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Editorial Today – A downgrade for democracy

editorial-today
Issue
Government is considering  to close down the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.

Historical background Article 40, Balwant Rai Mehta committee and Ashok Mehta Committee.

Steps taken in recent time to improve the function of the Panchayati Raj  Index of Devolution is  prepared by independent experts.

The constitutional mandate Merging or subordinating panchayat raj under rural development amounts to a grossly inadequate reading of the Constitution.

What actually 73rd Amendment sought It sought to do was a radical reorganisation of last-mile delivery of public goods and services.

What is the primary work of the Panchayati Raj Minister To identify the numerous tasks to be undertaken in planning and implementing any given scheme.

Effect of Panchayati Raj in India The numbers alone tell the scale of the tale.

Conclusion

 

Issue

  • Government is considering  to close down the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.

Historical background

  • According to Article 40 of the constitution the State shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self government.
  • For this the  development programme launched was Community Development Programme in 1952. Core philosophy was overall development of rural areas and people’s participation.
  • The programme failed in its mission without an agency at the village level. So a committee under Balwant Rai Mehta was formed to study this Programme.
  • The Balwant Rai Mehta committee recommended a 3-tier Panchayati Raj System which includes

            Zila Parishad at the District Level

            Panchayat Samiti at the Block/ Tehsil/ Taluka Level

            Gram Panchayat at the Village Level

  • In 1977 when janta party government came to power it formed Ashok Mehta Committee to suggest measure to improve function of Panchayati raj.

              It suggested that 3-tier should be replaced by the 2-tier system. But it was never  implemented because Janta            party Government collapsed after a short period of time.

  • 73rd Amendment Act 1993

          By this amendment act, a new Part IX was inserted in the Constitution of India enshrining the provisions for the Panchayats.

Steps taken in recent time to improve the function of the Panchayati Raj

  • Index of Devolution is  prepared by independent experts and geared towards rewarding States that over the previous year had made the most incremental progress towards more effective devolution in terms of the Constitution and their own State legislation.
  • Many States that had been slow starters, including Bihar, Tripura, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, and Rajasthan, found their scores rising and were appropriately recognised.
  • To advocate and promote the cause with Chief Ministers and Panchayati Raj Ministers  in the States, Ministry of panchayati Raj was formed in 2004 at the centre which would be headed by a minister of cabinet rank because the 73rd amendment, now incorporated as part IX of the Constitution, is the joint responsibility of the Union and the States, calling for high-level coordination to promote and protect the provisions of the longest and most detailed amendment ever carried out to the Constitution.
  • State ministers were brought together; convening academic experts and field-level NGOs; promoting feedback from and best practices among elected panchayat representatives; monitoring the special interests of women representatives, Dalits and tribals; maintaining and updating data-banks on all aspects of panchayat raj; commissioning expert studies and preparing periodic reports such as the biannual State of the Panchayats reports.

 

The constitutional mandate

  • Merging or subordinating panchayat raj under rural development amounts to a grossly inadequate reading of the Constitution, in particular the Eleventh Schedule that lists the proposed jurisdiction (“powers, authority and responsibilities”) of national-level panchayati raj.
  • Because schemes of the Rural Development Ministry, like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, rural housing, National Rural Livelihoods Mission and the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, are indeed covered under more than one entry in the Eleventh Schedule, the range of entries covers virtually the entire gamut of development and welfare in rural India (beginning with entry 1, “agriculture, including agricultural extension”, as also “animal husbandry, dairying and poultry” (entry 4) and “fisheries” (entry 5) that are the responsibility of the Agriculture Ministry; “minor irrigation, water management and watershed development” (entry 3) that falls under the Ministry of Water Resources; “social forestry and farm forestry” (entry 6) and “minor forest produce” (entry 7) that jointly concern the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Drinking water (entry 11) and sanitation (entry 23), including the much-hyped Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, are the responsibility of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.)
  • Thus confining panchayati raj to just the Ministry of Rural Development will be a conceptual infringement, an emasculation of the constitutional role envisaged for panchayati raj institutions.

 

What actually 73rd Amendment sought

  • It sought to do was a radical reorganisation of last-mile delivery of public goods and services to the panchayats by devolving “such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government” (Article 243G).
  • Note, “self-government” not “self-governance”: the fundamental mandate was to establish the panchayati raj system as the third tier of government, not to make these institutions implementing agencies for State departments or Union Ministries.
  • This was to be achieved by endowing these “institutions of self-government” with the required functions, finances and functionaries (the three Fs).
  • Panchayati raj remains on the State list but, in view of the 73rd constitutional amendment, the Centre becomes responsible to work with the States to fulfil in letter and spirit the aims and objects of the constitutional legislation.
  • For this revolutionary task, an independent Ministry, preferably under a persuasive and influential Minister, is essential. Otherwise panchayati raj will wither on the vine.

 

What is the primary work of the Panchayati Raj Minister

  • To identify the numerous tasks to be undertaken in planning and implementing any given scheme with a view to allocating these different activities to different tiers of the system from the Central to the State government and
  • the three separate levels of rural self-government: the village, the intermediary (taluka or block) and the district would have to be supplemented by parallel and simultaneous devolution to the appropriate tiers of finances and functionaries.

 

Effect of Panchayati Raj in India

  • The numbers alone tell the scale of the tale. As against about 5,000 elected MPs and MLAs to run the “world’s largest democracy”, we have about 28 lakh rural and about 4 lakh urban representatives, with about 14 lakh rural and urban women, making ours also the “world’s most representative democracy”.
  • There are more elected women in India alone than in the rest of the world put together.
  • It has also guaranteed equitable representation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.
  • The gram sabhas too have been constitutionally recognised to provide a forum of accountability to the beneficiaries. All this is an achievement without precedent in history or parallel in contemporary times.

 

Conclusion

  • If ministry of panchayati Raj is closed providing  an all-India perspective on devolution of power will be seriously diluted or even entirely lost without an independent Ministry for the subject.
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  • The Warlock

    What a useless article. The article equates closing down ministry with ending panchayti raj system in India.
    Opposition to the government should not be just for the sake of opposition. Rightsizing bureaucracy at the top is important and with limited budget at its hand, MoPR was just a white elephant. The activities that are being taken by MoPR can as well be taken by a department.

  • cos

    some relationships are meant to be revived, reestablished and redefined like the congress and India.
    Sometimes u hate to love it!!!

  • Defcon1

    Bjp goby is known to cut back on subsidies, lower vacancies in got jobs and what not. Recent 7pc raise is nothing but a shining Ballon of air. Modi won’t return in 2019 as those 3-5cr people who get affected by 7pc hate Bjp because they know what they actually get and common man, who thinks that a corrupt lazy govt employee is getting rewarded by Modi is a blot on Bjp and hence wouldn’t vote for it.
    I, an ardent Bjp supporter, now really believe it that Congress is india, India is congress, despite the fact that it’s a dynasty hypocrite and useless party. We function with Congress and wherever things go south, we break up for a few years only to realize that we are meant to be together. It’s a sad reality