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					           The Punjab Heritage
            Panchayati Raj: Problems and Prospects
   Panchayati Raj Institutions since 1959
   Process of Decline
   Main Problems
   Revival of Panchayati Raj
   73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment
   Reservation for Woman in Panchayati Raj Institutions

                                                               Dr.Sansar Singh Janjua
                                                Department of Correspondence Courses,
                                                             Punjabi University,Patiala

The constitution of free India envisaged organization of villagePanchayats and endow
them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as
units of Local self government.The government of India set up a committee in June 1986
which recommended the Panchayati Raj institutionsshould be constitutionally
recognized, protectedand preserved.Late Shri Rajiv Gandhi's government accepted the
recommendationsof the Committee and brought forward the 64th
ConstitutionalAmendment Bill.But theBill could not be enacted.
Panchayati Raj Institutions were constituted in the various states but it could not live upto
the expectations for various reasons.Keeping in view the past experiences, it become
imperative to provide constitutional status to local selfgovernment to impart certainty,
continuity and strength.Thus, the constitution 73rd Amendment Act 1992 came into
effect which envisages states to establish a three tier system of strong, viable and
responsivePanchayats at the village, intermediate and district level.
Although, the Panchayati Raj in Punjab enjoys good reputation but it could not go upto
many expectations till today i.e., strong, viable and responsive solidarity among large
number of massess.Situation may not improve merely by amending the Act, What is to be
needed todayis achange in thinking and bringing about a sense ofconsciousness among
the people as well as the administrators.New normsandethics need to be created for both
which will subserve the ideals of underlying decentralisation.Even learned foreignexperts
may beinvited to form opinionbefore studying the situation. For achieving better
resultsand greater commitments to PRI's bodies.Likewise, Panchayats should be made
more active and responsive so that social awareness and consciousness could be created
at the grassroots level.It is then, that the trueideals and experience in democratic
decentralization would walk hand in hand.Then only, as Nehru said, every one in the
country would be a partner in the progress.

                         Panchayati Raj Institutions since 1959

As the working of Panchayati Raj Institutions since 1959 has been argued as successful in
a few states and a failure in most of the states.It means that the system has
beenexperiencing ups and downs.Although, the concept of Panchayti Raj is a State
subject but, basically each state is free to evolve its ownsystem depending upon Local
needs, circumstancesadministrativeconveniencesandexperiences.With the result, we have
variety of Panchayati Raj institutionswith all kinds of combinations and permutations. In
fact, their success orfailure depends upon their structure, powers, functions leadership,
finances and state control.In a bigcountry like India, changes in different aspects of these
bodies have been taking place as per thechanging circumstances.Although the whole
activities of Panchayati Rajinstitutionsare broadbasedbut theirresource base are very very
weak.As things stand today, the local economy is very weak which indicates that
Panchayati Raj Institutions have very limited scope to impose taxes in their jurisdiction.
Introduction of Panchayati Raj washailedas oneof the most important political
innovations in independent India.It was also considered as a revolutionary
step.²Panchayati Raj is a system of local self government where in the people take upon
themselves the responsibility for development.It is also a system of institutional
arrangement for achieving rural Development through people'sinitiative and
participation.Panchayati Raj involves a three-tierstructure of democratic institutions at
district, block and village levels namely, Zila Prishad, Panchayat Samiti and Village
Panchayats respectively.These institutions are considered as training ground for
democracy and gives political education³ to the massess.These institutionswere
established in 1959 based on the philosophyof decentralization 4 and gram swaraj.Rural
development plans and programmes are implemented at this level so that fruits of
development can accrue to the community directly.
Both the Central and State Governments have appointed several Committees and
Commissions for reviewing5 and recommending reforms to strengthenPanchayati Raj
during the last threedecades.Panchayati Raj thatemerged in thestates is substantially in
tune with Balwant RaiMehta team recommendations though there are distinguishing
differences from state to state.Another Committee of Panchayati Raj appointedby the
Central Government under the Chairmanship of Shri Ashok Mehta in 1978 is very
important as itreviewed the systemof Panchayati Raj in different states in the country and
recommended a differentstructure of Panchayati Raj.Starting with Rajstahanseveral
statesintroduced Panchayati Raj in quick succession.Ina handsome tribute, Prof.Maddick
7 describing the Mehta report "as an outstanding document and model of the way in
which the growth of democratic institutitons in the country one of vital importance.
whileinaugurating Panchayati Rajat Nagour, Rajstahan on October 2, 1959, Nehru 8 said
with understandable enthusiasm, "we are going to lay the foundation of democracy or
Panchayati Raj in India,".The focus was still on community projects and N.E.S and he
thought that the reason for slow progresswas dependence on official Machinary , a
situation which would beremedied,by Panchayati Raj.At a Seminar in Jaipur in Dec, 1964
Balwant Rai Mehta clearly9 stated that community development istheobject, the purpose,
and Panchayati Raj is the instrument for implementing the programme.The draft fifth
plan stated "The basic concept behind establishing Panchayati Raj was to create rural
local self government agencies reasonable for dischargingcertain selected functions
pertainingto development.Panchayati Raj is the instrument of community development,
the apparatus of rural local self government a means of reorganisingdistrict
administration not adequately people oriented in itstraditional form and an agent of state
government forcertain purposes.After the death of Nehru both national and inter national
problems, and understandable anxiety over performance on thedevelopment front; served
to weaken this faith and Panchayati Raj came under attack.During that time
Hansonclearly stated, "if Panchayati Rajwas to function effectively, within a reasonably
short span of time, as a development institution, its introduction had to be accompanied
byrevolutionary changes in the social and economic structure ofthe village.However, a
little later, Panchayati Raj is hailed as the most important political invention of
independent India, because through it,the massess of Indian people are beginning, for the
first time in their history, to experience the realities of democracy, in however,
contradictory of distorted form.

                                    Process of Decline
After the mid sixties, the process of decline started.In many states a tendency to postpone
the PanchayatiRaj elections indefinitely was noticeable.In some states, parallel bodies
came to be set up at the district level, thus reducing the role of Panchayati Raj in
development planning& implementation.

                                     Main Problems
Started with great hope and enthusiasm some of the majorproblems and short comings
that devoted in the workingPanchayati Raj institutions can be identified as :
(I)Election not being held on a regular basis.
(ii)Lack of adequate transfer of powers and resources to Panchayati institutions.
(iii)Lack ofPanchayatiRaj bodies to generate theirownresources such as tax on sale land.
(iv)Non-Representationofwoman and weaker sections in the elected bodies.

                              Revival of Panchayati Raj
The G.V.K.Rao committee 10 appointed by the Planning Commission in 1985 to review
the existing administrative arrangements for rural development strongly recommended
for the revival of Panchayati Raj institutitons all over the Country & highlighting the
need to transfer power of state to democratic bodies at the Local level.The governmentof
India their set upcommittee in June 1986 headed by L.M. Singvi.11
To prepare a concept paper on the revitalisation of the Panchayati Raj institutions,the
Committee recommended that the Panchayati Raj should be constitutionally recognised,
protected and preserved by theinclusion of a new chapter in the constitution.It also
suggested a constitutionalprovision to ensure regular, free and fair elections for
Panchayati Raj institutions.Accepting these recommendations of the Committee the
central government headed by late Rajiv Gandhi broughtin the Constitution 12 64th
amendment Bill which was passed by the Lok Sabha on the 16th August 1989.This
wascomprehensive Bill covering all vital aspects of PRI 'S.Unfortunately, this Bill could
not be enacted as it was not approved by the Rajya Sabha.In the year 1990, theissues
relating to strengthening of Panchayati Raj institutitions were considered afresh and
based on detailed discussions in the Cabinet committee set up for this purpose.It was
considered that a constitution Amendment Bill may be drawn up afresh.The matter was
brought up before a Conference of Chief Ministers held in June, 1990 presided over by
thethen Prime Minister.The Conference endorsed the proposals for the introduction of
Constitution Amendment Billandalsothe model guidelines with the modification that the
number of tiers in the Panchayati Raj structure, may be left to be decided by the State
governments and the arrangement for conduct of elections for PRI's may also be leftto be
madeby the state themselves.The Constitutitons Amendment Bill and model guidelines
were approved by the Cabinet in July 1990 and it was decided that there should be a
Common Constitutiton Amendment Bill both for PRI'sand Urban Local bodies.13Further
modifications were madein the Bill on the basis of the discussions withthe leaders of
various political parties.

 73rd and 74th ConstitutionAmendment perspective & Rebirth of Panchayati Raj :
The Constitutiton 74th Amendment Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha on September 7,
1990 it could not however, be taken up in view of the political changes.A Comprehensive
amendment was introduced in the form of Constitutiton Seventy Second Amendment Bill
1991 by the then government.The Constitutiton 72nd Amendment Billwas passed in the
Lok Sabha on Dec. 23, 1992.73rd Amendment Act 1992 has came into effect from April
24, 1993.TheConstitution 73rd 14 Amendment Act 1992indicates states to establish three
tier system of strong viable and responsivePanchayates at the Village, intermediate and
district levels.
                Reservation for Woman in Panchayati Raj Institutions
The Constitution 73rd Amendment Act in order to revive the existing Panchayati Raj
system due to its structural and functional inadequacies has made mandatory on the part
of the states that theywould reserve a minimum of 30 per cent of seats to woman in their
Panchayati Raj institutions so as to involve actively in the decision making process.In
accordance with the 73rd Amendment 33 per cent of seats have been reserved for rural
woman in the Panchayati Raj Institutions.The Statutory reservation of seatsfor woman
inPanchayati Raj bodies has provided anopportunity for their formal involvement in the
development and political processes at the grass root level thereby to enabling them to
influence the decisionmaking process in the local governments.15

                Implications of constitutional 73rd & 74 Amendment :
The 73rd & 74thConstitutional Amendment 16 has been made to many weakness.It has
certainfeatures which arebinding on the state legislature where they can go to discretion :
1.ConstitutionalStatus to Panchayati Raj Institutions.
II. Reservation of Seats for Weaker Section of Society.
III. Direct Election of Panchayati Raj, every five years at all levels.
IV.Finance Commission to be set up by State Government to devolve funds and suggest
ways of financing
Panchayati Raj Institutions.
V.Election Commission at State Level to Conduct Panchayati Raj Elections.
All these elected bodies have now, been in position for more than five years.It is thus,
important to verify whetherthe aims and objectives of the Constitutional
amendmentandthe aspirations generated by it have beenmet and if so, to what
extent.Various discussions, debates, conferences are being organized to see and many
issues are debated for new experience.Main burning issuesis to :17
1.Devolution of finances to PRI's bodies.
II.Exercise of Power and responsibility by Panchayati Raj Institution.
III.What has been the impact of the reservations especially for woman and to what extant
this has helped the
weaker section of society.
IV.Whether the PRI's in the new set up have improved their positionregarding devolution
of powers and
financial resources in view of setting up State Financeand Election Commissions.
V.What sort of training and orientation 18 would be required for thenewly elected
Panchayati Raj bodies.
In a net-shell the 73rd Amendment had aroused a lot of expectations and it is to
beexpected that it would usherPanchayati Raj Institutionsina new and dynamic role.

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