“India is poor because its villages are poor India will be rich if the villages are rich. Panchayats should be given greater power for we want the villagers to have a greater measure of real swaraj [self-government] in their own villages”. Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of India Recognizing the importance of Panchayati Raj, Article 40 (Directive Principles of State Policy of our Constitution) states, “The State shall take steps to organise village Panchayats” and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of local self-government, 24th April, 1993 is a red-letter day in the history of Panchayati Raj in India as on this day the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1.992 came into force to provide constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj Institutions.
“For India to build a broad-based, solid foundation for economic and social progress, it must uproot the vestiges of feudalism and instil democratic values and practices. The people who live in India’s 750000 villages must become the authors of their own lives and women must be respected and supported as equal partners in the process of During the days of Aryans, Indian villages had a unique institution as equally called Panchayat, a very powerful, well accepted and almost independent institution. After independence, all possible measures were taken to revive the Panchayat Raj Institutions in order to involve the rural people not only in their own development but also in the development but also in the development of the nation as a whole. Gandhiji was of the opinion that for actual development of the country, every village has to be self-reliant and capable of managing its affairs. According to him, a Gram Panchayats should be entrusted even with the dispensation of justice. The poor villagers need not go into the courts, spend hard earned with the dispensation of justice. The poor villagers need not go into the courts, spend hard earned money and waste weeks and months in towns for litigation.
Salient Features of the Act
- To provide a 3-tier system of Panchayati Raj for all States.
- To hold Panchayat elections regularly every 5 years.
- To provide reservation of seats for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women (not less than 33%).
- To appoint State Finance Commission to make recommendations as regards the financial powers of the Panchayats.
- To constitute District Planning Committee to preparing draft development plans for the district as a Whole.
Power and Responsibilities
According to the Constitution, Panchayats shall be given powers and authority to functions institutions of self-government. The following powers and are to be delegated to Panchayats at the appropriate level. Preparation of plan for economic development and social justice. Implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice in relation to 29 Subjects given in Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution. To levy, collect and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees.
The history of Panchayati Raj has been one of success and failure in different states. There was a phase of success during 1959-64 a phase of stagnation during 1956-69 and a phase of failure during 1969-77. In the State of Maharashtra and Gujarat, the Panchayati-Raj has shown a good scene of success and took planning and development schemes sincerely.
This Act gives constitutional status to the Gram Sabha. According to Article 234 (B) of the Constitution, Gram Sabha means a body consisting of persons registered in the electoral rolls of a village within the area of Gram Panchayat. As per Article 243 (A), a Gram Sabha may exercise such powers and perform such functions at the village level. as the legislature of a state may, by law, provide. Accordingly, all villagers over 18 years of age, have an inherent right to determine their own destiny. This is the forum where even a poor villager can make his presence felt.
Gram Sabha plays very important role in the functioning of the Gram Panchayats in ensuring transparency in the working, and equitable distribution of benefits in the creation of community assets and bringing about social involvement in the developmental process.
On 24th December 1996, the Panchayat network has been extended to the tribal areas of the country. The provisions of the Panchayats (extension to the scheduled areas) Act, 1996, extends Panchayats to the tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa & Rajasthan. A Conference of Ministers of Panchayati Raj of the States was held on 11th July 2001, in New Delhi, to discuss and analyse the progress in ‘respect to the devolution of power upon Panchayats & to find out the steps needed to make the Panchayats emerge as real Institutions of self-government’. The necessity of times-bound & regular election to Panchayats, completion of the devotion of powers with regard to the 29 Subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule & the constitution of the district planning committee was felt.
On an average, a Panchayat covers two to three villages and a population of approximately 2400. There are 4526 Panchayat Samities at the Block/Tehsil level. There are 330 Zila parishads covering about 76% of the district in the country and each Zila Parishad has, on an average, 13-14 Panchayat Samitief and about 660 Gram Panchayats. If all these units become active and sincerely plan for the real development of the villages, there is no reason that the villages do not make rapid progress. The Institution of Panchayati Raj-enshrines the villages as model units for the development. It is the foundation on which lies the fortress of democracy. The success of Panchayati Raj depends.
In this process of social transformation, there may be some negative unintended consequences-sub-optimal utilization of, resources, weakening of other bodies of governance… not all these will automatically mean empowerment of women or engendering of the PRIs.
Much more will be needed if gender justice is to become the norm. And it will take time. We must not be in the patient. But, it is important to support this fledgeling experiment in every way we can if we believe in democracy at the grass-root level.
A very peculiar thing is being observed that in spite of lot of powers given at the grass-roots level, the actual development Work is not being carried out. Corruption and group are at the village level, casteism, nepotism, in creating community assets, is gradually becoming rampant. A lot of is to be done in the fields of education, health, family, planning, land improvement, Institutions, sanitation, animal husbandry etc., but instead of concentrating on development activities the elected representatives are found busy in cornering the money for their personal interest, and benefiting the in caste men or other fellows which directly or indirectly serve their vested interest, If the evils of corruption, caste are group etc. allowed to penetrate to the grass-roots-level, the whole system of Panchayati Raj Will collapse one day and it shall be most disastrous to the democratic values envisaged in adopting the Panchayati Raj Institutions.
by :IAS NEXT