Panchayati Raj System and Contemporary Politics

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This article is written by Aryan Pujari a first year student of Amity Law School, Raipur, Chattisgarh

  • What is Panchayati Raj system –

These are the local self-government instituted in rural area the system that authorizes Panchayats is Panchayati Raj system. The Panchayati Raj system was added to the bulk of Indian constitution in the year of 1992 by the recommendation of LM Singhvi committee. Which are completely different from the khap panchayats which are clearly unconstitutional. Even in today’s political scenario Panchayati Raj system has utmost significance as many government policies are manifested and distributed to the root level public by these panchayats, that shows how important these local bodies please being a helping hand for the government.

Article 243(D) of Constitution of India defines Panchayat as -(d) “Panchayat” means an institution (by whatever name called) of self-government constituted under article 243B, for the rural areas.

  • The story behind the local self-government-

As “history is the root end political science is the fruit” Biggest question to understand is that why Panchayati Raj system came to existence by the 73rd amendment? what was the history behind it? The origin of Panchayati Raj system traces back to the days of Mahatma Gandhi who was a proponent of this system. At that point of time when the birth of the government was the recent vintage it was not possible extend its administrative hands rural areas despite of the fact that the major population Of India belong to villages which was unfortunate. But today we see a line of difference between panchayat envisioned by Gandhi and the present one. In the beginning there were only 8 states including Andhra Pradesh, Gujrat, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were coping up with this process.

List of committees constituted for recommendations regarding Panchayati Raj in India:

Balwant Rai Mehta 1957
V.T. Krishnamacharya 1960
Takhatmal Jain Study Group 1966
Ashok Mehta Committee 1978
G.V.K. Rao Committee 1985
Dr. L.M. Singhvi Committee 1986
P.K. Thungon Committee 1989
S. Mohinder Singh 2013[1]

Result of the Recommendation –

Ultimately in part 9 of the Indian Constitution was added with 243B. Constitution of Panchayats. – (1) There shall be constituted in every State, Panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels in accordance with the provisions of this Part.

(2) Notwithstanding anything in clause (1), Panchayats at the intermediate level may not be constituted in a State having a population not exceeding twenty lakhs[2].

  • Mandatory provisions for Panchayat-

1.     The establishment in every state (except those with populations below 2 million) of panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels (Article 243B)

2.     Direct, elections to all- seats in the panchayats (lowest elective tier) at all levels (Article 243 C)

3.     compulsory elections to panchayats every five years

4.     If a panchayat is dissolved prematurely, elections must be held within six months, with the newly elected members serving the remainder of the five-year term (Article 243E)

5.     Reservation of seats in all panchayats at all levels for SC/ST (Article 243D)

6.     Reservation of one—third of all seats in all panchayats at all levels for women, with the reservation for women applying to the seats reserved for SC/STs (Article 243D)

7.     Indirect elections to the position of panchayat chairperson at the intermediate and district levels (Article 243C)

8.     Reservation of the position of panchayat chairperson at all levels for SC/STs in proportion to their share in the state population (Article 243D)

9.     Reservation of one-third of the positions of chairperson at all three levels for women (Article 243D)

All the above-mentioned condition are mandatory despite of all these the ground reality is that mostly Sarpanch are person referred by local MLAs or MPs and as a result of which they use panchayat as an agent of vote bank.

  • Functions and power of Gram panchayat-

The function of Gram panchayat can be classified into heads-

1.     Obligatory function-

The primary concern of Gram Panchayat is to frame laws for maintenance, construction and repair Of All roads, bridges, toilets, ponds (if any), improvement of castles, welfare of back ward caste, promotion of agriculture  and other measures for development of village.

2.     Discretionary Function-

Discretionary functions of the village panchayat depend upon the resources available and income in exchange. These include items such as constitution and maintenance of slaughterhouses, establishment of granaries, village library and reading rooms, layout and maintenance of play grounds and promotion improvement and encouragement of cottage industries, establishment and maintenance of markets, dispensaries and maternity and child welfare centers, veterinary relief and organizing voluntary labor for community work.[3]

  • PANCHAYAT AND DIRTY POLITICS-

Village is a village because people in these areas are not as developed as that of a town or city from every perspective that may be wealth, education or technology as a result of which they are unable to claim their entitled rights in terms of policies. Here are some examples-

  • The fund misused against the MG-NREGA scheme is a major issue which provides more than 100 days’ work to every person of the gram Panchayat at minimum wage rate of Rs 154 or 179 per day. But these funds have been withdrawn by the selfish motives of many Panchayat members and sites where it is deployed having little reminiscence of the work done had left behind. The family members of the sarpanches and sarpanches has been enrolled as village workers or laborers issued with job cards and huge amount of money has been withdrawn surmounting their heads, which has gone solemnly into their own pockets. In this game the employees of the concerned block development offices have close connivance with them also[4].
  •   The block development officer (BDO) had issued ₹1,80,900 to the gram panchayat for construction of toilets for 67 below poverty line (BPL) families––– ₹2,700 for each family—but Sunita and Usha Devi withdrew ₹85,000 through self-cheque from the panchayat general account in October 2011 and showed it as amount used for construction of toilets by 24 persons of the BPL families. The High Court has directed state authorities to take appropriate action against Sunita, ex-pradhan, gram panchayat of Pujarli, Chopal tehsil, Shimla district, and Usha Devi, the then panchayat secretary, based on the admitted acts of forgery and misuse of government funds by them.[5]
  • As per a report of Times of India published on Apr 25, 2018 Indore zila panchayat CEO found out 27 ex- sarpanches for misusing funds allotted by state government and all four tehsils are ordered to recover rupees 75 lakhs[6].

These are few of the political gambling of local self-government and abuse of powers by the Sarpanches by using it to support nepotism and abuse of funds, at times ending up receiving bribes to distribution of tenders.

  •   Suggestions-

o   Sarpanch should fall under direct control and supervision of District Magistrate by submitting monthly expenditure of funds and should be answerable for any misuse of funds.

o   The funds received by sarpanch should be in tranches. (no one time deposition of a huge amount)

o   There must be uniform laws of panchayats in terms of regulation and punishments.

o   Fixed and suffice of salary of sarpanch will solve the corruption issue to an extent

References:

[1]AVAILABLE AT< https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panchayati_raj_in_India>

[2] Article 243 (B), Constitution of India

[3]AVAILABLE AT <https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/131493/10/10_chapter%205.pdf>

[4]AVAILABLE AT<http://earlytimesnews.com/newsdet.aspx?q=229592>

[5]AVAILABLE AT<https://www.latestlaws.com/latest-news/hc-orders-fir-against-ex-lady-panchayat-chief-for-forgery-and-misuse-of-public-funds/>

[6] AVAILABLE AT <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/indore/27-ex-sarpanchs-issued-notices-over-misuse-of-funds/articleshow/63915864.cms>

Image from The HIndu

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