(Sample Material) Gist of IIPA Journal: The Working of Panchayati Raj: An Analysis S.A. Palekar

(Sample Material) Gist of Important Articles from IIPA Journal

Topic: The Working of Panchayati Raj: An Analysis S.A. Palekar

Political Impact of Panchayati Raj

The PRIs undoubtedly helped the process of politicisation. The people have now acquired a great deal of political consciousness. The decentralised democratic system with "universal adult franchise secret ballot and activities of political parties have brought a political awakening among the people in the rural areas.”

The various studies show that political offices are keenly contested unlike in the past when the members could get elected without any opposition. It may be pointed out that in spite of this awareness amongst the rural masses the ultimate goal of making them politically articulate citizens of a democratic order seems to be a distant dream. However, the fact remains that they are very much aware and convinced that their vote has a value and they can influence the decision-making process. In the words of Rajni Kothari, “largely as a result of the operation of adult franchise, considerable shift has occurred in social base of politics. Sections of the people who had been hitherto denied access to the political power and who had considered politics as the legitimate concern of the martial and learned classes, have been exposed to the new ideology, have realised the power of numbers and have started organising themselves through their own associations and leaders. This is the rise of newly enfranchised in politics”?

It may be pointed out that one of the direct and perhaps the most significant consequences of this introduction is some kind of loosening up the conventionally established political relationship on the one hand, and an ever-growing awareness that public policy decisions and their implementation can be influenced on the other. Some studies have indicated that political awareness of the people in the villages is not confined to this realisation only, but they have even effective1y asserted their political claims and have judiciously exercised their right to vote. It must also be pointed out here that increased political consciousness has also resulted in a struggle for status and power among individuals and social groups and it has paved the way for the entry of political parties. But unfortunately, the political parties have failed in making the rural masses identify them with their policies and programmes. The studies have shown that the village elections are still based on individual or caste loyalties. The study shows how the structure of gram panchayats was heavily in favour of the locally dominant castes and upper classes in the society.

It is being pointed out that the leadership pattern has been secularised at the various levels of Panchayati Raj. The new emerging elite is less ascription based and more performance oriented. They are less orthodox in approach and better educated and younger in years. Although it is significant trend yet it cannot be considered as a general rule. But it may be said that on the whole the Panchayati Raj has brought about a revolutionary change in the social psychology and political legitimacy, mobilisation and communication, which are the main determinants of the effectiveness of a political system. To be more specific, the PRIs are on the road of political development. The need of the hour is to bring greater dynamism in rural areas. This will increase the capabilities of the political system as a whole, which in turn, will increase the effectiveness of Panchayati Raj as an instrument ‘of modernization.

Development Role of Panchayati Raj

The founding fathers of Panchayati Raj were confident that once the institutions of rural local government were structured on democratic lines and were given the needed initiative and resources, they would facilitate the work of rural social and economic development.

In this regard, the Government of India clearly brought out the pivotal position of Panchayati Raj in development activities for the rural areas in the First Plan Document and in the subsequent Plans thereafter. The Second, five Year Plan wanted the village institution to be placed on sound footing and to be entrusted with a great deal of responsibility for carrying out local programmes.

The All India Panchayat Parishad in 1973 too observed and appealed to the Planning Commission to recognise PRIs as the proper instrument for implementation of the Five Year Plans.

Many have emphasised that Panchayati Raj bodies at different levels can playa vital role in agricultural production. Balwant Rai Mehta’s Report Observed that the material progress in the agricultural sector can be judged only by the total increase in agricultural production. The Annual Conference of Development Commissioners and Ministers of Community Development and Panchayati Raj (1966) too recommended some measures. In fact the real contribution of Panchayati Raj bodies to agricultural development has remained a debatable issue. It has been pointed out by some that, the leadership at the block and village level had not shown enough awareness and capacity to get priority to development work and suggested the establishment of separate agency. Rudramurthy has observed that the village panchayats have not yet come up to expectations. However, R.N. Chopra is emphatic that Panchayati Raj bodies cannot handle agricultural production and it can be handled successfully only under a system of single-line control and responsibility. But K.N. Raj, who is critical of the activities pertaining to agriculture has very rightly suggested that the “States should experiment with planning from below by concentrating initially on district bloc and village levels and thereby, take full advantage of the existing institutional structure. It would not be out of place if we mention the views of a Expert Committee on Assessment and Evaluation appointed by the Central Government. The Committee observed, “Involvement of local leaders in agricultural development is, no doubt, necessary, but, such a leadership has to be functional and trained. The Committee found that popularly elected PRIs were of some help in creating awareness of the need for agricultural Practices, but in regard to agricultural modernization they have not played a significant part. It is, therefore, necessary to consider the polices regarding the role that should be assigned to, the PRIs in agricultural development.

The studies conducted by some scholars to assess certain aspects of the functioning of the different tiers of Panchayati Raj in the states of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have revealed that significant role has been played by the PRIs in agricultural production. For instance, in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, these institutions have been able to make improvements with respect to roads, implements and loans for irrigation, distribution of fertilizers, seeds and insecticides and guidance in cropping patterns. Similarly, in Tamil Nadu the Panchayati Raj bodies seem to have made all round impact on different’ community services, and that almost all services are connected with agriculture. However, in Madhya Pradesh, the impact of PRIs has been negligible.

In Maharashtra also, discussing about the role of Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samitis in agricultural production the Bongirwar Committee felt that under the many programmes of agricultural production including high-yielding programmes, the Zila Parish and Panchayat Samitis have played a significant role. In agriculture, the Zila Parish and have performed better than in any other field.

In Karnataka, with the introduction of Panchayati Raj, a number of schemes were transferred by technical departments like forests, agriculture and animal husbandry to local bodies and it was found that as a consequence, development schemes suffered for want of sufficient technical and administrative guidance of the Panchayati Raj bodies.

Panchayati Raj Institutes have been playing a significant role in looking after the interests of weaker sections. Various committees have stressed the need for such a role. That is why the various Panchayati Raj legislations have incorporated provisions for representing the members of the Scheduled Castes-and Tribes on PRIs, The Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992, has made it obligatory for all the state governments to fill up the membership on the basis: of population. In all states except Punjab and U.P., the PRIs have appointed committees to look after the interests of the weaker sections.

The Committee on Plan Projects appointed by the Planning Commission on the role and functions of PRIs in planning development considered it necessary to associate we weaker sections with the PRIs.

Darji Committee in Gujarat and Sadiq Ali Committee in Rajasthan too stressed the need for raising the status of the weaker sections, but the committee further opined that by and large, the PRIs have not been able to devote any specific attention and render any significant help to weaker sections.

In the field of education also PRIs can play a pivotal role in the development of the community. In many states, education, at the primary and secondary levels has been transferred to the Panchayati Raj bodies but the progress has been uneven. In this regard, the various states have incorporated certain provisions in the controlling Acts. For instance in Tamil Nadu, the Madras Panchayats Act, 1938 has provided that the Panchayati should levy a local tax to cover a specific proportion of increased expenditure on elementary education. Similarly, the Act gives the responsibility to the panchayats for ensuring enrolment and regular attendance at the primary classes. However, in Punjab, the Punjab Gram Panchayat Act 1952 government shall place such funds as may be necessary for the purpose, at the disposal of the gram panchayats concerned.

The evaluation of PRIS can be judged in terms of land reforms measure implemented in the various states. In fact, because of the inadequacy of revenue machinery in different states to enforce different aspects of lands reforms measures, suggestions for associating the democratic institutions or PRIs in their implementation were first made during the Second Five Year Plan. The Plan suggested that “in carrying out various tasks, the offices machinery can and should derive a great deal of assistance from the agencies of district development administration, namely village panchayats development committees in talukas and development council”. The Second Plan further opined that village panchayats can playa significant role in the achievement of high standards of management and efficiency and in assisting the progress of consolidation of holdings. Through their association, land records can be maintained more accurately and injustice avoided.

The various committees both at the Central and state level have examined the issue of associating Panchayati Raj bodies in implementing the land reform revenues. For instance Ramanadhan Study Team (1968) appointed by the Government of India examined this issue intensively and as many as nine states expressed their opinion on the Issue or associating panchayats and other levels of rural local government in the task of implementing land reforms.

The general consensus was that the panchayats were not adequately equipped for this purpose as it involved an intricate knowledge of revenue laws and rules made there under.

From the proceeding analysis of the political and development role of PRIs, it becomes amply clear that it is accepted by almost all that the Panchayati Raj has strengthened a participatory democratic culture Undoubtedly, there is a lot of political awareness in the rural India and it is the Panchayati Raj which has made rural masses more articulated. Some of the thinkers opine that it has been useful as a socialising agent by imparting the values of democracy in the rural masses, Critics, however, may say that such awareness is exhibited only at the time of elections, but, this is no mean achievement in a country where the rural people suffer from political apathy.

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