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30 June 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

The article talks about the need of Panchayati Raj ministry and present analysis of its 25 years journey.

  • The news of closing down of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj will be a big setback for grassroot democracy for grassroot development.
  • A de-democratising move
    • The 73rd amendment, now incorporated as part IX of the Constitution, is the joint responsibility of the Union and the States, calling for high-level coordination to promote and protect the grassroot democracy.
    • It was passed virtually unanimously in December 1992 as representing the consensus among Central and Statestakeholders.
  • The key activities of PRI Ministry are:
    • Bringing State ministers together;
    • Convening academic experts and field-level NGOs;
    • Promoting feedback from and best practices among elected panchayat representatives; Monitoring the special interests of women representatives, Dalits and tribals;
    • Maintaining and updating data-banks on all aspects of panchayat raj;
    • Commissioning expert studies and preparing periodic reports such as the biannual State of the Panchayats reports.
    • Providing such an all-India perspective will be seriously diluted or even entirely lost without an independent Ministry for the subject.
  • The constitutional mandate
    • Merging or subordinating panchayat raj under rural development amounts to a grossly inadequate reading of the Constitution, in particular the Eleventh Schedule that lists the proposed jurisdiction (“powers, authority and responsibilities”) of national-level panchayati raj.
    • The 73rd amendment sought to do was a radical reorganisation of last-mile delivery of public goods and services to the panchayats by devolving “such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government” (Article 243G).
    • This was to be achieved by endowing these “institutions of self-government” with the required functions, finances and functionaries (the three Fs).

Overlapping of 11th schedule entries with other ministries:

Entry 1

Entry 4

Entry 5

Agriculture, including agricultural extension

Animal husbandry, dairying and poultry

Fisheries

Agriculture Ministry

Entry 3

Minor irrigation, water management and watershed development”

Ministry of Water Resources

Entry 6

Entry 7

Social forestry and farm forestry”

Minor forest produce

Jointly concern the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs

Entry 11

Entry 23

Drinking water

Sanitation, including the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation

Entry 8

Entry 9

Small scale industries, including food processing industries” and “khadi, village and cottage industries”

Fall respectively under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, the Ministry of Food Processing Industries and the Ministry of Textiles.

Entry 24

Entry 23

Family welfare

Health, including hospitals, primary health centres and dispensaries

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

Entry 25

Integrated Child Development Services programme falls under “women and child development”

Women and child development Ministry

Entry 17

Entry 18

Entry 19

Entry 20

Education, including primary and secondary schools Technical training and vocational education

Adult and non-formal education

Libraries

Ministry of Human Resource Development and Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship

Entry 21

Cultural activities

Ministry of Culture

  • Twenty-five years of progress
  • Clearly such a revolution in political relations between elected local government authorities and the State political set-up requires time and patient experimentation to play out.
  • The Ministry of Panchayati Raj, set up in 2004, has over the past 12 years or so been advocating and incentivising this. It is the primary duty of the Ministry to perform these delicate advisory functions. Panchayati raj remains on the State list but, in view of the 73rd constitutional amendment, the Centre becomes responsible to work with the States to fulfil in letter and spirit the aims and objects of the constitutional legislation.
  • We have about 28 lakh rural and about 4 lakh urban representatives, with about 14 lakh rural and urban women, making ours also the “world’s most representative democracy”.
  • There are more elected women in India alone than in the rest of the world put together. We have also guaranteed equitable representation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.
  • Notwithstanding the hurdles, real and imagined, thrown in the way of such empowerment, virtually the whole country is moving forward, at different speeds and with considerable diversity but, nevertheless, in the desired direction.
  • Quietly, considerable progress has been made in the last 25 years. Panchayati raj has been made ineluctable, irremovable and irreversible, but much remains to be accomplished.
  • To disrupt the process by downgrading the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and making it an adjunct of some other Ministry would be the most retrograde step in democratic decentralisation in over a quarter century.

Question:What the 73rd amendment sought to do was a radical reorganisation of last-mile delivery of public goods and services to the panchayats by devolving “such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government”. In the light of this statement, critically analyse the journey of Panchayati Raj in India.

Suggested Approach:

  1. The need of PRI and reluctance of some sections to bring it.
  2. Achievements of PRI.
  3. Shortcomings which led to underperformance of this institution.
  4. The way forward.

Link: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/panchayati-raj-ministry-a-downgrade-for-democracy/article8788877.ece

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