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Situation of Rural Local Governance in India after the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India


Authored by - Sania Vinayan

Keywords - Local Governance, Panchayati Raj, 73rd Amendment, Constitution of India, grassroots.


Abstract


This article takes a brief look at the status of rural local governance in India following twenty years of the Constitutional mandate- the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India in 1993.

Introduction


It has been two decades since the 73rd amendment to the Constitution of India was introduced. The amendment granted constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj System with an aim for better accountability and effectiveness. However, is this system truly the best means for better operation or just a facade of grassroots governance that is dictated by the upper castes/ other groups? Are they truly agencies of self-governance, or have they become subordinate units of the central government?

What is the Panchayati Raj?


This system is known as the third level of democratic governance and it constitutes Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti, and Zilla Parishad. The Panchayati Raj system is given power by the means of decentralization. Decentralization is the distribution of power away from a single authority. It is, in this context, the transfer of authority from central to local government. Although this is a significant step in promoting greater community participation and boosts the development of the rural population, there are diverse and huge problems in the functioning and operating pattern of the Panchayati Raj System in India.

What is the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India?


The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 has added a new part IX consisting of 16 Articles and the Eleventh Schedule to the Constitution.[1] It envisions the Gram Sabha as the foundation of the Panchayat Raj System. The functions and powers are entrusted to it by the State Legislatures. This amendment was passed with an aim of designating power at the grassroots level to promote better implementation of government schemes.

Is the amendment effective?


Bureaucracy plays a vital role in the success of the Panchayati Raj system. Instead of responsibly guiding the local government, it can throw rules at the Panchayats and never be accountable to them.


There has been reservation made for marginalized communities like women, and the lower castes (SCs, STs, Dalits) for their upliftment. Nonetheless, this provision is only effective on paper. In reality, women act as surrogate persons in positions that are taken by any of their male relatives. They are de jure actors while the de facto actors are their male equivalents.[2]The orders and suggestions are given by the males, and it is sanctioned by the females. Effectively making them a puppet.


The situation of lower castes reservation has been even worse than that of the women. Despite the constitutional mandate, most states have been found to not have proportionate representation.[3] At the district level, the mandate is nothing, but a political tool used for electoral benefits. The devolution of powers under the 11th Schedule has also led to the power undercutting for MLAs and thus, they see the PR system as a threat to their monopoly over the domain of power and corruption at the local level.


The devolution of powers under the 11th Schedule has also led to the power undercutting for MLAs and thus they see the PR system as a threat to their monopoly over the domain of power and corruption at the local level.[4]

There were additional provisions due to which the purpose and extent of implementation of these provisions were under the command of the individual states, depending upon their whims and desires. Now, this has led to a tangible deviation in the objective of decentralization across different states of India. The devolution of powers, thus, to the rural local bodies, with respect to all three dimensions i.e. political, functional, and financial, has been very poor.[5]


Though some of the states have conducted elections to these PR bodies, it has not been at a regular interval of 5 years. The Supreme Court and the High Courts had to assertively intervene to preserve the spirit of the Constitution.[6]


The roles and functions of Gram Sabha were left to the discretion, whims, and fancies of state legislatures and just remained developmental organizations and implementing agencies.[7]The power and control of local governments have remained restricted to street lighting, sanitation, water supply, and local roads. They also do not have any say in the management and implementation of the various government schemes for the rural areas. Many states have not established the district planning committee mandated by Article 243ZD, and even where it is in place, they are being headed by state ministers, which again strikes severely at the decentralization of power. [8]


Apart from all this, there are also internal structural issues in the Panchayati Raj system. This includes incompatible relations among the three tiers i.e. Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti, and Zilla Parishad. Secondly, inadequate financial resources and control over its spending is a serious problem ailing the Panchayati Raj System.[9]

Conclusion


Major problems trouble the Panchayati Raj System that includes undemocratic representation in PR institutions, political bias, and rifts between officials and people. All in all, unless there is a change in the socio-politico scenario, and there is more participation by the marginalized communities of the village areas, the constitution mandate will continue to remain a dead letter 20 years after its amendment.


[1]The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 [2] The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1993 and the Status of Rural Local Governance in India in Last Two-Decades - by Shailesh Kumar & Sumit Kumar [3] Supra 2 [4] Supra 2 [5] Supra 2 [6]https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/sc-directs-rajasthan-ec-to-hold-panchayat-elections-by-april-2020-120012400669_1.html [7] Supra 2 [8] Supra 2 [9] http://magazines.odisha.gov.in/Orissareview/2010/Feb-Mar/engpdf/17-19.pdf

References


1. http://magazines.odisha.gov.in/Orissareview/2010/Feb-Mar/engpdf/17-19.pdf

2. The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1993 and the Status of Rural Local Governance in

India in Last Two-Decades - by Shailesh Kumar & Sumit Kumar

3. The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992

4. https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/sc-directs-rajasthan-ec-to-hold-panchayat-elections-by-april-2020-120012400669_1.html