Read this essay to learn about:- 1. Composition of Panchayat Samiti 2. Size of Panchayat Samiti 3. Methods of Electing the Members of Panchayat Samiti 4. Functions of the Panchayat Samiti 5. Tenure of Panchayat Samiti 6. Income of the Panchayat Samiti.
Essay # 1. Composition of Panchayat Samiti:
The constitutional pattern of the Panchayat Samiti varies from state to state. Co-option of scheduled castes and tribes and the female members is a common feature. Special representation to co-operative societies, co-operative banks and progressive farmers is also accorded.
The M.L.As and M.Ps are ex-officio members of the Panchayat Samiti in most states except Maharashtra. They are associate members having right to attend Samitis’ meeting but are not allowed to exercise right to vote or get elected to the office of Pradhan or Chairman of the standing committee. In Karnataka M.L.As and M.Ps are full-fledged members of Samiti.
Essay # 2. Size of Panchayat Samiti:
The area of the Panchayat Samiti is generally coterminus with an N.E.S. block or a Tehsil or Taluka which comprises of 112 villages. In Maharashtra the Panchayat Samiti consists of an area equivalent to two or three blocks. The average area covered by block works out to be 566 sq. miles though the usual range varies from 105 sq. miles to 2,837 sq. miles. The number of Panchayats per block also varies from state to state from eight per block in Kerala to eighty in UP. By 1987 the number of Panchayat Samities had gone up to 4,256.
Essay # 3. Methods of Electing the Members of Panchayat Samiti:
The members of Samiti are directly elected in Karnataka and Assam. Direct election method ensures direct responsibility of the elected representatives to the electorate and safeguards Samiti from local pulls and pressures. The system has its defects too. It snaps the organic link with the Panchayats and creates the problem of co-ordination.
Indirect election method prevails in rest of the states. It has two kinds :—
(1) The Samiti is constituted of Sarpanchs as ex-officio members and
(2) Indirect election through an electoral college, composed of Panchas and Sarpanchas. In Andhra, Bihar, Tamilnadu, Rajasthan, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh, the former method prevails. The system maintains organic links with Panchayat though makes Sarpanch as very powerful.
“It blurs the sense of responsibility regarding Panchayat Samiti issues before the electorate and subjects the system to local pressure.” The latter method has been adopted in Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. The system enables the Panchas to participate more vigorously in Samiti affairs than is possible in the former method.
Moreover, it allows a certain measure of independence. It is rightly apprehended by the critics that organic links with the panchayats cannot be maintained under this system. It gives rise to problems of coordination of places and programme.
Essay # 4. Functions of the Panchayat Samiti:
The functions of the Panchayat Samiti can be divided into the following groups:
(i) Social Services:
Following functions are included in this group:
Opening and running of primary schools, conversion of primary schools into basic schools, extending scholarships and stipends to the children of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other backward classes. Adult education, provision of library services, community centres, youth organisation etc., are also the set tasks of the Samiti.
(b) Health and Sanitation:
This function comprises vaccination and control of epidemics, providing protected drinking water facilities.
Inspection and setting up of Ayurvedic dispensaries and primary family planning health centres, conducting health campaigns, imparting education in nutrition, maternity, child health and control of communicable diseases, regularization of obnoxious and offensive trades and reclamation of obnoxious and offensive trades and reclamation of healthy localities.
(c) Social Welfare:
Management of hostels for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, the strengthening of voluntary social welfare organizations, service of the backward classes, propagation of prohibition, child and women welfare, inspection of poor houses, asylums and orphanages, provision of rural housing for low income groups comprise social welfare functions.
(d) House-keeping functions:
Collection of statistics, publicity, supervision and guidance of Panchayats, collection of Panchayat Samiti revenues, budgeting, record maintenance, reporting, administering trusts for furthering the purposes of samiti are its house-keeping functions.
(e) Emergency Relief:
It is expected to provide relief against fire, flood, famine, epidemics or other widespread calamities.
Maintenance of inter-panchayat roads and culverts are included in this function.
Rural insurance agency, representation of the area interests and agency for small savings are also important functions of the Samiti.
(ii) Community Development:
In this category can be included organisation of village institutions and striving for increasing production, employment and amenities so as to promote self-help and community feeling.
(iii) Production Programmes:
In this category following functions can be included:
(a) Construction and maintenance of irrigation works.
(b) Development of co-operatives by promoting co-operative societies, providing credit and other facilities, encouraging investments in small savings and insurance.
(c) Development of village forests and rotational grazing.
(d) Development of cottage and small-scale industries, establishment and maintenance of production-cum-training centres, effecting improvement in the skills of the artisans and craftsmen and popularizing improved tool.
(e) Development of agriculture and animal husbandry by popularizing improved seeds, use of manure, fertilizers, improved implements, improved methods of cultivation, castration and fruit and vegetable gardening.
(f) Organizing services and supplies, catering to agricultural and animal husbandry development. It implies the establishment and maintenance of seed multiplication farms, setting up artificial insemination centres, stock breeding farms and veterinary dispensaries.
It also implies purchases, manufacture and distribution of improved implements, grading of wool, provision of insecticides to control plant and animal diseases.
Essay # 5. Tenure of Panchayat Samiti:
The tenure of the Panchayat Samiti in most states is the same as that of Panchayats. This avoids the possibility of structural strains which might crop up if the social and political complexion of Panchayat Samiti undergoes a change while that of Panchayat remains the same. The absence of synchronisation of the terms of the two bodies may result in the emergence of two different political groups. In these two seats of authority at local level, the local government may be converted into an arena of political conflicts. Obviously this may have serious repercussions on the development of local government in the country.
Essay # 6. Income of the Panchayat Samiti:
There are four main sources of income of the Samiti:
1. Self-Raised Resources:
In this category, we include the following:
The Samiti is empowered to levy the following taxes under the statutes of the various states.
(a) Local cess at the prescribed percentage of the rent payable by the owner or rent received by a landholder or the assumed rental value of such land if no tax is payable on such land; share or entire proceeds of land. These rates vary from state to state. In Rajasthan it is 5 paisa, in Andhra 25 paisa and in Tamilnadu 45 paisa per rupee.
(b) Tax on trades, professions and industries.
(c) Primary education cess.
(d) Share of surcharge on stamp duties.
(e) Tax leviable on the Panchayat Samiti fairs and cattle fairs.
(f) Surcharge on local cess.
Contributions can be made by private individuals and also the Panchayats and Tovra committees. The latter pay between 6 paisa and 12 paisa per rupee of their income.
(iii) Non-taxation Sources:
In this group, the following sources can be included:
(a) Fees are procured from issuing licenses, registration of animals, service of bulls, marketing fees on the use of Panchayat Samiti property, fees from schools and dispensaries. Fines are collected while exercising administrative jurisdiction and from hearing the appeals.
(b) Income through the toll charges and entertainment tax.
(c) Sale proceeds of movable and immovable property.
(d) Revenue receipts from Panchayat Samiti undertakings.
(e) Income from the lease of bones, ferries and fisheries.
(f) Income from agency functions, viz., Insurance schemes, small saving agency, income from endowments and trusts.
(g) Income from unclaimed deposit and forfeitures.
(h) Share of profit from state trading in any commodity. With the sanction of the State Government, it may also raise the loan.
The grants-in-aid are also an important source of revenue.
Grants are extended to the Panchayat Samitis in various ways:
(i) Ad hoc grants:
In Punjab for instance, a sum of Rs. 6,000 is extended to each Panchayat Samiti with specific instructions from the State Government as to the way, it is to be expended. Rajasthan Government also adopted the same system of extending Rs. 2,000 per Panchayat Samiti as the ad hoc grant.
(ii) Matching grants:
The Tamil Nadu Government advances matching grants to the Panchayat Samitis, from 75% to 150% of the sums raised by the Samitis through surcharge on land cess depending on the class of Samitis.
(iii) General grants:
These grants are not tied to specific schemes or purposes. They are given to the Samitis to be spent in the manner determined by them within a specified broad framework. Andhra for example gives 25 paisa per capita, as general grants to the Samitis, Gujarat credits 25% of its land revenue to the Panchayat Samiti fund whereas Karnataka gives 20%.
(iv) Specific purpose grants:
These grants are given for specific purposes and are not available for other than specified purpose.
3. Finances under Schematic Budget:
Of the total available income of the Panchayat Samiti, the Schematic Budget under Community Development contributes a sizable amount— from Rs. 1.5 to Rs. 3.5 per capita depending on the stage of the block.
However, the schematic budget which was expected to place nucleus funds at the disposal of the block agency, has suffered substantial alterations, as regards overall quantum, composition and method of administering the same.
In the initial stages a project area approximating the size of three blocks was allocated 65 lakhs for a period of three years. In 1953-54 the said allocation of funds was reduced from 21.6 lacs to 15 lacs for three years. The provision for the newly started N.E.S. Blocks was fixed at 7.5 lacs.
In the Second Five-Year Plan, the C.D. and N.E.S. Blocks were constituted at the rate of Rs. 12 and Rs. 4 lacs respectively for three years. During the Third Five-Year Plan period, the I stage and II stage blocks were allocated Rs. 12 lacs and 5 lacs respectively for five years.
The amount of annual income accrued from the Schematic Budget was Rs. 2.4 lacs and Rs. 1 lac respectively for I and II stages blocks and was less than 50% what it was during the First Five-Year Plan. Such allocations, however, have been progressively increasing during succeeding plans.
4. The Transferred Schemes and Departmental Sources:
The State Government pays the Samiti for the transferred liabilities such as primary education, primary health centres, irrigation work, inter-panchayat link roads, social welfare scheme and demonstration farms. Panchayat Samitis funds are further augmented due to the departmental schemes for seed multiplication, inoculation of animals, schemes of Khadi and Village Industries Board.
Though the income figures seem fairly impressive, yet the freedom of the Panchayat Samiti to take initiative in planning and programming is very much restricted. The schematic budget, the departmental schemes and the various grants hardly have any scope for initiative.
The self- raised sources are so meagre that freedom to plan their use is hardly of any practical utility. However, the Panchayat Samitis have full freedom to frame their own budgets and formulate their own annual plans of development within the framework of State plan.