Issues with Panchayati Raj Institutions

Unscientific distribution of functions

The Panchayati Raj scheme is defective in so far as the distribution of functions between the structures at different levels has not been made along scientific lines.

The blending of development and local self-government functions has significantly curtailed the autonomy of the local self-government institutions. Again it has virtually converted them into governmental agencies. Even the functions assigned to the Panchayat and the Panchayat Samiti overlap, leading to confusion, duplication of efforts and shifting of responsibility.

Incompatible relation between the three-tiers

The three-tiers do not operate as functional authorities. The tendency on the part of the higher structure to treat the lower structure as its subordinate is markedly visible.

M.P. Sharma rightly observes the hierarchical domination and predominance, “fitters down step by step from Zila Parishads to Panchayat Samitis and from them to the Village Panchayats” Needless to state that this kind of mutual relationship is not in coherence with the genuine spirit of democratic decentralization.

Inadequate finances

The inadequacy of funds has also stood in the way of successful working of the Panchayati Raj. The Panchayati Raj bodies have limited powers in respect of imposing cesses and taxes. They have very little funds doled out to them by the State Government. Further, they are generally reluctant to raise necessary funds due to the fear of losing popularity with the masses.

Lack of cordial relations between officials and people

Introduction of the Panchayati Raj aimed at securing effective participation of the people. But in reality this hardly happens since the key administrative and technical positions are manned by the government officials. Generally there is lack of proper cooperation and coordination between the people and the officials like Block Development Officers, the District Officers etc. Again the officers fail to discharge the developmental duties more efficiently and sincerely.

Lack of conceptual clarity

There is lack of clarity in regard to the concept of Panchayati Raj itself and the objectives for which it stands. Some would treat it just as an administrative agency while some others look upon it as an extension of democracy at the grass roots level, and a few others consider it a charter of rural local government. What is all the more intriguing is the fact that all these conceptual images could co-exist simultaneously tending to militate against each other every now and then.

Undemocratic composition of various Panchayati Raj institutions

Various Panchayati Raj Institutions are constituted setting aside democratic norms and principles. The indirect election of most of the members to Panchayat Samiti only increases the possibility of corruption and bribery. Even the Zila Parishad consists of mainly ex-officio members. They are, for the most part, government officials. This negates sound democratic principles.

Disillusionment on structural-functional front

The performance of Panchayati Raj Institutions has been badly affected by political cum caste factionalism, rendering developmental projects into an illusion or dream. Corruption, inefficiency, scant regard for procedures, political interference in day to day administration, parochial loyalties, motivated actions, power concentration instead of true service mentality- all these have stood in the way of the success of Panchayati Raj.

Furthermore, the power to supersede the local bodies on the part of the State Government clearly violates the spirit of democratic decentralization.

Administrative Problem

The Panchayati Raj bodies experience several administrative problems like tendency towards politicization of the local administration, lack of co-ordination between the popular and bureaucratic elements, lack of proper incentives and promotion opportunities for administrative personnel and apathetic attitude of the government servants towards development programmes etc.

These administrative problems are again a major bar in the efficient and smooth functioning of Panchayati Raj.

Politicization of PRIs

It is being increasingly noticed that the Panchayati Raj Institutions are viewed only as organisational arms of political parties, especially of the ruling party in the state. The State Government, in most states, allows the Panchayati Raj Institutions to function only upon expediency rather than any commitment to the philosophy of democratic decentralisation.

By B2B

Revisiting the Basics

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