1) Arise and rejuvenate the third layer of governance
Political acts depriving people of their rights must stop and there needs to be a movement to strengthen Panchayati raj
GS 2: Local Self Governance
- The government must ensure that even the last man sitting in the remote corner of the last row should have access to the bene?ts of the plan.
- This is why it is crucial that strong local bodies are formed to enable genuine feasibility and execution.
- The Cholas were the pioneers in the formation of local bodies as part of a well-organized hierarchy to oversee the implementation of progressive plans.
The journey of Panchayati raj
- “The voice of the people is the voice of god; The voice of the Panchayat is the voice of the people,” is the quote attributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
- Panchayati raj ensures that the voices of the people are heard loud and clear.
- Realizing that seamless administration is impossible without power sharing, the British, in 1884, passed the Madras Local Boards Act.
- With this, the British formed unions in both small towns and big cities and began to appoint members to ensure better administration.
- To a certain extent, this brought about positive changes in basic parameters such as health and hygiene.
- With the advent of gram panchayat laws in 1920, people over 25 years of age were bestowed with the right to vote and choose their panchayat members.
- Even though Gandhiji was constantly laying emphasis on the importance of autonomously ruled villages, the idea received constitutional recognition only in 1992.
- It was only after the 73rd Amendment in the 1990s that the Panchayati raj law came into force.
- This was the law that brought about massive turning points such as
- The initiation of grama sabha,
- A three-tier Panchayati raj methodology of governance,
- Reservation for the downtrodden and women,
- Consistency in economic development,
- Local body elections once in five years,
- The formation of the State Election Commission,
- Finance Commission, and the
- Power to draft the rules and responsibilities of the Panchayat.
- The regions which were better equipped with basic facilities and which were more developed than the villages were brought under one coordinated body, namely, the municipality.
- The district capitals were further slotted into a combined parameter, namely, the corporation.
- The administration was transferred to the people, from the politicians and other of?cials.
- The lofty dream of Gandhiji to make each village of independent India a republic organization, and to reiterate that the autonomous administration of villages should be made the foundation of the entire country’s administration was heard and he lay stress on the active participation of the people in governance.
- For seemingly trivial and easily resolvable issues, the villages did not have to seek the assistance of the State or the Central governments.
- Grama sabhas could and can be the platform to resolve such issues.
- Besides, grama sabhas can be convened as and when the necessity arises.
- Every grama sabha meeting ensures the equal right to highlight the issues that disrupt life.
- In addition to this, the elected members of the Panchayat are obliged to read out the ?nancial statements and balance sheet to ensure transparency.
- The decisions taken during a grama sabha meeting and the proposed solutions with a feasible deadline are potent and powerful.
- Unfortunately, the reality today is that grama sabhas have become more like auction houses.
- Even though the government announced that people’s opinions would be considered, it went ahead and conducted meetings, which were marked by poor attendance and poor representation from the people.
- Even then, the government went ahead with the approval of projects which are impediments to normal life.
- The truth is that keeping in mind a single goal, of profit, politicians hold ‘negotiations’ with the of?cials. Several projects are being implemented for the bene?t of private and corporate entities.
- Sadly, in this age, women do not find themselves in major administrative roles in the local bodies, though, on paper, women are shown to be a considerable force.
The Kerala example
- The State of Kerala has been diligently working toward ensuring the proper use of allotted funds, and ensuring the ef?ciency of administration and eligible member appointments.
- To ensure ef?ciency,
- We need to strengthen our grama sabhas,
- Hold area sabhas in cities,
- Form ward committees,
- Hold online Panchayat meetings,
- Ensure decent remuneration to Panchayat chiefs and councillors and
- Also bestow the grama sabha with the power to revoke appointed members and representatives.
- These steps are what will ensure real growth in the State.
- The State-appointed corporation commissioner faces mammoth challenges when a member of the Opposition party takes charge as a mayor.
- The constant and meaningless con?icts between the ruling party and the mayor from the Opposition party make it impossible for the corporation commissioner to execute what was agreed upon in a meeting.
- The same treatment is meted out to municipal councillors and district councillors.
- We must collectively ensure that Panchayati raj should be strengthened. This should be the outcome of a peoples’ movement.
- Gandhiji’s belief was that the voices of people will resolve what violence can never be successful in resolving.
- Let the peoples’ voices be heard. We should also note that every year, April 24 is celebrated as Panchayat raj day.