The basic spirit of Panchayati Raj and we
After a long wait, Panchayati Raj has traveled from a nominal local self-government unit to a constitutionally empowered unit of self-government. Initially, the Panchayati Raj laws stipulated that the Panchayats would act as agents of the State Government. Panchayats were at the mercy of the state governments. Panchayats were elected on their own will. There was no fixed duration. There was also no definite provision of the budget. Although Mahatma Gandhi wanted to make Panchayats the backbone of governance, but in the Constitution, Panchayati Raj was established as a resolution to establish it in the future by giving a place in the Directive Principles of State Policy. Panchayats got constitutional status after the 73rd Constitutional Amendment. Elections were held every five years. Fixed budget started getting through the State Finance Commission. The responsibility of preparing the development plan of the Panchayat was handed over to the Gram Sabha of the Panchayat. The way was paved for the real independence of Panchayats. In spite of this great achievement, the basic work of actually devolution of real power to the Gram Sabha, in keeping with the core spirit of Panchayati Raj, is yet to be done.
Panchayats have been seen as the unit of direct democracy. For this purpose, in view of the large population in Panchayats, it was thought that due to the presence of many villages in the Panchayat, their problems are varied where direct decision is sometimes difficult. Therefore, many states have made provision for Palli Sabha or Up Gram Sabha at the ward level. In Himachal Pradesh also there is a provision of sub-gram sabha. The expectation behind this was that the people of the village understand the collective problems of the village and each other’s personal problems better because of close relationships through group discussion. Therefore, a better plan can also be made to solve them. Transparency can also be easily created in this system and this will also curb corruption. But in spite of all the good things, Panchayat Raj Institutions seem to be getting sacrificed by vested interests. However, many expectations are also being fulfilled. The budget is being received in sufficient quantity, but the work of empowering the Gram Sabha and ensuring transparency seems to be lagging behind. Along with this, efforts are being made to control instead of empowering Panchayats at the administrative level.
Efforts are being made to strengthen the old understanding, in which Panchayats were seen as agents of the government and kept under administrative control. Instead of planning, there is the task of making a desired list, which is more dependent on the wishes of the elected representatives. The Panchayat representatives also keep trying to keep the quorum of the Gram Sabha at least, so that the elected executive gets the opportunity to take arbitrary decisions. Common people are also compromising on this situation due to lack of understanding and information. The Panchayat representatives are becoming limited to executing the construction works instead of developing it into a decision capable unit by empowering the Gram Sabha of the Gram Panchayat.
In this, the collusion of the administration and the panchayat executive is also visible at many places, through which the tendency of saving the money of construction works and dividing them among themselves is visible. Efforts are made that in works like MNREGA, priority should be given to those works in which some material purchase is required. There is neither discussion in the gram sabhas nor administrative pressure is created in the direction of developing natural resources. As a result, the protection of village pastures, forests, and water resources remain on the margins. The once productive livestock is roaming the streets unattended. There is a dire need of waste management. But despite the pressures of the cleanliness campaign, the villages are getting littered with plastic waste. Despite all the expenditure, the rural irrigation system is getting ruined. Even minor disputes in the village, whose resolution is within the jurisdiction of the Panchayats, are also reaching the police. The fights are presented as more serious to make them police worthy. Due to the lack of understanding of democratic society, political opposition has started to be seen as personal enmity.
These discrepancies will gradually weaken the Panchayati Raj. For this, the work of village level micro level development plan should be done at the intensive level, so that efforts should be made to develop a new democratic understanding by continuously training the comprehensive understanding of development at the village level. An understanding of social harmony and social justice should be developed. It should also be seen whether it is right to make Panchayat representatives responsible for the implementation of development works. Or a separate technical and administrative system should be made responsible for this, which should be accountable for the work done till their job. This will give time to the Panchayat representatives to do monitoring, legislative, judicial and awareness related work and create a real environment to make Panchayat a unit of self-government.