Today, when the country is celebrating National Panchayati Raj Day, it is necessary to see to what extent the objective of establishing competent autonomous institutions up to the local level has been fulfilled? Are local Panchayati Raj institutions given adequate autonomy in financial, personnel and field work? Today, it has been 27 years since the Panchayati Raj was established institutionally, even then these questions are relevant. Undoubtedly, around 2.5 lakh panchayats of the country, which are the foundation of our decentralized administrative structure at the local level, are playing a big role in strengthening the roots of democracy in the country. However, our experience shows that much more remains to be done to reach the level of autonomous village-swaraj dreamed by the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. In order to ensure an active contribution to the development process of Panchayati Raj institutions, all the provisions of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment are given literally. It is necessary to implement. Some states have given powers to local bodies, but in other states the process is yet to be completed. Otherwise the purpose of this important law will not be fulfilled.
I applaud Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who recognized the central role of the village sarpanch in the campaign against the Kovid-19 transition and granted him the rights of collector in his area. I am confident that in other parts of the country, public representatives of Panchayati Raj bodies will be engaged in campaign against this transition in their area and will be providing assistance to the needy. It should be remembered that since ancient times, local autonomous bodies have been an integral part of Indian society. It is known from the Mahabharata, Kautilya-Arthashastra, Jataka tales that gram sabhas had many rights and they played an important role in rural life. She was an important pillar of the socio-economic structure of India.
Panchayats in their present structure and form came into existence during the tenure of the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. On this day, 27 years ago, the Panchayati Raj system was institutionalized through village, intermediate and district panchayats. Panchayati Raj institutions have proved to be the necessary medium for India’s decentralized development and planning, yet they still face many challenges as a local democratic institution.
The 73rd Constitutional Amendment has created only a framework for local autonomous institutions. The responsibility of giving them authority and power was left to the states. It is mandatory for the states to form the State Finance Commission and conduct elections to Panchayats every five years through an independent State Election Commission. However other provisions like giving financial rights to panchayats or reservation in seats for backward classes etc. come under the jurisdiction of the states. The local bodies should also have the right to check and monitor the implementation of the schemes. Funds allocated for local bodies should go to the account of panchayats, municipalities and corporations. This money should be spent as per the resolution passed by the bodies and not by any other institution or development agency of the state.
The rights and duties of panchayats should be defined more clearly. For example, according to the 11th schedule, agriculture has been included in 29 subjects given to panchayats. Agriculture is a broad subject in itself. If we can clarify which aspects or aspects of agriculture are the responsibility of the Panchayats, it will help them to play an important role in the agriculture sector. Another important issue is to see that the panchayati system does not remain sarpanch-centric. According to Gandhiji, an ideal governance system should be accountable, people-centered, just and Prajapalak, as it was in the kingdom of Lord Rama. The concept of Ram Rajya itself is the concept of Gram Rajya or Gram Swarajya.
It is necessary to give importance to committees in gram panchayats. This will increase their work efficiency. The inclusion of members of the Gram Sabha in various committees of the Panchayat, such as the Committee for Education or Cleanliness, will bring transparency in the functioning of these bodies. Although the law provides for reservation of one-third seats for women, it has been increased to 50 percent in some states, which is welcome. It is expected that socio-economic change will take place through the empowerment of women. However, there are also some instances in which the female sarpanch became just rubber-stamp, while the male members of her family became the real sarpanch. This practice may not be acceptable. Women should be made aware of their rights and their empowerment through reservation.
Panchayat personnel of every level are required to be trained on various subjects. This will make them easy to understand financial, administrative and political processes and will make Panchayati Raj institutions more effective. Compiling good procedures and examples from across the country and making them available to Panchayati Rajkars in local language will help them.
The central government, led by Prime Minister Modi, has accepted all the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. The Commission paid special attention to local bodies and provided Rs 200,292.2 crore directly to the Gram Panchayats for the period 2015-20, which is more than three times the grant amount given by the 13th Finance Commission. Whereas earlier grants were for the three levels of bodies including district and block panchayats, the 14th Finance Commission grant is only for gram panchayats. With adequate financial resources, panchayats can become an important means of achieving self-reliance in various fields. This will prevent the replacement of villagers migrating from villages to cities in search of better livelihood. A competent self-government at the local level will become a means of achieving the Ram Rajya through the village state.

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