Roadmap to Panchayati Raj: Finance, Empowerment

The Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) was established on 27 May 2004 to specifically look after the implementation of the provisions of the CAA and speed up the process of devolution to PRIs.

The Ministry has carried out various capacity-building programmes, conducted research and evaluations, and instituted reward schemes to promote devolution.

It has also organised ministerial and lower-level conferences to cajole state governments towards more devolution. Among these efforts, let us draw a roadmap for improving the performance of PRI’s in the country.

Some of the important aspects of this roadmap have been mentioned below:

  1. Finances: Share of transfer to PRIs from the state government as untied grants should be increased and panchayats should be given the explicit right to levy and collect taxes in order to reduce their dependence on state and central governments.
  • This devolution of funds should be linked with performance. In this regard let us also explore the importance and the idea of PEAIS or The Panchayat Empowerment and Accountability Incentive Scheme. This scheme has been designed to incentivize the states to empower panchayats and to put in place systems for bringing about transparency and accountability of PRIs.
  • The performance of various states in this realm is measured through a Devolution Index (DI). Token awards are given to states in case they rank high on the Devolution Index.
  • Besides, evaluation of states under PEAIS is based on two stage assessment.
  • The first stage, called the Framework Criteria was based on the following four fundamental constitutional requirements i. Establishment of State Election Commission ii. Holding elections to the PRIs iii. Setting up of the SFCs iv. Formation of DPCs or District Planning Committees.
  • States that fulfill these requirements become eligible for evaluation in terms of Devolution Index. Thus the indicators for DI help in assessing the state of devolution in respect of 3 Fs (Functions, Functionaries and Funds). However, DIs developed for PEAIS so far do not reflect the degree of Panchayat accountability and performance.

2.  Empowerment:Progressive devolution 3Fs to PRIs should be ensured. Reservation for women in the PRIs should be enhanced; PESA should be effectively implemented.

3. Accountability:The report recommends that the Gram Sabha should be given effective control over all the local institutions and functionaries and it should be empowered to approve all the plans, works, beneficiaries and utilization certificates. Moreover, the social audit should be mandated to the Gram Sabha for all major schemes. And Panchayat’s accounts, plans etc. should be put on-line in the public domain. The ministry hopes that the PRI regime will be provided a centre-stage in the developmental process during the 12th Plan period.

4. E-governance: Operationalizing e-Panchayat in a mission mode should be undertaken on a priority basis; ICT infrastructure and manpower should be provided to all Gram Panchayats, which should be connected to broadband; and other measures should be taken for penetrating e-governance system at the lowest level.

5. Decentralized Planning: Integrated bottom-up participatory plans should be implemented; sectoral plans should be integrated with district plans; technical and professional assistance should be provided for decentralized planning; appropriate training and capacity building of PRI representatives and functionaries should be undertaken.

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