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12-June-2024-Editorial

June 12 @ 7:00 am - 11:30 pm

PANCHAYATI RAJ INSTITUTIONS 

Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) are the foundation of rural governance in India, playing a crucial role in decentralizing power and ensuring local self-governance. They were established to empower rural communities and involve them directly in decision-making processes. 

Historical Background 

  • Ancient Governance: Village government in India has a long history. Kautilya’s Arthashastra (200 BCE) describes a decentralized system with village headmen (gramika, gramakuta, or adhyaksha). 
  • Vedic Period: The Rig Veda (over 3,000 years old) mentions assemblies like vidhata, sabha, and samiti, which were gatherings of adults for decision-making. 

Views of Gandhi and Ambedkar on PRI 

  • Dr. B.R. Ambedkar: He opposed village democracies, viewing villages as centers of localism, ignorance, and communalism. 
  • Mahatma Gandhi: Advocated for village-centric governance, seeing villages as the heart of India. He emphasized self-sufficiency, frugality, deliberative democracy, and community-spiritedness. 

Post-Independence Developments 

  • Initial Rejection: Gandhi’s vision of village-led democracy was initially not adopted. Dr. Ambedkar ensured PRIs were included as non-mandatory guidelines in the Directive Principles of State Policy. 
  • 73rd Amendment Act (1992): This amendment gave constitutional status to PRIs, establishing a uniform structure, elections, reservation of seats, and devolution of powers and funds. 

73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 

  • Three-Tier System: It mandated a three-tier system of local governance: village (Gram Panchayat), intermediate (Block Panchayat), and district (Zilla Panchayat). 
  • Article 243G: Empowers state legislatures to enable Panchayats to function as self-governments. 
  • Article 243H: Authorizes Panchayats to levy and collect taxes. 
  • Article 243I: Requires the formation of State Finance Commissions every five years. 
  • Ministry of Panchayati Raj: Created in 2004 to oversee all matters related to PRIs. 

Challenges Faced by Panchayats 

  • Fiscal Decentralisation Issues: Insufficient financial powers and functions hinder Panchayats’ ability to mobilize resources independently, affecting local governance and community empowerment. 
  • Low Capacity and Utilisation: Many PRIs lack the skills to generate revenue and face challenges in effectively utilizing funds due to poor planning and accountability. 
  • Top-down Approach: Dependence on external funding leads to interference from higher government tiers, impacting autonomy. 
  • Delay in Funding: Non-receipt of funds under key schemes in some regions hampers their functioning. 

Steps Needed to Strengthen PRIs 

  • Reassess Devolution Levels: Focus on devolving more functions, finances, and functionaries to Panchayats, ensuring they have greater authority and responsibility. 
  • Enhanced Fiscal Capacity: Improve governance by enhancing Panchayats’ fiscal capacity, potentially through innovative funding sources like the Social Stock Exchange. 
  • Empowerment of Ward Members: Provide financial resources to Ward Members to enhance their role in overseeing Gram Panchayat heads, leading to better governance outcomes. 
  • Strengthen Gram Sabhas: Increase the frequency and expand the powers of Gram Sabhas to include critical functions like village planning and public program beneficiary selection. 
  • Improve Administrative Data Quality: Ensure high-quality administrative data is publicly available and accessible, using visualizations and interactive dashboards for community analysis. 
  • Performance Incentives and Accountability: Establish an independent system for scoring Panchayat performance and incentivize officials and staff based on performance to improve accountability. 
  • Grievance Redressal Systems: Set up formal and effective systems for addressing grievances, allowing citizens to report issues to higher authorities. 
  • Integration of Women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs): Integrate SHGs with Panchayats to improve governance and ensure decisions reflect women’s needs. 

Conclusion 

  • The Panchayati Raj Institutions are essential for fostering local self-governance and empowering rural communities in India.  
  • While they face several challenges, steps such as enhanced fiscal capacity, empowerment of Ward Members, strengthening Gram Sabhas, and integrating SHGs can significantly improve their effectiveness.  
  • Ensuring non-partisanship, improving administrative data quality, and establishing performance incentives and grievance redressal systems are crucial for the sustainable development of PRIs. 

Details

Date:
June 12
Time:
7:00 am - 11:30 pm
Event Category:
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