Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI)

Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI)

Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI)

About

  • Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) is a system of¬†rural local self-government¬†in India.
  • Local Self-government is the management of local affairs by such local bodies whom the local people have elected.
  • PRI was constitutionalized through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 to build democracy at the grassroots level and was entrusted with rural development in the country.

History of PRI

  • British Period:¬†Under the British regime,¬†village panchayats lost their autonomy¬†and became weak.
  • It was only in the year 1870 that India saw the dawn of representative local institutions.
  • The famous¬†Mayo‚Äôs resolution of 1870 gave impetus to the development of local institutions¬†by enlarging their powers and responsibilities.
  • The year 1870, introduced the concept of elected representatives, in urban municipalities.
  • The revolt of 1857 had put the imperial finances under considerable strain and it was found necessary to finance local service out of local taxation. Therefore it was out of fiscal compulsion that Lord Mayo‚Äôs resolution on decentralization came to be adopted.
  • Following the footsteps of Mayo,¬†Lord Rippon in 1882 provided the much needed democratic framework to these institutions.
    • All boards (then existing) were mandated to have a two-thirds majority of non-officials who had to be elected and the chairman of these bodies had to be from among the elected non-officials.
    • This is considered to be the¬†Magna Carta of local democracy in India.
  • Local self-government institutions received a boost with the appointment of the¬†Royal Commission on centralisation in 1907 under the Chairmanship of C.E.H. Hobhouse
  • The commission recognized the importance of panchayats at the village level.
  • It is in this backdrop that the¬†Montagu Chelmsford reforms of 1919¬†transferred the subject of local government to the domain of the provinces.
    • The reform also recommended that as far as possible there should be a complete control in local bodies and complete possible independence for them from external control.
    • These panchayats covered only a limited number of villages with limited functions and due to¬†organisational and fiscal constraints¬†they did not become democratic and vibrant institutions of local self government at the village level.
  • However, by 1925, eight provinces had passed the Panchayat Acts and by 1926, six native States had also passed panchayat laws. Local bodies were given more powers and functions to impose taxes were reduced. But, the position of the local self-government institutions remained unaffected.
  • Post‚ÄďIndependence Period:¬†After the Constitution came into force,¬†Article 40¬†made a mention of panchayats and¬†Article 246¬†empowers the state legislature to legislate with respect to any subject relating to local self-government.
  • However, this inclusion of panchayats into the Constitution was not unanimously agreed upon by the then decision-makers, with the major opposition having come from the framer of the Constitution himself i.e. B.R.Ambedkar.
  • It was after much discussion among the supporters and opponents of the village panchayat that the panchayats finally got a place for themselves in the Constitution as¬†Article 40 of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
  • Since the Directive Principles are not binding principles, the result was the absence of a uniform structure of these bodies throughout the country.
  • In 1957, the National Development Council constituted a¬†committee headed by Balwant Rai Mehta¬†to look into the working of the community development program.
    • The team observed that the major reason for the failure of the CDP was the¬†lack of people‚Äôs participation.
    • The committee suggested three-tier PRIs, namely, Grama Panchayats (GPs) at the village level, Panchayat Samiti (PSs) at the block level, and Zilla Parishad (ZPs) at the district level.
  • As a result this scheme of democratic decentralization was launched in Rajasthan on October 2, 1959.
  • In Andhra Pradesh, the scheme was introduced on 1st November 1959. The necessary legislation has also been passed and implemented in Assam, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab etc.
  • The appointment of the Ashok Mehta Committee in 1977 did bring new thinking in the concepts and practice of the Panchayat Raj. The committee recommended a two-tier Panchayat Raj institutional structure consisting of Zilla Parishad and Mandal Panchayat.
  • In order to use planning expertise and to secure administrative support, the district was suggested as the first point of decentralization below the state level.
  • Based on its recommendation, some of the states like Karnataka incorporated them effectively.
  • In subsequent years in order to revive and give a new lease of life to the panchayats, the Government of India had appointed various committees.
  • The most important among them are the Hanumantha Rao Committee (1983), G.V.K. Rao Committee (1985), L.M.Singhvi Committee (1986) and the Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State relations (1988), P.K. Thungan Committee (1989) and Harlal Singh Kharra Committee (1990).
  • The G.V.K. Rao Committee (1985) recommended making the ‚Äúdistrict‚ÄĚ as the basic unit of planning and also holding regular elections while the L.M.Singhvi committee recommended providing more financial resources and constitutional status to the panchayats to strengthen them.
  • The Amendment phase began with the 64th Amendment Bill (1989) which was introduced by Rajiv Gandhi seeking to strengthen the PRIs but the Bill was not passed in the Rajya Sabha.
  • The Constitution (74th Amendment) Bill (a combined bill for the PRIs and municipalities) was introduced in 1990, but was never taken up for discussion.
  • It was during the Prime Ministership of P.V.Narasimha Rao that a comprehensive amendment was introduced in the form of the Constitution 72nd Amendment Bill in September 1991.
  • 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments were passed by Parliament in December, 1992. Through these amendments local self-governance was introduced in rural and urban India.
  • The Acts came into force as the Constitution (73rd¬†Amendment) Act, 1992 on April 24, 1993 and the Constitution (74th¬†Amendment) Act, 1992 on June 1, 1993.

Salient Features of the Constitution 73rd and 74th Amendments

  • These amendments added two new parts to the Constitution, namely, added Part IX titled ‚ÄúThe Panchayats‚ÄĚ (added by 73rd Amendment) and Part IXA titled ‚ÄúThe Municipalities‚ÄĚ (added by 74th Amendment).
  • Basic units of democratic system-Gram Sabhas (villages) and Ward Committees (Municipalities) comprising all the adult members registered as voters.
  • Three-tier system of panchayats at village, intermediate block/taluk/mandal and district levels except in States with population is below 20 lakhs (Article 243B).
  • Seats at all levels to be filled by direct elections Article 243C (2).
  • Seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) and the chairpersons of the Panchayats at all levels also shall be reserved for SCs and STs in proportion to their population.
  • One-third of the total number of seats to be reserved for women.
  • One third of the seats reserved for SCs and STs also reserved for women.
  • One-third offices of chairpersons at all levels reserved for women (Article 243D).
  • Uniform five year term and elections to constitute new bodies to be completed before the expiry of the term.
  • In the event of dissolution, elections compulsorily within six months (Article 243E).
  • Independent Election Commission in each State for superintendence, direction and control of the electoral rolls (Article 243K).
  • Panchayats to prepare plans for economic development and social justice in respect of subjects as devolved by law to the various levels of Panchayats including the subjects as illustrated in Eleventh Schedule (Article 243G).
  • 74th Amendment provides for a District Planning Committee to consolidate the plans prepared by Panchayats and Municipalities (Article 243ZD).
  • Budgetary allocation from State Governments, share of revenue of certain taxes, collection and retention of the revenue it raises, Central Government programmes and grants, Union Finance Commission grants (Article 243H).
  • Establish a Finance Commission in each State to determine the principles on the basis of which adequate financial resources would be ensured for panchayats and municipalities (Article 243I).
  • The Eleventh Scheduled of the Constitution places as many as 29 functions within the purview of the Panchayati Raj bodies.

Exempted areas

  • Scheduled areas listed under the V Schedule in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Rajasthan.
  • The states of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram.
  • The hill areas of district of Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal for which Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council exists.
  • In conformity with provisions in the Constitution Amendment Act, an Act called the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 passed by the Government of India.

Challenges Associated with the PRI System

Lack of Effective Devolution

  • Local government is a state subject in the Constitution, and consequently, the devolution of power and authority to panchayats has been left to the discretion of states.
  • Some of the important subjects like fuel and fodder, non-conventional energy sources, rural electrification including distribution of electricity, non-formal education, small scale industries including food processing industries, technical training, and vocational education have not been devolved in certain states.

Insufficient Grants/Funds

  • Despite the constitutional empowerment, the local bodies face problems of inadequate finance to carry out various activities assigned to them.
  • Transfers made through the State Finance Commissions are also meagre in most States.
  • In most of the states, most of the GPs are found reluctant to raise their own source of revenue (OSR). Only a few GPs are able to generate OSR in the form of tax or non-tax revenue by renting shops, house tax and clean water fee.

Issue of Sarpanch Pati

In ‚ÄėSarpanch Pati culture‚Äô it is the women who is elected but the male member of the family rules. It is still very much prevalent in the society, mainly due to gender biases, women illiteracy and patriarchal society.

Infrastructural Challenges

  • Some of the GPs do not have their own building and they share space with schools, anganwadi centre and other places. Some have their own building but without basic facilities like toilets, drinking water, and electricity connection.
  • While GPs have internet connections, they are not functional in many cases. For any data entry purposes, panchayat officials have to visit Block Development offices which delay the work.

Lack of Support Staff

The Standing Committee on Rural Development (Chair: Dr. P Venugopal) in July 2018 observed that there is severe lack of support staff and personnel in panchayats, such as secretary, junior engineers, computer operators, and data entry operators. This affects their functioning and delivery of services by them.

Lack of Convergence of Various Government Programmes

  • There is a clear lack of convergence of various development programmes of the Centre and state governments.
  • For example, roads in two different patches are constructed utilising two different sources of funding (e.g. Fourteenth Finance Commission and MPLAD), but it is difficult to find one large activity with funding from multiple sources.
  • Different guidelines by different departments are cited as a major constraint for lack of convergence of activities.

Related Links:

PM Gram Sadak Yojana73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment
Lokpal and LokayuktaElection Commission of India
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