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Panchayati Raj - Ideals,Powers and Responsibilities" In Indian System Bookmark and Share  
 
  Author Name : sangeeta varshney Posted on : December-20-2011 Total Hits: 26956
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"Panchayati Raj - Ideals,Powers and Responsibilities" In Indian System

Panchayati raj

     Firstly The panchayat raj is a South Asian political system mainly in India, Pakistan, and Nepal. "Panchayat" literally means assembly  (yat) of five (panch) wise and respected elders chosen and accepted by the village community. Traditionally, these assemblies settled disputes between individuals and villages. Modern Indian government has decentralized several administrative functions to the village level, empowering elected Gram panchayats. Gram panchayats are not to be confused with the unelected khap panchayats (or caste panchayats) found in some parts of India.

       Secondly Panchayati Raj translates literally to ‘Governance by five individuals. The idea is to ensure at the village or grass root level a functioning and vibrant democracy. While the idea of grass root democracy is not an alien import to our country, in a society where there are sharp inequalities democratic participation is hindered on grounds of gender, caste and class. Furthermore, traditionally there have been caste panchayats in villages. But they have usually represented dominant groups.

     Panchayati Or Panchaayati Raj is a system of governance in which gram panchayats are the basic units of administration. It has 3 levels: village, block and district. The term ‘panchayat raj’ is relatively new, having originated during the British administration. 'Raj' literally means governance or government. Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayati Raj, a decentralized form of Government where each village is responsible for its own affairs, as the foundation of India's political system. His term for such a vision was "Gram Swaraj" (Village Self-governance).

     Panchayats have been the backbone of the Indian .It was adopted by state governments during the 1950s and 60s as laws were passed to establish Panchayats in various states. It also found backing in the Indian Constitution, with the 73rd amendment in 1992 to accommodate the idea. The Amendment Act of 1992 contains provision for devolution of powers and responsibilities to the panchayats to both for preparation of plans for economic development and social justice and for implementation in relation to twenty-nine subjects listed in the eleventh schedule of the constitution.

The panchayats receive funds from three sources –

(i)                 local body grants, as recommended by the Central Finance Commission,

(ii)               funds for implementation of centrally-sponsored schemes, and

(iii)             funds released by the state governments on the recommendations of the State Finance Commissions.

In the history of Panchayati Raj in India, on 24 April 1993, the Constitutional (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 came into force to provide constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj institutions. This Act was extended to Panchayats in the tribal areas of eight States, namely Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan from 24 December 1996. Now panchayati raj system exists in all the states except Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram. Also all the UTs except Delhi.

The Act aims to provide 3-tier system of Panchayati Raj for all States having population of over 2 million, to hold Panchayat elections regularly every 5 years, to provide reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Women, to appoint State Finance Commission to make recommendations as regards the financial powers of the Panchayats and to constitute District Planning Committee to prepare draft development plan for the district.

The 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution ensured the reservation of one third of the total seats for women in all elected offices of local bodies in both the rural and urban areas. Out of this, 17 percent seats are reserved for women belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes. This amendment is significant as for the first time it brought women into elected bodies which also bestowed on them decision making powers. One third of the seats in local bodies, gram panchayats, village panchayats, municipalities, city corporations and district boards are reserved for womens. The 1993-94 elections, soon after the 73rd amendment brought in 800,000 women into the political processes in a single election. That was a big step indeed in enfranchising women. A constitutional amendment prescribed a three-tier system of local self-governance for the entire country, effective since 1992-93.

The 3-tier system of Panchayati Raj consists of a) village level panchayat b) block level panchayat c) district level panchayat. The three tier system of Panchayati Raj Institution The structure is like a pyramid. At the base of the structure stands the unit of democracy or Gram Sabha. This consists of the entire body of citizens in a village or gram. It is this general body that elects the local government and charges it with specific responsibilities. The Gram Sabhas ideally ought to provide an open forum for discussions and village-level development activities and play a crucial role in ensuring inclusion of the weaker sections in the decision-making processes.

Powers and Responsibilities of Panchayats

 According to the Constitution, Panchayats should be given powers and authority to function as institutions of self-government. It, thus, requires all state governments to revitalise local representative institutions. Powers and responsibilities are 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.

·                     Help in the devolution of governmental responsibilities, especially that of finances to local authorities.

Social welfare responsibilities of the Panchayats include the maintenance of burning and burial grounds, recording statistics of births and deaths, establishment of child welfare and maternity centres, control of cattle pounds, propagation of family planning and promotion of agricultural activities. The development activities include the construction of roads, public buildings, wells, tanks and schools. They also promote small cottage industries and take care of minor irrigation works. Many government schemes like the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) are monitored by members of the panchayat. The main income of the Panchayats is from tax levied on property, profession, animals, vehicles, cess on land revenue and rentals.

The resources are further increased by the grants received through the Zilla Panchayat. It is also considered compulsory for Panchayat offices to put up boards outside their offices, listing the break up of funds received, and utilisation of the financial aid received. This exercise was taken up to ensure that people at the grass root level should have the ‘right to information’ – opening all functioning to the public eye. People had the right to scrutinise allocation of money. And ask reasons for decisions that were taken for the welfare and development activities of the village.

   Nyaya Panchayats have been constituted in some states. They possess the authority to hear some petty, civil and criminal cases. They can impose fines but cannot award a sentence. These village courts have often been successful in bringing about an agreement amongst contending parties. They have been particularly effective in punishing men who harass women for dowry and perpetrate violence against them.

Ø    Village level Powers and Responsibilities of  Panchayat

It is called a Panchayat at the village level. It is a local body working for the good of the village. The number of members usually ranges from 7 to 31; occasionally, groups are larger, but they never have fewer than 7 members.

The block-level institution is called the Panchayat Samiti. The district-level institution is called the Zilla Parishad.

Ø    Intermediate level Powers and Responsibilities of Panchayat

Panchayat samiti is a local government body at the tehsil or Taluka level in India. It works for the villages of the Tehsil or Taluka that together are called a Development Block. The Panchayat Samiti is the link between the Gram Panchayat and the district administration. There are a number of variations of this institution in various states. It is known as Mandal Praja Parishad in Andhra Pradesh, Taluka panchayat in Gujarat, Mandal Panchayat in Karnataka, etc.In general it's a kind of Panchayati raj at higher level.

Constitution

It is composed of ex-officio members (all sarpanchas of the panchayat samiti area, the MPs and MLAs of the area and the SDO of the subdivision), coopted members (representatives of SC/ST and women), associate members (a farmer of the area, a representative of the cooperative societies and one of the marketing services) and some elected members.

The samiti is elected for 5 years and is headed by the chairman and the deputy chairman.

Departments

The common departments in the Samiti are as follows:

1.                  General administration

2.                  Finance

3.                  Public works

4.                  Agriculture

5.                  Health

6.                  Education

7.                  Social welfare

8.                  Information Technology and others.

There is an officer for every department. A government appointed block development officer is the executive officer to the samiti and the chief of its administration the department of

Functions

1.                  Implement schemes for the development of agriculture.

2.                  Establishment of primary health centres and primary schools.

3.                  Supply of drinking water, drainage, construction/repair of roads.

4.                  Development of cottage and small-scale industries and opening of cooperative societies.

5.                  Establishment of youth organisations.

Sources of income

The main source of income of the panchayat samiti are grants-in-aid and loans from the State Government.

 

Ø    District level Powers and Responsibilities of Panchayat

In the district level of the panchayati raj system you have the "zilla perished". It looks after the administration of the rural area of the district and its office is located at the district headquarters. The Hindi word Paris had means Council and Zilla Peris hed translates to District Council. It is headed by the "District Collector" or the "District Magistrate" or the "Deputy Comminissioner". It is the link between the state government and the panchayat samiti (local self government at the block level)

Constitution

Members of the Zilla Perished had are elected from the district on the basis of adult franchise for a term of five years. Zilla Perished has minimum of 50 and maximum of 75 members. There are seats reserved for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, backward classes and women.

The Chairmen of all the Panchayat Samitis form the members of Zilla Perished. The Paris had is headed by a President and a Vice-President.

Functions

1.                  Provide essential services and facilities to the rural population and the planning and execution of the development programmes for the district.

2.                  Supply improved seeds to farmers. Inform them of new techniques of training. Undertake construction of small-scale irrigation projects and percolation tanks. Maintain pastures and grazing lands.

3.                  Set up and run schools in villages. Execute programmes for adult literacy. Run libraries.

4.                  Start Primary Health Centers and hospitals in villages. Start mobile hospitals for hamlets, vaccination drives against epidemics and family welfare campaigns.

5.                  Construct bridges and roads.

6.                  Execute plans for the development of the scheduled castes and tribes. Run ashrams alas for adivasi children. Set up free hostels for scheduled caste students.

7.                  Encourage entrepreneurs to start small-scale industries like cottage industries, handicraft, agriculture produce processing mills, dairy farms, etc. implement rural employment schemes.

8.                  They construct roads, schools, & public properties. And they take care of the public properties.

9.                  They even supply work for the poor people. (Tribes, scheduled caste, lower caste)

Sources of Income

1.                  Taxes on water, pilgrimage, markets, etc.

2.                  Fixed grant from the State Government in proportion with the land revenue and money for works and schemes assigned to the Paris had.

Eleventh Plan Finance Commission -:

The Eleventh Finance Commission

recommended Rs. 1600 crores per annum for rural local bodies. Out of total grants, an amount of Rs.197.06 crores was earmarked for development of data base on the finance of the Panchayats and an amount of Rs.98.61 crores for maintenance of accounts of Panchayats as the first charge on these grants. The Commission also recommended that in cases where elected local bodies are not in place, the Central Government should hold the grants for local bodies in trust on a non-lapsable basis during 2000-05 and that the Central Government would withhold a part of the recommended grants in case of such bodies to whom functions and responsibilities have not been devolved. Besides, the Commission recommended that Audit of accounts of the local bodies should be entrusted to the C&AG

who may get it done through his own staff or by engaging outside agencies on payment of remuneration fixed by him and an amount of half-per cent of the total expenditure incurred by the local bodies should be placed with the C&AG for this purpose, and the report of the C&AG relating to audit of accounts of the Panchayats should be placed before a Committee of the State Legislature constituted on the same lines as the Public Accounts Committee. The Ministry of  Finance releases Grants recommended by the Eleventh Finance Commission


 
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