Issues of Local Self-Government
GS 2 Government Policies & Interventions
- 2023 marks the 30th anniversary of the 73rd and 74th Amendments’ ratification.
About 73rd and 74th Amendments
- Parliament passed the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments in December 1992.
- The Acts entered into force on April 24, 1993 as the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 and on June 1, 1993 as the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992.
- Through these amendments, India’s rural and urban areas were granted local autonomy.
Addition of Part IX & Part IXA:
- These amendments added two new sections to the Constitution; specifically, the 73rd Amendment added Part IX entitled “The Panchayats” and the 74th Amendment added Part IXA entitled “The Municipalities.”
Salient Features of the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Acts
- Panchayats and Municipalities will function as “institutions of self-government.”
- Gram Sabhas (villages) and Ward Committees (municipalities) are the fundamental units of the democratic system. They are comprised of all the adult voters who have registered.
- Three-tier system of panchayats at the village, intermediate block/taluk/mandal, and district levels, with the exception of states with a population of less than 20 million (Article 243B).
- Direct elections are required at all levels of government [Article 243C (2)].
SCs and STs:
- Seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) and chairpersons of Panchayats at all levels shall also be reserved proportionally for SCs and STs.
- One-third of all available seats will be reserved for women.
- Women occupy one-third of the seats reserved for SCs and STs.
- Reserve one-third of all chairperson positions at all levels for women (Article 243D).
- Elections to form new bodies must be completed prior to the expiration of the five-year term.
- If a government is dissolved, elections must be held within six months (Article 243E).
State Election Commission:
- o Independent Election Commission in each State for oversight, direction, and management of the voter rolls (Article 243K).
- Panchayats shall prepare plans for economic development and social justice pertaining to matters devolved by law to the various levels of Panchayats, including the matters outlined in the Eleventh Schedule (Article 243G).
- The 74th Amendment establishes a District Planning Committee to consolidate Panchayat and municipal plans (Article 243ZD).
- Budgetary allocation from State Governments, share of revenue from specific taxes, collection and retention of the revenue it generates, Central Government programmes and grants, and Union Finance Commission grants (Article 243H).
State Finance Commission:
- Establish a Finance Commission in each state to determine the guiding principles for providing adequate financial resources to panchayats and municipalities (Article 243I).
Significance of the Amendments
- The 73rd and 74th amendments did achieve a lot.
- They gave millions of citizens identities as representatives;
- They provided a conduit for sharing power; o They created deliberative spaces,
- Led to the creation of new norms, especially around the participation of women and a churn in local elites.
- They gradually built up local capacities, and
- Led to a broad range of functions being devolved to local government.Apart from that,
- Panchayati Raj has also increased cooperation, democratic participation, and representation among the populace.
- It has contributed significantly to the decentralisation of power and has made India more inclusive.
- Gram Panchayats provide basic services in villages and also plan for the population’s local economic development.
Development plans & efficiency:
- The Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) enhances the effectiveness of public services.
- It contributes to Good Governance because the Panchayati Raj system operates on the pillars of ‘Consensus’ and ‘Participation,’ which are essential to Good Governance.
- The local government needs numerous technical, administrative, and financial improvements.
- Low spending:
- India has the lowest spending on local government as a proportion of resources.
- The state at local levels is competent, it is just constantly being let down by lack of support and investment from the top.
- The constraints imposed on them by a combination of bureaucratic control and deliberate underinvestment in capacity, as well as the absence of political avenues for successful panchayat performers to advance within their parties, diminish their prominence.
- Obsolete distinction between Panchayats & municipalities:
- One could argue that the distinction between the 73rd and 74th amendments is no longer relevant.
- There are opinions in favour of a unified district-level local government as opposed to a distinction between urban and rural communities.
- Many decisions that have an impact on India’s urbanisation, such as land use change, are made in “panchayats”; there is arbitrage over how a settlement is classified, and rural and urban are now at best a continuum.
- Lack of Computer-based knowledge and Infrastructure:
- The government initiated the e-panchayat project in about 360-gram panchayats.
- However, most of these districts lack infrastructure, skills and have poor broadband internet connectivity.
- Proxy Presence of female Gram Pradhans:
o Female pradhans are more likely to be influenced by family members to run for office and win; male family members perform the majority of the work.
o On the surface, the women won the election, but in reality, the male members exert indirect control.
- The time has come to take specific corrective action to ensure a truly representative form of government.
- These problems can be resolved, but it will require the acceptance of these changes by the populace.
- Sufficient funding is required to operate these institutions efficiently and effectively.
- Accountability must also exist at all administrative levels in order to hold corrupt officials accountable.
- Training and development of human resources must be prioritised to eliminate conceptual inconsistency.
- The role of women in the panchayat must be acknowledged and not usurped by male family members.
- The state would be better served by
- decentralisation as opposed to centralisation,
- transparency as opposed to opaqueness (hence the RTI Act),
- public reason as opposed to administrative discretion (hence independent regulators),
- local capacity as opposed to centralised authority,
- active participation as opposed to subject status.
|Daily Mains Question
The irreverence regarding the 73rd and 74th amendments demonstrates a disregard for democracy itself. Analyse.