj institutions.
- Direct elections for members of the Panchayats at all the three levels.
- Reservation for SCs, STs and women proportionate with their population.
- Responsibility of preparation and implementation of plans for socio-economic development on PRIs.
- PRIs should be empowered to levy, collect and appropriate taxes and duties.
- Establishment of a State Finance Commission for the allocation of finances to the Panchayats.
- Establishment of a State Election Commission for the conduction of elections to the panchayats.
|OTHER COMMITTEES ON PRIS –|
- Dantwala Committee Report – on Block-Level Planning (1978)
- Hanumantha Rao Committee Report – on District Planning (1984).
Both the committees have suggested that the basic decentralised planning function should be done at the district level. In both the models, the Collector should play a significant role in the decentralised planning.
- Initially, 64th Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha in July 1989 to constitutionalise panchayati raj institutions, couldn’t passed by Rajya Sabha. (During Rajiv Gandhi Government)
- Eventually, 64th Constitutional Amendment Bill emerged as the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 and came into force on 24 April, 1993 . (During prime ministership of P.V. Narasimha Rao)
|73RD CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ACT OF 1992 –|
|SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ACT –|
- New part IX to the constitution, eleventh schedule consisting 29 functional items of the panchayats.
- Part IX – Article 243 To Article 243 O.
- Inclusion of vast pool of women’s in democratic decision making process – led to political empowerment of women in rural areas.
- Democratic shape to Article 40 (DPSP)- “state to organise the village panchayats and provide them powers and authority so they can function as self-government.”
- Panchayati Raj systems come under the purview of justiciable part of the constitution and mandates states to adopt the system.
- Further, the election process in the Panchayati Raj institutions will be held independent of state governments will.
- The act has two parts: compulsory and voluntary. Compulsory provisions must be added to state laws, which includes the creation of the new Panchayati Raj systems. Voluntary provisions, on the other hand, is the discretion of the state government.
- The act is milestone step in creating democratic institutions at the grassroots level in the country. The act has transformed the representative democracy to participatory democracy.
|SALIENT FEATURES OF THE ACT –|
- Gram Sabha 243A: Village assembly consisting of all the registered voters within the area of the panchayat.
- Three-tier system: At village, intermediate and district level. States with a population less than 20 lakhs may not constitute the intermediate level.
- Election of members and chairperson (243K): The members to all the levels of the Panchayati Raj is elected directly and chairperson to the intermediate and the district level is elected indirectly from the elected members and at the village level the Chairperson is elected as determined by the state government.
|RESERVATION OF SEATS 243 D: –|
- SC and ST – in proportionate to their population.
- Women– Not less than one-third of the total number of seats to be reserved for women, further not less than one-third of the total number of offices for chairperson at all levels of the panchayat to be reserved for women.
- The state legislatures are also given the provision to decide on the reservation of seats in any level of panchayat or office of chairperson in favour of backward classes.
Provision relating to the reservation of seats in panchayats (both members and chairpersons) for the scheduled castes is not applicable to the state of Arunachal Pradesh. This is because the state is inhabited fully by indigenous tribal people and there are no scheduled castes.
- Duration of Panchayat 243 E: five-year term of office to all the levels of the panchayat. Panchayat can be dissolved before the completion of its term. fresh elections to constitute the new panchayat shall be completed before the expiry of its five-year duration.
- Disqualification 243 F: A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as or for being a member of panchayat if he is so disqualified
- Under any law for the time being in force for the purpose of elections to the legislature of the state concerned.
- Under any law made by the state legislature.
- Further, all questions relating to disqualification shall be referred to an authority determined by the state legislatures.
- 21 years to be the minimum age for contesting elections to panchayats.
- State election commission for each state: – The state legislature may make provision with respect to all matters relating to elections to the panchayats. SEC conducts elections for Panchayats and Municipalities.
- Powers and Functions 243 G: The state legislature may endow the Panchayats with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government.
- The preparation of plans for economic development and social justice.
- The implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice as may be entrusted to them, including those in relation to the 29 matters listed in the Eleventh Schedule.
- Finances 243 H: The state legislature may,
- Authorise a panchayat to levy, collect and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees.
- Assign to a panchayat taxes, duties, tolls and fees levied and collected by the state government
- Provide for making grants-in-aid to the panchayats from the consolidated fund of the state.
- Provide for the constitution of funds for crediting all money of the panchayats.
- Finance Commission 243 I : Governor of a state shall, after every five years, constitute a finance commission to review the financial position of the panchayats and make recommendations thereof.
- Audit of Accounts 243 J: State legislature may make provisions for the maintenance and audit of panchayat accounts.
- Application to Union Territories 243 L: The president may direct the provisions of the act be applied on any union territory subject to exceptions and modifications he specifies.
- Exempted states and areas: The act does not apply to the states of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram and certain other areas. These areas include-
- The scheduled areas and the tribal areas in the states
- The hill area of Manipur for which a district council exists and
- Darjeeling district of West Bengal for which Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council exists.
- Bar to interference by courts 243 O : It further lays down that no election to any panchayat is to be questioned except by an election petition presented to such authority and in such manner as provided by the state legislature.
|FINANCES OF PANCHAYATI RAJ|
- Grants from the Union Government based on recommendations of the Central Finance Commission as Article 280 of the Constitution.
- Devolution from the State Government based on recommendations of the State Finance Commission as per Article 243-I.
- Loans or grants from the State Government.
- Programme-specific allocation under Centrally Sponsored Schemes and Additional Central Assistance.
- Internal Resource Generation (tax and non-tax).
|REASONS FOR POOR FUNCTIONING OF PANCHAYAT RAJ INSTITUTIONS –|
- Panchayats are heavily dependent on grants from Union State Governments.
- Tied central assistance for implementation central schemes reduces fiscal autonomy of PRIs.
- Internal resource generation and revenue realisation efficiency is poor. This is further aggravated by thin fiscal regime.
- Lack of regular financial audit led to misappropriation and inefficient utilisation of funds.
- Fiscal accountability lapses along with high corruption.
- Following Voluntary provisions hampers fiscal autonomy of PRIs-
- Granting financial powers to the panchayats to levy, collect and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees.
- Assigning to a panchayat the taxes, duties, tolls and fees levied and collected by the state government.
- Making the grants-in-aid to the panchayats from the consolidated fund of the state.
- Competencies mismatches.
- Less motivation and ill trained
- Lack of skilled, professional human resource.
- Issue of vast vacancies at local level- less functionaries per 1000 population.
- A large number of elected representatives of PRIs are semi- literate or literate and little aware about their roles & responsibilities, programmes, procedures, systems.
- Developmental process was gradually bureaucratised.
- No effective devolution of power by state governments – voluntary subjects
- Issues with respect to elections of Sarpanch – varied state by state.
- Financial autonomy hamper implementation of priority schemes – eg. heath, educational initiatives.
- Interference of area MPs and MLAs in the functioning of panchayats also adversely affected their performance.
- Structural deficiencies– No secretarial support and lower levels of technical knowledge which restricted the aggregation of bottom up planning .
- Presence of adhocism– lack of clear setting of agenda in Gram Sabha, gram samiti meetings.
- Presence of Panch-Pati and Proxy representation in case of women and SC/STs representatives respectively. (At 1.4 million, India has the most women in elected positions)
- Issue of ambiguity in the division of functions and funds has allowed concentration of powers with the states.
- Anomaly in Devolution in Policy and Devolution in Practice.
- Creation of Parastatal Bodies: Usurp the legitimate space of PRIs and demoralise the PRIs by virtue of their superior resource endowments.
- Poor Infrastructure: Lack of full time Secretary. Around 25 percent of the Gram Panchayats do not have basic office buildings. The database for planning, monitoring etc., are lacking in most of the cases. Lack of Broadband connectivity.
- 6th report of 2nd ARC, ‘Local Governance – An inspiring journey into the future’’, had recommended that there should be a clear-cut demarcation of functions of each tier of the government.
- Concept of ‘activity mapping’– Each state clearly delineates the responsibilities and roles for the different tiers of the government in respect to the subjects listed in the Schedule XI.
- Bottom up planning– especially at the district level, based on grassroots inputs received from Gram Sabha.
- Providing infrastructural facilities, broadband connectivity etc.
- Training to local representatives– to develop expertise so that they contribute more in planning and implementation of policies and programmes
- “Social empowerment must precede the political empowerment.”
- Clear mechanisms to ensure that States comply with the constitutional provisions, particularly in the appointment and implementation of the recommendations of the State Finance Commissions (SFCs).
- Fiscal incentives to states– to encourage effective devolution to the panchayats in functions, finances, and functionaries (3Fs).
- It is important to have clarity in the assignment of functionsand the local governments should have clear and independent sources of finance.
|RECOMMENDATIONS BY 2ND ARC-|
- Principle of Subsidiarity, Democratic Decentralisation, Delineation of Functions, Devolution in Real Terms, Convergence, Citizen Centricity.
- A local body Ombudsman should be constituted.
- Separate Standing Committee of the State Legislature for the local Bodies.
- Clear delineation of functions for each level of local government
- State Election commissioner should be appointed by governor on recommendations of collegium.
- Rural development supports urban development and vice-versa
|BEST PRACTICES –|
- Recently Andhra Pradesh has established village secretariat to effectuate better service delivery and broadening participatory democracy.
- Karnataka has created a separate bureaucratic cadre for Panchayats to get away from the practice of deputation of officials who often overpowered the elected representatives.
- Kerala ranks 1st in Panchayat Devolution Index (PDI) by Min. Of Panchayat Raj for year 2014-2015.
- States like Rajasthan and Haryana have set certain minimum qualification standards for Panchayat elections. Such necessary eligibility can help in improving effectiveness of governance mechanism.
If we would see our dream of Panchayat Raj, i.e., true democracy realized, we would regard the humblest and lowest Indian as being equally the ruler of India with the tallest in the land.— Mahatma Gandhi