(GIST OF YOJANA) Making Gram Sabhas Vibrant
Making Gram Sabhas Vibrant
The Panchayati in in strengthening India. Raj The Institutions 73rd grassroots-level Constitutional have been Amendment has provided a strong foundation for citizens’ participation at the local level in the form of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).
Functioning of Gram Sabhas:
- Gram Sabhas (GSs) provide citizens a direct say in the decision-making process out of respect for their villages. It provides a public platform for the citizens to elaborate on their problems, along with the felt needs and aspirations of the local community.
- Article 243: Defines Gram Sabha as ‘a body consisting of persons registered in the electoral rolls relating to a village comprised within the area of panchayat at the village level’.
- Article 243A: A Gram Sabha may exercise such powers and perform such functions at the village level as the Legislature of a State may by law provide.
Gram Sabha in States:
- Considering the large size of the Gram Panchayats, in some States like Karnataka, Kerala, Bihar, and West Bengal, etc., statutes have provided for additional structures like Ward Sabhas, meetings of which will be held prior to the Gram Sabha meetings.
- In some States/UTs (Chhattisgarh, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, UP, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Andaman and Nicobar, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep), the respective Panchayati Raj Act has also provisioned for convening of special Gram Sabhas on the request of a specified number of voters from the Gram Panchayats.
Need and Relevance:
- The Gram Sabhas were envisioned as unique institutions which would enable the citizens to highlight grassroots-level problems and build consensus on possible solutions.
- The decisions of Gram Sabhas being open and transparent, in real-time provide universal
- The Government of India is bringing several flagship schemes such as Health, Education, Nutrition. Water Supply and Sanitation- envisaging large-scale mobilisation and people’s direct participation to propel acceptance and effective implementation.
- Gram Sabhas provide the ideal platform for these schemes to leverage the direct contact with the citizens to make them more accepting and become eager to participate.
Gram Sabhas: Effective Functioning
- Ensuring periodic Gram Sabhas: The Gram Panchayats (GPs) in the States/Union Territories should hold Gram Sabha meetings at such a frequency, so as to have at least 6 to 12 meetings every year. The frequency may be decided after consideration
of factors such as presence of Gram Panchayats with relatively smaller populations; administrative requirements for organising large number of Gram Sabha meetings, etc.
- Formulating and distributing Agenda/Action taken Report (ATR): The agenda for the upcoming ram Sabha meetings should always be prepared and must include regular practices like confirmation of minutes of previous meeting, ATR on previous minutes, approval of Gram Panchayat Development Plan, etc. The agenda of the Gram Sabha must include discussions on proper selection/ sanction/ monitoring of progress of infrastructure works, identification of the correct beneficiaries for welfare schemes, and performance review of village-level functionaries.
- Preparing Annual Calendar: An annual calendar ought Panchayats to be developed in the States, by all for the Gram Gram Sabha meetings. The preparation of such a calendar would facilitate in spreading information about the annual schedule of all Gram Sabhas and the nature of discussions in the various meetings. The presence of annual calendar would enable active participation from villagers and facilitate proper scheduling of committee meetings of the panchayats. A sample calendar has been shared with the States in this regard indicating the thematic areas for action by
Gram Sabhas, during the months of the year. The same is available on the website of MoPR.
- Effective Scheduling: The Gram Sabha meetings should be convened alternately, so that only Gram Panchayats in the selected clusters go for Gram Sabha meetings on a particular day. This would enable the limited resources of District/Block administration to optimise efforts towards conducting the Gram Sabhas. The repetition of Gram Sabha meetings for a cluster of Gram Panchayats in the District/ Block may be fixed on a specific day (like first Wednesday of the month). Other clusters in the District/Block would have other days of the month as their Gram Sabha meeting day.
- Organising Sabhas at a convenient time: The timing of the Gram Sabhas should be convenient for the village population to attend-in large numbers. These Gram Sabhas may also have preceding Mahila Sabhas/Ward Sabhas/Bal Sabhas, etc., as required or as provided for in the respective statutes/rules of the State. There should be a fixed routine of the Gram Sabha meetings so that citizens have prior information about the timing of the next meeting which they are to attend.
- Administrative presence: The District administration should ensure attendance of Group A and B officers in all the Gram Sabha meetings. With administrative presence in Gram Sabhas, grievance redressal is bound to become a part of the effort. A separate facility to register the complaints and a predictable resolution mechanism would help the Gram Sabha to focus on its core functions.
- Augmenting people’s participation in Gram Sabhas: Efforts should be made to ensure maximum attendance of all eligible citizens in the Gram Sabha meetings. The minimum quorum for the meeting should be 10% of the members out of which at least 30% should be females. Digital/virtual means of citizens’ participation like video-conferencing systems through mobile applications, etc., wherever possible
and permissible, may also be considered. The services of elected representatives. SHGs, ASHA workers, Rozgar Sahayaks, etc., should be utilised to create
awareness about participation in the Gram Sabhas.
To improve participation in Gram Sabhas, various events like medical check-ups, demonstrations of rural technology projects, inspection visits to schools/health centres, awards for exemplary performance of citizens etc., could be considered for being accompanied with the Gram Sabha meetings.
- Incentivising Ward Members/Elected Members: All the ward members/elected representatives of the Gram Panchayats should invariably be made members of these sub-committees, with each ward member not occupying die position in more than two sub-committees. A suitable remuneration to the ward members/elected representatives for their services must be provided from the State Government funds / Own Source of Revenues (OSRs) of the Gram Panchayats. It is also important to constitute the necessary standing sub-committees for the effective functioning and monitoring of the programmes and schemes implemented at the GP level. In most of the States, Gram Panchayats have constituted standing committees including Finance and Planning Standing Committee; Education and Public Health Standing Committee; Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Standing Committee; Industry and Infrastructure Standing Committee; Women. Child Development and Social Welfare Standing Committee. The constitution of necessary sub-committees formed in the Gram Panchayats is also bound to bring greater vibrancy to the Gram Sabhas.
- To ensure effective functioning of the Gram Panchayats. it is important to revitalise the Gram Sabhas as an assembly of the village. Bringing transparency, responsibility, and accountability in panchayat functioning and its functionaries, would go a long way in creating Gram Panchayats as engines of socio-economic growth in the rural areas. Vibrant Gram Sabhas could also chart ways for achieving India’s Sustainable Development Goals by facilitating their localisation to the Gram Panchayat level. The suggested recommendations such as increasing the frequency of Gram Sabhas, formation of Agenda and Action Taken Report, awareness generation, etc., are bound to provide momentum to the functioning of Gram Sabhas.
- Moreover, MoPR is in the process of developing an integrated, real-time online system which would not only facilitate effective scheduling of Gram Sabhas, but also exhort the citizens to utilise Gram Sabhas to participate in decision-making process. By facilitating participative democracy, the Gram Sabhas will not only contribute to the socio-economic development of the villages, but also create collective transformational change in the rural areas of the country.