Know your Ministry - No. 43 - Panchayati Raj

Ministry of Panchayati Raj(PR) is headed by a Cabinet rank minister as an additional portfolio. This PR System was originally conceptualized as Council of five officials for a system of Local self-government of villages in rural India. It consists of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) through which the self-government of villages is realized.to achieve "economic development, strengthening social justice and implementation of Central and State Government Schemes including those 29 subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule of our Constitution.

Part IX of the Indian Constitution is the section of the Constitution relating to the Panchayats. PRI was constitutionalized through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 to build democracy at the grass roots level and was entrusted with the task of rural development in the country.

SCHEMES & PROGRAMMES: Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan - with the primary aim of strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with main thrust on convergence with Mission Antyodaya and emphasis on strengthening PRIs in the 117 Aspirational districts. People’s  Plan Campaign for Gram Panchayat Development Plan, Action Research, Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) and e-Panchayat Mission Mode Project are the other tasks of the Ministry.

DOCUMENTS: Annual Report, Gramoday Sankalp, Devolution Report, Publications for use by States, Publications for use by Resource Persons, Publications for use by Panchayats, MoU between MoPR and CSC, Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG), Solar Technology for Rural Area, Vegetable Vending Cart and Spatial Planning

ISSUES & CHALLENGES BEFORE THE PANCHAYATI RAJ SYSTEM

  • Reliance of Panchayats throughout the years on federal and state grants to sustain themselves economically.
  • The absence of mandatory elections for the Panchayat council and infrequent meetings of the Sarpanch have decreased the spread of information to villagers, leading to more state regulation. 
  • Panchayats have failed to reach its goals through lack of cooperation between different bodies and the political mobilization of previously underrepresented groups in India.
  • Obstacle of lack of education and illiteracy amongst the villagers which hamper wholehearted engagement with most development schemes as the guidelines are documented on paper.
  • Lack of adequate funds and resources that restrict the need to enlarge the domain of panchayats for local funds generation.
  • Direct interference of politicians and elected MPs and MLAs in the functioning of panchayats which adversely affected their performance.
  • Absence of  devolution of authority and functions coupled with unscientific distribution of functions of the Panchayat Raj since its inception about 28 years back which enabled the state executive authorities have proliferated to carry out these functions.
  • PRIs suffer from structural deficiencies as there is hardly any secretarial support and lower levels of technical knowledge which restricted the aggregation of bottom up planning.
  • Lack of individual accountability in terms of implementation and funds deployment of Government Schemes even after 28 years of PRIs constitutional arrangement.
  • Persisting ambiguities in the division of functions and funds management which has allowed concentration of powers with the states and thereby restraining the people’s participation who are more aware and sensitive to the ground level issues.
  • Democracy at grass root levels is still an unrealized vision for our constitutional concepts due to issues related to Centre-State Relationships.

TASK AHEAD FOR THE MINISTRY

  • To define and stipulate a Vision and Mission for this key ministry to restore confidence of our village and rural population.
  • The subjects at the grass roots and its administration needs to be segregated and works allocated to the different hierarchies defining accountability to the public.
  • To restore the Gram Sabha concept at all villages as there is a desperate need for bottom level planning especially at the district level, based on grassroots inputs.
  • States to create a separate bureaucratic cadre for Panchayats to get away from the practice of deputation of officials who often overpowered the elected representatives for strengthening the true character of local self-governance.
  • Ministry needs to devise an Action Plan to financially incentivize states to encourage effective devolution to the panchayats in functions, finances, and functionaries.
  • To solve the problem of proxy representation social empowerment must precede the political empowerment to engage people’s participation in Panchayat Raj.
  • Ministry should spell out its policy on Panchayat Raj to infuse clarity in the assignment of roles functions and the State governments about Budget & financial matters.
  • Periodical training should be provided to local representatives engaging academicians and educationists to develop expertise so that they contribute more in planning and implementation of policies and programmes.
  • To stipulate a prescribed eligibility criteria in the administration for improving effectiveness of governance mechanism.
  • Ministry should establish a robust infrastructure to ensure that the State Governments comply with the constitutional provisions, particularly in the appointment and implementation of the recommendations of the State Finance Commissions (SFCs).
  • To realise a holistic change in the lives of beneficiaries among the villagers by uplifting their socioeconomic and health status through effective linkages through community, governmental and other developmental agencies.
  • Government should take remedial action in the interest of democracy, social inclusion and cooperative federalism.
  • To restore People’s demands for the sustainable decentralisation on a decentralisation agenda with a framework that accommodates the concept of decentralisation.
  • Provide basic essential services and facilities to the rural population including communication, transport, health, education, etc.
  • Ministry needs to co-ordinate with the related Government counterparts for availability of technological resources for agriculture cultivation using improved seeds to farmers by deploying new farming techniques to achieve self-sufficiency.
  • Ministry should take lead to devise a concrete plan to manage schools, libraries and primary health centres in rural areas.
  • Encourage entrepreneurs to start small-scale industries and implement rural employment schemes.
  • Construct bridges, roads and other public facilities and their maintenance
  • Provide employment avenues and job worthiness for village youth to encourage them to find all the potential within their districts instead of migrating to urban centres.
  • Implement Gram Nyayalaya Act to every village for formation of village courts.
  • Policing and maintenance of Law & Order in rural areas poses a huge challenge to the State Administration. It has to be addressed in a big way.
  • To institute a democratic composition of various Panchayat Raj institutions on structural-functional front to address to related Administrative Problems.
  • To strengthen the existing laws for rural population in order to establish decentralization of Governance as sculpted by the forefathers of our Constitution.

 

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