Here is a compilation of essays on ‘Panchayati Raj’ for class 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘Panchayati Raj’ especially written for school and college students.
Essay on Panchayati Raj
- Essay on the Inauguration of Panchayati Raj (1959)
- Essay on the Political Organisation of the Panchayati Raj
- Essay on the Assessment of Panchayati Raj
- Essay on the Recent Attempts to Revitalize the System and Emergence of New Panchayat System
- Essay on the Significance of 73rd Amendment Act
Essay # 1. Inauguration of Panchayati Raj (1959):
In 1959 Panchayati Raj was inaugurated. The Panchayats which formerly acted in advisory capacity to the community development programme now undertook to assume full responsibility for carrying it ahead.
The Balwant Raj Mehta Committee was set up by the National Development Council in 1957 to enquire into the questions of economy and efficiency and suggest measures for the re-organisation of Community Development Programme, National extension Service.
The Committee suggested a three-tier system of rural local government. It was termed as “Democratic Decentralization” which ultimately began to be called as ‘Panchayati Raj- In the words of Waghmare, “Panchayati Raj is the three-tier structure of the rural local government at the village taluka and district level based on democratization and devolution of powers and resources for the specific purposes of planning and implementation of community development programme with the active, spiritual, spontaneous participation of the rural people.
The following were the main recommendations of the Mehta Committee:
Recommendations of Mehta Committee:
(1) The development work within a local area was to be entrusted to a statutory constituted body known as Panchayat samiti.
(2) The Panchayat Samiti was to be constituted of the Presidents of the Panchayats and some co-opted members from scheduled castes and women etc. Every state could evolve its own mode of constituting the Panchayat samiti. The M.Ps and M.L.As from that constituency were to be associate members. The S.D.O. was to be the Chairman of the Samiti till the elected Chairman took over.
(3) The Zila Parishad was to consist of all the Chairmen of the Panchayat Samities and M.L.As and M.Ps from the District and some co-opted members. They were to elect their own Chairman. The Collector was to be a member of the Parishad. The Zila Parishad had to act as an advisory, coordinating and supervisory body though more functions could be devolved upon it.
(4) The budgets of the Panchayats were to be scrutinized by the Panchayat Samiti and those of panchayat samities by the Zila Parishad.
(5) The functions of the Panchayat Samiti were to comprise of all the functions performed by the N.E.S. block and those of the District Board.
(6) The Panchayat Samiti was to enjoy independent sources of revenue.
(7) The B.S.D.O. had to work as the Executive Officer and Secretary of the Panchayat Samiti.
(8) At the village level, the Panchayats served as the main agency of development work.
(9) The village level worker was to be the development secretary of the panchayats.
(10) The State Government was empowered to exercise control over these bodies. It could suspend them.
The Mehta Report is considered a historic document. It is described as the ‘master blueprint’ and a sort of ‘Bible of Panchayati Raj’. In the words of R.L. Khanna, “It is bold and imaginative attempt to inaugurate viable and virile rural self-government, an earnest effort to translate into four square reality Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of the Panchayati Raj. It envisaged a revolutionary experiment in democratic decentralization. It is a testament of faith in democracy, a grassroots approach to administration.”
Rajasthan and Andhra were the first states to opt for democratic decentralization. By the end of 1963, Panchayati Raj was established in most of the Indian states. It was hoped that by 1964-65 all the states of India would have enacted legislation for the introduction of panchayats in their areas.
However, the target could not be hit within the stipulated time. The legislations regarding the Panchayati Raj were in accordance with Mehta Committee’s report, but as expected inter-state variations in the unit of devolution and structural design were discernible.
An analysis of these legislations reveals that there were two broad issues regarding the constitution of the bodies:
(i) Should the unit of devolution be district or Block or both be adopted as units of decentralization;
(ii) Should the members be directly elected or the membership be indirect or should they be elected in both ways. Maharashtra and U.P. favoured the district, as the unit of devolution whereas Gujarat, Bihar, Punjab and Andhra opted for a mixed system.
Madras and Rajasthan stood for Panchayat samities as the unit of devolution though they retained the district body as an advisory, supervisory, coordinating and grant distributing agency.
Madhya Pradesh, Mysore, Orissa and Assam followed the Rajasthan pattern. Regarding the modes of constituting these bodies, there were three patterns adopted by the states. In some, indirect election method was preferred due to its inherent simplicity, convenience and building up of organic link with the base tier.
The Direct Election was the favourite in some other states due to the key element of responsibility, responsiveness and peoples’ interest contained in it. The mixed system claimed to embody merits both without the flaws of any.
Mysore adopted Direct Election method whereas Rajasthan, Andhra, Assam, Madras, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat stood for indirect system. Maharashtra opted for a mixed system, though with a bearing towards the Direct system.
Though Panchayati Raj legislation and its implementation came like an emotional upsurge yet crisis of village panchayats did not come to an end. According to Balwant Rai Mehta Committee’s Report, “The number of Panchayats which are torn by faction or in which squabbles are rampant is large, Panchayat elections have resulted in creating or aggravating rivalries in about one-third of the villages in which there is a contest separatism arising out of caste distinction is on increase. In practice economically weaker sections have no voice in the affairs of the panchayats.”
In some cases, they are in debt to a sarpanch who is often a man of influence. Unanimity of elections remained a far cry on account of prospects of power at Panchayat samiti and District level. Political parties exploited local factions to find a foothold in the rural areas.
Three most important problems pertaining to panchayats started haunting the minds of the Indian politicians-the paucity of finances, spread of factious spirit and the character of emerging leadership.
A study team was appointed by the Ministry of Community Development in June, 1962 to go into these questions. The team recommended the statutorization of Gram Sabha and earmarking of distinct functions of control regarding budget, taxation, and annual programme and construction projects of the Panchayats, to it.
It also recommended that Gram Sabha meetings be attended by some responsible officials and non-officials from the Samiti and the Gram Sabha should take up planning production programmes. Another study team was deputed to make an appraisal of Panchayati Raj finances in July, 1962. The committee submitted its report in 1963.
Its recommendations pertained to:
(1) Resources of the Panchayats,
(2) Expenditure of the Panchayats,
(3) Resources of the Panchayat samitis,
(4) Zila Parishad,
(5) Loans to Panchayati Raj bodies,
(6) Budget, Accounts and Audit, and
Before we make an analytical appraisal of the Panchayati Raj in India, it is essential to explain political organisation of the three-tier system, commonly known as Democratic Decentralization or Panchayati Raj.
Essay # 2. Political Organisation of the Panchayati Raj:
Though there is a basic similarity of structure in the Panchayati Raj Legislation introduced throughout the country yet some variations in the pattern on account of peculiarities of the historical evolution of the Local self-government institutions and differences in rural setting cannot be denied. Most of the states have adopted the three-tier system as recommended by the Mehta Committee Report.
The village Assembly or Gram Sabha has been statutorily recognised in all states except Kerala, Madras and Mysore. In Bengal the panchayat Unions constituted for a group of panchayats have been retained as an intermediate-tier, between village panchayat and panchayat samiti. In other words, in Bengal four-tier system prevails.
The intermediate tier in Andhra, Bihar, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab and Rajasthan is termed as Panchayat Samiti. In Assam, it has been named as “Anchalik Panchayat” and in Bengal “Anchalik Parishad”. In Gujarat, Mysore, Madhya Pradesh, U.P., Madras, it is named as “Taluk Panchayat”, “Taluka Board”, “Janpada Panchayat”, “Kshetra Samiti” and “Panchayat Union Council” respectively. Likewise the District level body also has been differently named. In Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh it is known as “Zila Panchayats”, in Madras and Mysore it is termed as District Development Council and in Assam it is named as “Mohkuma Parishad”. In rest of the states “Zila Parishad” name has been adopted.
1. The Gram Sabha (Village Assembly):
The Gram Sabha or village assembly lies at the base of Panchayati Raj superstructure. It consists of all the adult citizens who have been entitled to vote. According to the laws of most of the states, Gram Sabha is called at least twice a year usually after Rabi and Kharif crops are harvested.
In Jammu and Kashmir and Orissa, it meets only once a year. In some other states its meeting can be convened if certain proportion of the voters (1/5 in most cases) requisition it.
The village Panchayat owes responsibility to the Gram Sabha. It presents its budget accounts of the last year and annual administrative report before Gram Sabha. Projects of local development proposals for taxation and village production plan have to secure the approval of Gram Sabha before it is implemented by the Panchayat.
In Punjab, Bengal, Gujarat and Assam, Village Panchayat is elected by Gram Sabha. In Bihar, Gram Sabha elects 50 of the members of the executive council and its President.
Evaluation of the Working of Gram Sabha:
The Gram Sabha has not been an active body. Its attendance is generally thin probably because of low level of political education of the members and too much diffusive character of its membership. Proposals are afoot to strengthen the working of Gram Sabha so that it could effectively control the Panchayati Raj leadership.
Giving it right of recall and making its meetings more effective and attractive are some of the important proposals which may be given due consideration. In fact, Gram Sabha is as yet in an infant stage and necessitates constant nurture before it can develop into a basic organ of Panchayati Raj.
Through the political education of the masses, larger participation in development programmes, more effective control over panchayat leadership and better mobilization of resources. Gram Sabhas can be made more effective centres of political energy.
It is expected that Panchayats heed to the advice and suggestions of the Gram Sabha without reducing themselves to mere executive bodies. Likewise, Panchayat Samiti can lend dignity to Gram Sabha if Pradhan, Vikas Adhikari or some other senior officers attend its meetings and render advice to it.
2. The Panchayats:
Prior to the launching of community projects and till the end of the First Plan, Panchayats were primarily institutional devices entrusted with functions of minor importance-settling of minor disputes and restraining wasteful litigation in the courts, looking after sanitation, maintaining drinking water wells and repairs of community works.
The panchayats undertook to stimulate and sustain the tempo of local development activities when community project administration emerged out. It was not realised that a permanent agency alone can mobilise local citizens for a specific project.
At a later stage, i.e., 1959 onwards, the Panchayats assumed new role of increasing agricultural production by laying down village uplift plans and seeing to their implementation with the assistance of the village level worker and the Block Agency. In order to enable them to concentrate on development work, judicial functions were vested with Nyaya Panchayats.
How to Improve Panchayat Resources ?
The paucity of panchayats funds poses a big problem.
The following methods can be adopted for improving the resources of the panchayats:
(1) Further utilization of the existing sources of self-raised income can augment panchayat income. An independent agency may be set up for assessing the liabilities, toning up collection machinery, plugging the leakages and punishing the defaulters, i.e., the evaders of taxes.
(2) Panchayats should man their resources a bit more vigorously. Through common land, common grazing grounds, small irrigation works and fisheries considerable additional income is possible.
(3) Steps should be taken to have panchayat undertakings and panchayat utilities. For example, construction of or letting out of residential houses, markets, hotels, cinema houses, shops, etc. can be fairly fruitful enterprises for the Panchayats. Loans on liberal terms can be procured to build up the panchayat enterprises.
They may purchase tractors, bore-well units, thrashers, etc., to be hired out or initiate small-scale undertakings for processing agricultural or animal husbandry produce. Once they are built up, the returns which are apt to be substantial can be utilized to pay off the principal and the interest.
(4) Government grants must be enhanced. If the sources suggested are tapped and the government also extends grant liberally, the per capita income of panchayats will certainly go up. Lofty expectations from the panchayats might be frustrated if sincere efforts to raise per capita income are not made.
3. Nyaya Panchayats:
With the ever increasing developmental role of the Panchayats, it was realised that their judicial functions should be assigned to a separate body. Moreover in the interest of equitability and impartiality of justice, separation of judicial functions from the executive was thought indispensible. this resulted in the emergence of Nyaya Panchayats as separate entities.
4. Panchayat Samiti:
The emergence of Panchayat Samiti as a new unit of rural local self-government and its blending with the unit for area development and planning is a remarkable achievement of Community Development programme.
“Its architecture incorporates some of the bold administrative innovations of our times namely coordinated team work between the specialists and general administrator, multipurpose worker strung with the functional specialist, official agency wed locked with the non-official workers.”
The acceptance of the Mehta Committee’s recommendations by the National Development Council in 1958 and the passage of the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad Acts by Rajasthan in 1959 ushered in new era, in the evolution of relationship between the officials and non-officials. The Panchayat Samiti was established to share the responsibility of Community Development at local level.
The Pradhan is the linch-pin of the new set up. He plays a vital role in enthusing the people and controlling the chief executive. He is elected by the members of the Panchayat Samiti and is removable by a vote of no-confidence by a special majority.
The indirect election of the Pradhan has resulted in worst type of blackmailing, corruption and questionable underhand practices. In his absence, ailment or disability during the interregnum caused by Pradhan’s removal or resignation, Up-Pradhan acts as Pradhan.
Functions of Pradhan:
The following are the statutory functions of Pradhan:
(i) Convening and conducting the meetings of Panchayat Samiti as its President.
(ii) Exercising administrative control over Vikas Adhikari and his staff regarding implementation of the decisions and resolutions of the Panchayat Samiti and standing committees.
(iii) Encouraging the growth of initiative and enthusiasm in the Panchayats and guiding them in making plans, carrying out production programmes and helping the growth of cooperatives and other voluntary organisations.
Powers of Pradhan:
In order to enable him to discharge his functions satisfactorily, the Pradhan has been vested with powers recognized by the statute as well as conventions.
They are as follows:
(i) He has full access to all the records of Panchayat Samiti.
(ii) He writes confidential report of Vikas Adhikari which is later on transmitted to the Collector.
(iii) He grants leave to the members of Samiti, subject to review by the Samiti and possesses other incidental powers of a presiding officer.
(iv) He is vested with emergency powers which he exercises in consultation with Vikas Adhikari under such powers. He can direct the execution of any work which normally necessitates the sanction of the Panchayat Samiti or its standing committees but the immediate execution of which is in his opinion, essential for the maintenance of services and safety to the general public.
He can pass stay orders for the execution of any work, stating reasons for doing so. He can alter any programme of the Panchayat Samiti subject to the ratification of Zila Parishad.
However, these emergency powers are subject to two limitations:
(a) The act so directed should not contravene any orders of the State Government.
(b) The action so taken must be reported to the Panchayat Samiti or the Standing committee at its next meeting.
(v) He is an ex-officio chairman of the standing committee if he happens to be its member.
(vi) He is an ex-officio member of the Zila Parishad as well. In this capacity, he can influence the opinion of the Collector and district level officers regarding Vikas Adhikari and the extension staff.
(vii) The transfer of Vikas Adhikari and extension officers requires prior consultation with Pradhan.
Position of the Pradhan:
The Pradhan plays a vital role in the new set up. On account of support of a stable majority and the trust he enjoys of the ministerial benches, Pradhan has become a very powerful functionary. He is not easily removable as 2/3rd majority is required to oust him.
He can even unnerve a sarpanch with the assistance of a few of his loyal colleagues. Through his administrative powers, he can make his position envious. The support or hostility of a Pradhan may affect the chances of a standing MLA to a considerable degree.
Since he exercises administrative control over Vikas Adhikari, he can compete with the Vikas Adhikari regarding the latter’s authority over his staff. On account of his political links and his prominent place in political hierarchy, he can help the Panchayat Samiti in procuring financial assistance from the State Government and Zila Parishad and get over its financial and subsequently administrative difficulties.
The role of Pradhan as a President is also fairly important. A permissive Pradhan well aware of committee and meeting procedure can encourage the members to express their views freely and can bring about a true integration of views in arriving at a decision. The quality of decisions and the productivity of meetings depends to a great extent upon the balanced role of Pradhan.
Since the Panchayat Samitis and the standing committees meet only for a few hours once or twice a month they can hardly consider the action report thoroughly. The Pradhan supplies standing vigilance on behalf of the Samiti and its standing committees, and sees that their resolution and decisions are carried out properly.
An un-satiated Pradhan may distort it into an instrument of interference which results in undermining administrative discipline, moral unity and efficiency. An indifferent and non-vigilant Pradhan may fail to discharge the duty of supervising and controlling the Vikas Adhikari properly. We can conclude that a Pradhan with progressive outlook, having a firm grasp over procedure.
Supported by a solid and stable majority, can prove to be a powerful functionary who can tone-up the Panchayat Samiti business and Panchayat Samiti administration. A Pradhan devoid of these qualities can hardly inspire the members of Panchayat Samiti and Administration with the requisite zeal and high standards of service.
6. Committee System:
A sound committee system provides opportunity to a larger number of individuals to partake in decision-making. It helps in prompt disposal of causes and very thorough appraisal of issues. The Panchayat Samiti is not only an unwieldy body but also meets for a brief spell of time. Hence during its interregnum, the committees alone can look into broad details.
In Panchayat Samiti, the members of committees range from three to seven. However, in case of need, the Samiti can constitute more committees as well. Every Committee consists of usually not more than seven members.
The Panchayat Samiti is entitled to coopt not more than two persons to a standing committee from outside the membership of Panchayat Samiti from amongst the experienced and knowledgeable persons.
The Committee processes only delegated jurisdiction. The Panchayat Samiti can ask for any of their records or proceedings. It may withdraw, reduce or increase the powers of a committee. It is thus evident that the Committee’s position depends upon the confidence, the Panchayat Samiti reposes in it and the status of its chairman and the members, in the eyes of the other members.
Conduct of Business:
The State Government prescribes the rules for the conduct of business. The Vikas Adhikari in consultation with the Chairman prepares the agenda. Decisions are arrived at by majority. A casting vote vests with the chairman.
The Vikas Adhikari or some senior official on his behalf participates in the proceedings though does not possess right to vote. Members exhibit keen interest in loan applications or other applications for aid or procurement of a scarce commodity.
7. Zila Parishad:
The Zila Parishad is mainly an advisory, coordinating, fund distributing and supervisory body in Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar whereas in Gujarat, Andhra, Maharashtra, Punjab and U.P. it is equipped with executive functions like health, education, social welfare etc.
In the rest of the states, the Zila Parishads have inherited numerous executive functions from the former district boards and district school boards. In 1987 there were 297 Zila Parishads.
8. Roles of Collector:
i. A collector co-ordinates the work of various development departments of the state government at the district level.
ii. He examines the extent of progress achieved in the execution of various schemes and implementation of the decision and resolution of the Zila Parishad and suggests improvements.
iii. He is to see to the proper utilization of funds by the Panchayat Samitis and their maintaining minimum standards of service.
iv. He is to see that Vikas Adhikari and his staff play their role properly.
v. A collector can inspect and call forth any record, report or information from the other local bodies.
vi. He can ask the Samiti or Parishad to consider any objection or information which he considers essential to be taken into account.
vii. As a watch-dog of the State and Central Government at district level, the Collector exercises regulatory powers on behalf of the State Government except the powers of supersession, dissolution, rule-making power for effecting revision and review under exceptional circumstances and also suggesting amendment of schedules.
viii. He is responsible for the maintenance of law and order in the district. Hence Panchayat Samitis’ and Zila Parishads’ areas come under his purview for this purpose.
ix. He has been vested with special responsibilities regarding the election of the President and Vice-President of the Samiti or Parishad, co-option of members and administration of oath.
x. A collector presides over the extra-ordinary session of the Panchayat Samiti specially convened to consider no-confidence motion against the Pradhan.
xi. He is to see that the technical assistance is made available to the extension officers by the corresponding departments of the State Government.
xii. He assists the Panchayat Samitis in the early recovery of dues.
xiii. He is to see that adequate provisions are made by Panchayat Samitis to recover and repay the loans advanced by the state government to the Panchayat Samitis.
xiv. He is to see and report to the State Government whether the priorities in the Plan are being adhered to and whether the general pattern of work is in conformity with the policies laid down by the State and the Central Governments.
xv. A collector can suspend the resolution of a Panchayat Samiti or a Panchayat in the event of immediate threat to human life, health, safety or public order.
xvi. In an emergency, he can direct or provide for the execution of any work which is essential for public safety.
Thus it is obvious that his powers as guardian of law and order and district development officer are fairly imposing. However, since Zila Parishads have been vested with executive powers and a senior I.A.S. officer is their Executive Officer, the Collector’s powers of inspection, suspension and direction have been transferred to the Commissioner.
Still the Collector is allowed certain emergency powers and submit a report to the Commissioner if he feels that the situation necessitates action on his part. Besides, he is the head of revenue and general administration at district level. Hence his contribution is apt to be of immense importance for the harmonious functioning of the Panchayati Raj institutions with the Zila Parishad, as its spearhead.
Essay # 3. Assessment of Panchayati Raj:
An analytical survey of the three-tier system reveals that Panchayati Raj is a dull echo of its former self Scholars are of the view that India is on the way to have a strong rural administration, rather than an effective rural government.
The three-tier system has been working in the different parts of the country for the last 45 years or so but certain glaring shortcomings were evident viz., lack of clear and scientific distribution of functions at the various levels; domination of higher structure over the subordinate structures; undue interference of the state governments and curtailment of autonomy of these institutions; lack of adequate finances; scant attention to the views and aspirations of people by the officials; parochial thinking on account of politicization of the Panchayati Raj Institutions; indirect election of the Panchayat Samitis and Zila Parishads and the presence of the ex-officio members not in consonance with democratic principles; tight control of the government over the Panchayti Raj Institutions.
Keeping in view these facts, a committee on Panchayati Raj Institutions under the Chairmanship of Ashok Mehta was appointed in December 1977 by the then Janata Government. It submitted its Report in August, 1978 making about 132 recommendations.
The main recommendations pertained to:
(a) Functional necessity for decentralization of administration though under democratic supervision;
(b) Two-tier system of Panchayati Raj viz. the revenue District assuring the technical expertise of high order required for rural development and the Mandal Panchayat to be constituted by grouping a number of villages;
(c) The Panchayati Raj Institutions to have compulsory powers of taxation and mobilize their own resources, thus reducing their dependence on diversion of funds from the state government. Certain taxes collected from the area such as provision tax, entertainment tax and special tax on land and building be transferred to Panchayati Raj Institutions;
(d) Open participation of political parties in Panchayati Raj affairs;
(e) The creation of certain monitoring forums to safeguard and promote the interests of vital social and economic groups in the villages;
(f) a regular social audit by a district level agency as well as by a committee of legislators to check whether funds earmarked for these social and economic groups are actually spent on them;
(g) The State legislators will have a committee on Panchayati Raj with adequate representation for scheduled castes and tribes to cater to their needs and mitigate grievances of the weaker sections;
(h) The State Government must not supersede the Panchayati Raj Institutions on partisan grounds. In case of an imperative supersession, election must take place within six months;
(i) Provision of urban amenities such as roads, portable water, medical care, employment and education in rural areas to neutralize pull for immigration to urban centres.
These recommendations were fairly laudable as they were designed to revitalize Panchayati Raj Institutions and accord them constitutional status but they were not without pitfalls firstly, Ashok Mehta committee conceived of Panchayati Raj in very narrow terms.
It reduced Panchayati Raj into mere administrative contrivance whose justification lies in terms of rural development. Panchayati Raj should have been considered a system of government enjoying a certain measure of autonomy in the matter of its functions and existing in its own right.’
Secondly, the committee did not give proper recognition to the elective participative organism at the village level. Such a view makes the village too conspicuous by its absence.’ Thirdly, the present structure is not that inadequate as painted by it.
The proposed two-tier system and the exact location of two-tiers are structural manifestations of an overall sensitivity to technology and an under-reaction to democracy at the grass roots.
Fourthly, the Panchayati Raj institution lacks inherent power of taxation. The committee also failed to suggest a list of local taxes. Fifthly, the committee did not suggest making Panchayati Raj a part of the organic law of the land. A constitutional base if suggested could have imparted both a sanctity and stature to the grassroots democracy. Sixthly, election on party basis will pollute the rural atmosphere.
The villages will become hotbeds of intrigues and animosities. Comparing the Balwant Rai Mehta report with that of Ashok Mehta, an Indian social scientist remarks, “Both are easily the two landmarks in the history of local government in India though each has its distinctive conceptual framework of analysis and examination. In certain respects the second builds upon the first but in many others seeks a deliberate departure from his predecessor.”
With the fall of Janata Government, these recommendations of the committee remained in the tantalizing realm of unfulfilled aspirations. Hence the rural local bodies maintained status quo. Despite sincere attempts on the part of present state governments even now their financial resources remain meagre. Their supersessions have been too frequent. The State Governments have been too domineering.
Some of them have not shown sustained enthusiasm for Panchayati Raj at the higher levels as well. Thus, the formidable challenges to democracy necessitated a changed attitude to Panchayati Raj at higher levels as well. Democracy at higher levels is apt to have a weak base unless there is its habitual practice at the local level.
Essay # 4. Recent Attempts to Revitalize the System and Emergence of New Panchayat System:
In July-August 1989, the Congress (I) Government under Rajiv Gandhi introduced a 64th Constitutional Amendment Bill with a view to revitalize and rejuvenates the Panchayati Raj Institutions. However, the Bill was defeated in the Rajya Sabha.
The 64th Amendment Bill had sought to strengthen centralization through holding Panchayti Raj Institutions’ elections under the supervision of Election Commission, appointment by the Centre of Finance Commission to regulate taxes and grants-in-aid and introduction of auditing of the Panchayati Raj Institutions’ accounts by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India who was to submit his report to the Governor.
Thus in all matters wings of the State Governments were clipped and the rule of the Centre was perpetuated. However, the Bill was vehemently opposed by the opposition and could not be passed.
In November 1989, the National Front Government soon after assuming power announced that it would grant powers to the rural democratic institutions to make them effective bodies. In two days conference of Chief Ministers held in June 1990, Panchayati Raj Institutions and urban local bodies were discussed.
The Government showed welcome promptness in proposing legislation to give constitutional status to Panchayti Raj Institutions, guaranteeing devolution of powers for developmental decision making to villages.
Earlier on December 3, 1989, V.P. Singh in his first broadcast to the nation had declared that he would “bring forward legislation for genuine Panchayati Raj which will respect the imperatives of our federal structure”. The Chief Ministers’ conference decided that each state shall appoint its own Election Commission to supervise elections and have its own Finance Commission.
The government aimed at granting constitutional status to Panchayati Raj Institutions, introducing reservation of seats for women and weaker sections and the provision of safeguards to make supersession of local bodies difficult. The thrust of the reforms was to make Gram Sabha the base of rural set up. However, the fall of the government resulted in shelving the proposals of National Front Government.
In July 1992, MP Government dissolved Panchayati Raj Institution for no valid grounds. Evidently this was a misuse of discretionary powers. Hence a special act to check the high handedness of the State governments and safeguard the spirit of local autonomy and make grass root democracy flourish an Amendment Act was thought as the crying used of the hour.
This was undertaken by the congress government under Narsimha Rao when the 72nd Amendment Act was introduced on Sept. 16, 1991. It proposed to add a new part for regular elections and adequate representation of the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women in Panchayati Raj Institutions.
It provided for 1/3 reservation of seats for women and fixing tenures of the panchayats for 5 years. In the event of supersession of panchayats elections were to be held within six months.
The Bill was passed by the Parliament in Dec. 1992 and received the assent of the President on April 20, 1993. It was now known as Constitution (Seventy-third Amendment) Act, 1992. All the states amended their Panchayati Raj Acts in accordance with the new constitutional provisions. Elections were held and the new system stood adopted.
The salient features of the Act were as follows:
(i) All the states would amend their Panchayati Raj Acts in accordance with new constitutional provision within the stipulated period i.e. April 23, 1994.
(ii) Establishment of Panchayats at the village, district and Intermediate level.
(iii) Panchayati Raj Institutions to function as institutions of self governance and to be endowed with powers and authority to formulate and implement schemes of economic development and social justice
(iv) Regular elections after every 5 years
(v) Direct elections of the village chairpersons and indirect elections of chairpersons at Block and District level
(vi) Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes/Schedule Tribes in proportion to their population,
(vii) Reservation of 1/3 seats for women
(viii) Similar reservation in respect of the office of chairperson,
(ix) Constitution of State Finance Commission every 5 years
(x) States empowered to provide reservation for Backward classes as well.
It was emphasized that the states will empower these panchayats adequately, give them adequate finances and bestow upon them proper autonomy in order to enable them to function efficiently and implement programmes of economic development and social justice.
Essay # 5. Significance of the 73rd Amendment Act:
The seventy third amendment act has its own significance. Local government has become the third tier of the Government of India. As regards its constitutional status, local government enjoys parity with the state government and the Central government. Of course, their jurisdiction vary and their powers enjoy significance according to their relative importance and sphere of control.
In any case, local government has been able to gain statutorily entity. The Local bodies may not have to face financial crunch any more. The Eleventh Finance Commission (EFC) sanctioned Rs. 1600 crores for the Panchyats.
The Twelfth Finance commission enhanced the sanctioned amount to Rs. 25000 crores for 2005-10 as grants-in-aid to argument the consolidated funds of the states to supplement the resources of both the Panchayats and the Municipalities.
Besides their own sources, were en-chanced by the Eleventh Finance Commission? It remarked “There is a need for a suitable tax that is buoyant and can be collected by local bodies.” So, financially they are going to be properly looked after. The old causes of Panchayats poor functioning are to vanish on account of the passage of 73rd amendment act. They should prove to be viable institutions of grass root democracy.
However, the Act has ignored the perpetual irritants between elected representatives and local level bureaucracy. The legislators will have to look into this problem which is one of the most potent causes of the malfunctioning of the Panchayats. It is also apprehended that these institutions may dance to the tune of the rich in the villages.
However, the working of the Panchayati Raj institutions under the new dispensation has belied the hope that these institutions will act more effectively as instruments of rural development and social justice. The task of rural development involving projects concerning roads, drinking water supply, irrigation canals, agricultural extension, rural housing, etc. can only be undertaken in a top-down manner.
Historically speaking, the village has never had a cooperative system. The state has always had an authoritative relationship with the village and the modern Panchayati Raj continues to function on the basis of the same relationship despite structural changes. Besides lack of political will and also committed bureaucracy has impeded its vibrancy.
It may seem ironical but it is a naked reality that after the passage of the 73rd amendment acted some political leaders representing all political hues tried to undermine the Act. The M.Ps and MLA demanded the local area development funds.
How illogical? Besides in the initial 25 years, to the non Congress ruled states viz West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala under the Marxist, Karnataka under the Janta Party, Orissa under Biju Patnaik, Andhra Pradesh under N.T. Rama Rao, added to the (otherwise decaying) glory of Panchayats.
The Congress led governments delayed panchayats election, Madhya Pradesh under Digvijay singh being an exception. In Bihar Nitish Kumar as C.M. gave 50 per cent reservation to the women in the Panchayats.
We highlight some of notable observations as under’:
1. The inception of a separate Ministry for the Panchayati Raj by the UPA Government is a laudable step. However, the critics committed to decentralization and grass-Toot democracy consider it a half hearted measure.
The new ministry should have been named as the Ministry of Local Government so as to bring urban and rural local bodies under one umbrella. Mathew is of the view that budget allocated to the Ministry was also meagre.
He went to the extent of saying that “panchayats as the implementing agencies are on paper only.” He opined the National Institute of Rural Development Hyderabad and the State Institutes for Rural Development the nodal institutions for training – have not been kept under the Panchayati Raj Ministry.
2. The successful working of the new Panchayati Raj also depends on prevalence of harmony of castes and prevention of clash of factional egos. Panchayats elections presented a dismal picture. Persons with criminal records have entered the panchayati Raj institutions.
The tales of misappropriation of money extended for development purposes by the Sarpanchs also have been often repeated. The concern for the rural community has been mostly in jeopardy. Hence, a genuine era of rural development through self governance has yet to dawn.
3. Whatever the teething problems and existing weakness and constraints, the ministry has done exceptionally well. Our Panchayati Raj has been the envy of our neighborly countries Brazil, South Africa and some of Commonwealth countries. They seek inspiration for grass roots democracy from India. But Panchayats being the state subject, many state governments have the tendency to ride roughshod over the local bodies.
There is a dire necessity of New Deal as under:
(i) The New Deal should make Panchayats, institutions of local government as envisaged by the constitution.
(ii) It must ensure ways and means to make Panchayat’s the third tier of government in the country resulting in a good bye to the Collector Raj and ushering in era of District Governments.
(iii) It must ensure autonomy to implement the policies and programmes to eradicate poverty at the earliest but not later than 20 years.
“Let us hope the charter painstakingly prepared by the Panchayat members from all over the country will prove to be the threshold for the New Deal. Whether the Congress has the requisite political will to give a new deal to panchayats remains to be seen”.
Implementation of 73rd Amendment Act – Our Appraisal:
It is heartening to note that the 73rd Amendment Act 1992 ushers a new era in our Federal Polity and confers constitutional status on the Panchayati Raj institutions. After the passage of the Amendment Act almost all the states and UTs enacted laws to this effect. All the states have held Panchayat elections.
Approximately 234 676 Panchayat at village level 6097 panchayats at intermediate level and 537 Panchayats at the District level have been set up. These Panchayats are being controlled by 21.95 lakhs elected representatives of the Panchayats at all levels. Evidently this is the broadest representative base which exists in any democratic country of the world.
The objective of inception of a strong base of political empowerment of an ordinary ruralize has been attained. More than 21 lakh representatives stand elected, of these 40% are women, 16% Scheduled Castes and 11% Scheduled Tribes.
The spirit of Part IX of the constitution wanted these panchayats to function as units of rural self government. They were to be entrusted functional mandates and given certain degree of autonomy. However, the states were to decide the extent of powers to be transferred to the Panchayats.
Though formal transfer of functions has been done, yet the extent funds and the functionaries required for the performance of functions is as yet a far cry. Besides the central ministries earmarking substantial funds for the execution of centrally sponsored schemes ignore panchayats. Hence the states lose incentive for effecting desired devolution.
The Act has kept the role of political parties at local level vague. There is no indication for their participation in the local elections. Likewise, the act is silent over the relationship between Panchayati Raj institutions and load level bureaucracy. No coordination has been envisaged between local bureaucracy and local elected representatives.
However, the Act has taken full care of frequent supersession and suspensions. The periodical elections within a scheduled time frame will enable the Panchayats to become viable institutions of grass root democracy Dr. B.L. Fadia has rightly opined “It is not enough to build up a case for revival of Panchayati Raj.
One must also talk about pre-requisites of the revival so that Panchayti Raj may not undergo another eclipse on the earlier pattern”.