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[Yojana Archives] Journey of Panchayats

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November 2021: Panchayat Raj

Historical background

  • Lord Mayo’s Resolution of 1870 on financial decentralisation visualised the development of local self-government institutions.
  • Lord Ripon’s Resolution of 1882 has been hailed as the ‘Magna Carta’ of local self-government. He is called as the father of local-self government in India.

Establishment of Panchayats

  • DPSP: The Part IV of the Constitution of India contains Directive Principles of the State Policy in which Article 40 is provisioned for organisation of village panchayats.
  • 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992: It has inserted the Part IX in the Constitution, that enjoins the States to establish panchayats.
  • PESA Act: A separate legislation “Provisions for Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act” (PESA) was passed in 1996 to extend Part IX of the Constitution to the areas listed under the Fifth Schedule, subject to certain exceptions and modifications.

Why need PRIs?

  • India is predominantly a rural nation, wherein about 65 per cent of people and 70 per cent of the workforce lives in rural areas that contribute to about 46 per cent of the economy.
  • In view of the increasing rural population, the number of administrative units- PRIs has been increasing over time.
  • Expansion of rural residential areas, creation of new districts, Tehsils, blocks, etc., are other contributing factors.

Landmark feat: 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act

  • This Amendment paved the way for reform in local governance in the country.
  • It provided for setting up of three tiers of panchayats (only two tiers in case of States or Union Territories (UTs) having population less than 20 lakhs) ,

It contains provision for:

  • Devolution of powers and responsibilities to panchayats for both preparation of plans for economic development and social justice, utilising resources available with them (Article 243G)
  • Implementation of the schemes and programmes related to twenty-nine subjects listed in the ‘Eleventh Schedule’ of the Constitution
  • Women’s reservation

Establishment of a separate Ministry

  • Subsequently, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) was established on 27 May 2004.
  • The primary objective to oversee the implementation of Part IX of the Constitution and PESA Act 1996.
  • ‘Panchayats’ being a State subject, their functioning is guided by respective State/U’T Panchayati Raj Acts.

Women empowerment and PRIs

  • Reservation for women in PRIs and subsequent increase in the quota by States has brought an unprecedented and huge number of women in the governance arena in India.
  • 21 states have made provisions of 50% reservation in PRIs in their respective State Panchayati Raj Acts.

E-Governance Mechanism in Panchayats

  • Rural Local Bodies (RLBs) serve around 65% of the country’s population.
  • Improving functions of PRIs for better delivery of services is essential for the well-being of rural people.
  • Now the applications for these services have been unified in a single and simplified portal called eGramSwaraj.

Bottom-up Planning

  • Provision of basic infrastructures: Emphasis on e-governance, capacity building of PRIs, focused information, education, and communication (lEC) campaign are some of the main activities.
  • These are prerequisites for effective planning by PRIs in consultation with local people organized by the Gram Sabhas.
  • Backward Regions Grant Funds (BRGF) Scheme: This was implemented (2006-2015) to bridge critical gaps in local infrastructure and other developmental requirements along with the capacity building of PRIs.
  • Preparation of the district plan:  This was an important part of BRGF.

Capacity Building of PRIs

  • Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA): It was launched for implementation to develop and strengthen the capacities of PRIs to become more responsive towards local development needs.
  • Training: It is conducted on various themes such as constitutional and statutory provisions on the functioning of PRIs, e-Governance, financial management, commitments on SDGs, and livelihood troubles, and so on.
  • Participatory plans: This helps PRIs in preparing participatory plans that leverage technology, efficient and optimum utilisation of available resources, for realising solutions to local problems linked to SDGs.
  • Incentivization: Further, panchayats are also being incentivized through awards and financial incentives in recognition of their good work for improving planning and delivery of services.

Devolution of Funds, Functions, and Functionaries (3Fs)

  • MoPR has been working to realize the aspirations of constitutional provisions on various aspects of devolution of 29 subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule.
  • The progress made by the States is quite varied in terms of the devolution of subjects.
  • Various studies have highlighted that in some States the extent of devolution is robust; in others still, it is a work in progress.

Other works: Land records management through ‘SVAMITVA’

  • Ensuring the property rights of rural inhabitants is essential for and inclusive social and economic development of the country.
  • The Ministry has launched a scheme named ‘SVAMITVA’ to prepare property records of rural people of their houses using drone surveying technology.
  • The goal is to cover most of the more than six lakh villages in the next five years.

Outcomes: Structural change in rural economy

  • Employment opportunities are shifting from the agriculture sector to construction, manufacturing, and service sectors.
  • Also, there is a huge potential for Agro-processing industries and MSMEs in rural areas.
  • Panchayats need to appropriately include these in their planning and work with relevant agencies and stakeholders for their implementation.
  • An emphasis on skilling of rural population and promotion of rural entrepreneurship is needed in these sectors.
  • As per a report, there is huge untapped potential for the growth of financial services such as credit, insurance, and digital payment facilities in rural areas.

Way forward

  • Flagship progam of Central and State Governments should clearly lay out the role of panchayats in their guidelines.
  • A lot of Panchayats are now equipped with the basic infrastructure but gaps still remain across the States.
  • In order to fill the gaps, the saturation approach needs to be adopted as announced by the Prime Minister on 75th Independence Day.
  • Representation of women in PRIs has substantially increased but effective participation requires appropriate training and exposure visits of these elected representatives.

Conclusion

  • Panchayats have also strengthened and are now equipped to handle disasters/ natural calamities.
  • They have played an active role in mitigation and management of Covid-19, which is reflected in the dashboard created by the Ministry to monitor real-time activities in this direction.
  • Panchayats need to be empowered to levy and collect taxes, tolls, fees, user charges, etc., along with other activities to enhance their Own Source of Revenue.
  • Panchayat also need to consider climate action as an integral part of planning and harnessing renewable energy.
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