Panchayati Raj is the system of local self governance in India. Panchayats are the bodies which are run and managed by the people who are elected by the local people through elections at village level. Through 73rd Amendment Act Panchayati Raj was instituted and was given a constitutional mandate. Various committees were formed to work on this issue of Panchayati Raj. Panchayati Raj has completed many years after it was given a constitutional mandate.
Advent of British era: A reformative change in the system of Panchayati Raj:
· The village panchayats in India became weaker and lost their autonomy to the britishers.
· After the revolt of 1857, the British crown realised that it was necessary to finance local service out of local taxation.
· In 1870, the famous mayo Resolution gave impetus to local institutions by proposing the enlargement of powers and responsibilities of local institutions.
· It introduced the concept of elected representation in urban municipalities.
· In 1907, the local self governance received a major boost as the importance of panchayats on village level was recognised.
· The Montague Chelmsford reforms (1919) transfer the subject to the domain of provinces.
· By 1925, local bodies were having more powers and increased functionality at the local level but the position of panchayats remained unaffected.
Background of the 73rd Amendment Act:
· Article 40: The state shall take steps to organise village panchayats an endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self government.
· Article 246 empowers the state legislature to legislate on the subject relating to the local self government.
73rd Amendment Act:
· The act added a new chapter to the constitution of India called part 9: The Panchayats.
· It is compulsory for state governments to confer powers and responsibilities and authority to the panchayats.
· The tenure of elected members of Gram Panchayat was fixed at five years.
· The financial position of the panchayats would be evaluated by the state finance Commission every five years.
Effect of 73rd Amendment Act:
· Panchayati Raj institutions have created another layer of government and provided political representation of people at grassroots level.
· 1/3rd reservation provided by 73rd amendment in local bodies has led 1.4 million women in position of power, one of the highest in world.
· The formalised Panchayati Raj system functions at three levels: Gram Panchayat (village level), the Mandal Parishad/Panchayat Samiti/Block Samiti (Block level) and the Zila Parishad (District level).
Issues and suggestions:
· Lack of adequate fund: The domain of panchayats need to be enlarged in order for the Panchayati Raj institutions to raise their own funds.
· Panchayati Raj institutions suffer from structural deficiencies, that is, no secretarial support and lower level of technical knowledge which restricts the aggregation of bottom-up planning.
· Weak accountability even after 27 years of constitutional arrangement. The functioning of Panchayati Raj institutions must be made more transparent for greater accountability.
Panchayati Raj institutions and participative democracy
Owing to the fact that majority of the Indian population still resides in rural areas, introduction of 73rd constitutional amendment has proved to be a significant step in increasing the participation of people in the world’s largest democracy that is India. There have been various judgments like Ram Jawaya Kapoor v. State of Punjab, where Supreme Court has interpreted that India is a parliamentary democracy.
Increase democratic representation of people:
· After the 73rd amendment, they are now conferred with adequate powers and responsibilities with incentives. Therefore, people are much more willing to contest in elections.
· Further, As Panchayats are directly linked with the state government due to decentralisation of power, this has helped people to connect better with the policies of the government and understand the nuances in an effective and efficient manner.
Effective and efficient planning:
The Gram Sabha discusses the plans of Gram Panchayats with GPDP (Gram Panchayat Development Plan) and are executed by the elected representatives.
Ensures good governance:
· Consensus of the people and majority in such consensus is one of the major aspects of the participative democracy and to ensure good governance.
· The Panchayati Raj institutions take into account both of these aspects and organising a referendum for implementation of development plan is quite feasible.
Lack of effective decentralisation:
· The Panchayati Raj institutions have been placed under the control of states.
· The state governments, according to the respective agendas devolve the powers and responsibilities on Panchayats.
· It has been that the Panchayati Raj institutions have not been conferred with sufficient powers to carry out the functions and responsibilities of the panchayats.
Lack of funds:
· The funds granted to the panchayats have to be disbursed on the recommendations of the finance Commission of the respective states.
· The finance Commission barely look into the requirements of the village panchayats and disburse meagre funds.
· Most of the village panchayats are not able to procure funds on their own due to the limited text authority conferred on them.
lack of women participation:
· Although the 73rd amendment act has reserved 1/3rd of the seats for women and the people from SC/ST community, their actual participation is still bleak.
· Due to the orthodox outlook of the people in rural areas, people are reluctant to even vote for women and the members of the backward classes.
· over the years, the title of Sarpanch has been associated with a male figure head, signifying the prevalence of patriarchy and gender or caste bias in the rural areas.
· Despite being a constitutional body, Panchayati Raj have not been provided with their own building.
· the panchayats often function in government schools, Anganwadis or an informal designated place in the village.
It has been 27 years since the panchayats have been provided a constitutional status. on various fronts, the panchayats have done a stupendous work, but has also failed on various fronts. the government needs to take a more proactive approach to help deep in the role of panchayats and participative democracy in a long run.
· 73rd amendment act
· The Indian Constitution, 1950.
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