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January 06, 2017

Essay - Panchayati Raj and Rural Development in India

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  • Panchayati Raj, a concept given by Gandhiji.
  • The history of Panchayati Raj. 
  • Different committees reports regarding Panchayati Raj.
  • Three tier structure of Panchayati Raj. 
  • Areas of work of Panchayats. 
  • Advantages of this system. 
  • Different schemes implemented by it. 
  • Significant role played by it to transform the face of rural India.
Panchayati Raj was a pious dream of our great leader Mahatma Gandhi who wanted to strengthen the democracy at the grassroats level by this system.

In our country, 70 per cent of the population is iti rural areas and the panchayats have been the backbone of the Indian villages since the beginning of the recorded history.

The history of Panchayati Raj goes back since our independence. Efforts were made to strengthen the system of Panchayati Raj in order to give citizens a sense of participation in the nation building programme. It was in pursuance with this objective that community development programme was launched in 1952. It was an effort to provide and encourage development and employment in rural areas, use of scientific methods of agriculture, encourage cotton and small scale industries among other things. To evaluate the effects of community development programme Balwant Rai Mehta Committee was set-up in 1953. That suggested setting of Panchayati Raj Institutions.

The underlying idea was to usher in an era of Democratic Decentralisation'. Few other committees that were formed on Panchayati Raj were : VT Krishnamachari, 1960; Ashok Mehta Committee, 1977; GVK Rao Committee, 1985; LM Singhvi Committee, 1986. Finally, in 1993 through a Constitutional Amendment Act, 73rd Panchayati Raj Institutions were established.

It provides for a three tier structure of Panchayati Raj. A District Panchayat or Zila Parishad, a Block Panchayat at the intermediate level and a Gram Panchayat at the village level. In most of the states, members of Gram Panchayat is called as Gram Sabha and all the voters of this constituency are members of this body. Gram Sabha is not a tier of the system. It doesn't have any executive function and operates only as a recommending body.

Almost all the states have delegated powers and responsibilities in varying degrees to the panchayats. Article 243G of the Constitution has broadly outlined areas of functions for preparing plans for socio-economic development of their areas. These areas are explicitly highlighted in the 11th Schedule of the Constitution.

The functions highlighted are ensuring safe drinking water; maintaining community assets; health and sanitation; rural electrification; physical infrastructure viz roads, bridges, waterways etc. There are many changes that these institutions have brought about.

Through Gram Panchayats, activities in MGNREGS are handed out and auditing of work is done. MGNREGS has brought a sigh of relief for rural populace. As rural distress was brewing due to unemployment. MGNREGS has become a cog in the wheel of growth and development. Gram Sabha as a pivotal body is involved for building infrastructure and providing employment to people in rural areas.

Similarly, Panchayati Raj Institutions has broken the ea ste, age and gender structures of village. No more higher caste people, old members and males are at the helm of decision-making. The provision of 33% reservation for women and provision for reservation for SC/ST in the body has enabled villagers and the government to achieve parity in the village. This has broken the age old structures and has mainstreamed the marginalised.

Similarly, many State and Central Government schemes have been implemented at the grass root level by these bodies. Schemes of rural housing (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Gramin), Rural electrification schemes (Gramin Vidyut Abhiyantas), Health and sanitation (ICDS and Swachh Bharat Mission), Physical infrastructure (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana) etc have made conspicuous difference in rural areas.

These schemes have been implemented with the assistance of these bodies. Similarly, Gram Panchayats have worked as the first response entity during the times of disaster. Mock drills being organised, awareness programme being conducted have enabled these bodies to respond quickly during needful times.

Similarly, in the field of agriculture, these bodies have contributed enormously. Awareness about organic farming, soil health card scheme has been implemented with the help of Gram Sabha. Similarly, many infrastructure projects, animal husbandry activities, fisheries etc have been carried out by these bodies. Cooperatives like AMUL were conceived at these levels. Therefore, pooling of resources and efforts have been their hallmark. Similarly, concepts of social forestry, agroforestry has been encouraged by panchayats.

The government has planned to set-up formal markets which would remove the intermediaries. So, that the maximum share of profit lands in the hands of farmers. Panchayats will be an enabling factor in this scheme.

Also, panchayats have mandate to make plans and implement them in areas of small scale industries, food processing industries, khadi and cottage industries. These industries require proper planning and financing. With coordination among Central, State and Panchayat level bodies it will help in realising the full potential. 

Panchayati Raj Institutions have enormous potential to transform the face of the rural India. But, there are some structural and functional issues which have created impediments in realising the full potential.

Thus, the Panchayat System in India assumes a very significant role. This system is quite rational practicable and in perfect harmony with the spirit of democracy and should be further strengthened and encouraged. It should be made economically viable and self-sufficient by providing adequate resources, funds and generous grants.

The reservation of seats for women, Scheduled Castes and Tribes in panchayats is a welcome step, for it would make the institution of panchayat more democratic, representative and balanced. The Panchayat elections are conducted and supervised by the Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections. All these measures ensure a bright and long lasting future of Panchayat System in India.

Difficult Words with Meanings :
  • Explicitly clearly developed or formulated
  • Electrification to charge with or subject to electricity; to excite greatly
  • Populace the people living in a particular country or area
  • Brewing (of an unwelcome event or situation) begin to develop
  • Cog subordinate but integral person or part
  • Pivotal very important
  • Helm the place or post of control
  • Conspicuous easily seen or noticed; readily visible or observable
  • Impediments obstruction, hindrance, obstacle
  • Harmony the state of being in agreement or concord
  • Generous liberal in giving or sharing. 
shared by Nisheeta Mirchandani
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