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GS-II : Governance

Panchayati Raj Institutions- Rejuvenate the third layer of governance

  • 24 April, 2021

  • 8 Min Read

Panchayati Raj Institutions- Rejuvenate the third layer of governance

Introduction

  • The strong local bodies are formed to enable genuine feasibility and execution of programmes and policies.
  • The Cholas were the pioneers in the formation of local bodies as part of a well-organised hierarchy to oversee the implementation of progressive plans.

The journey of Panchayati raj

Essay quote: “The voice of the people is the voice of god; The voice of the Panchayat is the voice of the people,” is the quote attributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

During British administration

  • Realising that seamless administration is impossible without power sharing, the British, in 1884, passed the Madras Local Boards Act.
  • With this, the British formed unions in both small towns and big cities and began to appoint members to ensure better administration.
  • To a certain extent, this brought about positive changes in basic parameters such as health and hygiene.
  • With the advent of gram panchayat laws in 1920, people over 25 years of age were bestowed with the right to vote and choose their panchayat members.

73rd Amendment Act

  • It was only after the 73rd Amendment in the 1990s, that the Panchayati raj law came into force.
  • This was the law that brought about massive turning points such:
    • the initiation of grama sabha,
    • a three-tier Panchayati raj methodology of governance,
    • reservation for the downtrodden and women,
    • consistency in economic development,
    • local body elections once in five years,
    • the formation of the State Election Commission,
    • Finance Commission, and
    • the power to draft the rules and responsibilities of the Panchayat.
  • The regions which were better equipped with basic facilities and which were more developed than the villages were brought under one coordinated body, namely, the municipality.
  • The district capitals were further slotted into a combined parameter, namely, the corporation.
  • Administration was transferred to the people, from the politicians and other of?cials.

View of Gandhiji

  • The lofty dream of Gandhiji to make each village of the independent India a republic organisation, and to reiterate that the autonomous administration of villages should be made the foundation of the entire country’s administration was heard and he lay stress on the active participation of the people in governance.
  • Hence it is enshrined under Article 40 of the constitution under DPSP

Ideal platform- Gram sabhas

  • For seemingly trivial and easily resolvable issues, the villages did not have to seek the assistance of the State or the Central governments.
  • Grama sabhas could and can be the platform to resolve such issues.
  • According to the rules framed by the Tamil Nadu government, it is mandatory that grama sabhas meet at least four times in a calendar year.
  • Besides, grama sabhas can be convened as and when the necessity arises.
  • Every grama sabha meeting ensures the equal right to highlight the issues that disrupt life.
  • In addition to this, the elected members of the Panchayat are obliged to read out the ?nancial statements and balance sheet to ensure transparency.

The reality

  • The decisions taken during a grama sabha meeting and the proposed solutions with a feasible deadline are potent and powerful.
  • Unfortunately, the reality today is that grama sabhas have become more like auction houses.
    • In Tamil Nadu, for instance, the present government did not even make an attempt to seek the opinions and the consensus of the people on significant issues such as an eight-lane highway project and even a major hydrocarbon project.
  • Women do not find themselves in major administrative roles in the local bodies, though, on paper, women are shown to be a considerable force.

The Kerala example

  • Kerala has been diligently working toward ensuring the proper use of allotted funds, and ensuring the ef?ciency of administration and eligible member appointments.

Steps to be taken

  • To ensure ef?ciency, we need to strengthen our grama sabhas,
  • Hold area sabhas in cities,
  • Form ward committees,
  • Hold online Panchayat meetings,
  • Ensure decent remuneration to Panchayat chiefs and councillors and
  • Bestow the grama sabha with the power to revoke appointed members and representatives.

Issue of Commissioner and Mayor

  • The State-appointed corporation commissioner faces mammoth challenges when a member of the Opposition party takes charge as a mayor.
  • The constant and meaningless con?icts between the ruling party and the mayor from the Opposition party make it impossible for the corporation commissioner to execute what was agreed upon in a meeting.

In Tamil Nadu

  • The Constitution is clear in stating that local body elections must be conducted once in ?ve years.
  • But the ruling party keeps postponing the holding of local body elections, which is a breach of the Constitution.
  • Strangely, this form of disrespect never materialises when it comes to the Assembly elections!
  • The recent reconstitution of nine districts in the State is an invalid excuse to postpone the holding of local body elections.

Way forward

  • The demand for federal rule in the Centre and autonomous rule in the States should resonate along with the need to have autonomous local bodies too.
  • We must collectively ensure that Panchayati raj should be strengthened.
    • This should be the outcome of a peoples’ movement.

Note:

  • April 24 is celebrated as Panchayat raj day.

 

 

Source: TH

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