Have the Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) seen genuine devolution of powers and resources? Discuss. (15 marks)

 

Approach

  • Introduce with the provisions for Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs)
  • Discuss the positives that have come out of the Amendment
  • Explain how due to various reasons genuine devolution has not happened
  • Conclude appropriately
Model Answer :

The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 to deepen the participatory form of democracy established Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) by adding Part IX and 11th Schedule to the Constitution. The proposed devolution of power and resources to PRIs were envisioned to empower them through functions, functionaries and financial grants (3Fs). The year 2018 marked the 25th anniversary of the 73th Amendment.

The good:

Some aspects of the implementation of the amendment shows undeniable positives like:

  • Pan India adoption:All states have ensured the full and diligent implementation of the mandatory provisions provided in the 73rd amendment.
  • Statutory safeguards:Many states have also provided statutory safeguards for devolution provisions, which have empowered local governments.
  • Increased financial allocation:Successive (Central) Finance Commissions have substantially increased fund allocations and grants for local bodies.
  • Deepening of democracy:There are about 2,50,000 PRIs with over three million elected local government representatives. This is greater than the sum total of elected representatives from all other countries.
  • Women empowerment:The 73rd Amendment required that no less than one-third of the total seats in local bodies should be reserved for women, this led to political empowerment of women. Some states have also enhanced women representation to about 50%, thereby furthering their voices.

The bad:

However, the ineffectiveness of the PRIs reflects the failure of genuine devolution of power and resources as seen due to the following reasons:

  • Little devolution of power:The 73rd amendment listed the functions that could be transferred, and left it to the state legislature to actually devolve functions. There has been very little devolution of authority and functions in the last 25 years.
  • Overlap of functions:The functions envisioned for PRIs overlaps with that of state government and local administration. This has led to frequent tussle, confusions and administrative dominance of States over PRIs.
  • Creation of parallel institutions:Most States continue to create parallel bodies (often fiefdoms of ministers and senior bureaucrats) that make inroads into the functional domain of local governments.
  • Lack of independent source of finance: The PRIs does not have power to raise independent source of income via bonds, taxes etc. This has led to situation of financial starvation for PRIs, who continue to depend on the State Finance Commission (and even its recommendation is not binding of the state government).
  • Lack of functionaries: The panchayats often faces lack of access to dedicated functionaries and subject matter experts to support their day to day functioning.

Through this amendment, millions of elected representatives are testimony to democracy at grass-roots level, but these representatives now need clear mandates of local functions, and the ability to raise their own revenue, to foster better local governance.

Subjects : Polity

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