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Seminar : Challenges in Local Self Government in Manipur
Last Date :: 1st December, 2018

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National Seminar on
Issues and Challenges in Local Self Government in Manipur


Organised by Centre for Manipur Studies,
Manipur University,
14-15 December, 2018(tentative)

Concept Note:

The term 'panchayat’ owes its genesis to pancha (5), a council of five village elders, vested with the authority to arbitrate disputes in the traditional village system, primarily in northern India. It is, however, difficult to say how old this village panchayat system is.

Malviya (1956), for instance, has referred to the mention of panchayats in ancient Indian scriptures such as the Puranas and the Vedas. India has had a tradition of the concept of village republics, of which Gandhi was a prominent proponent. These village level institutions were so close to the understanding of the villagers, that the need to understand the wider state dynamics as well the consequent outcome was not much of a concern to them.

It is with this conceptual understanding that the modern PRI institutions as well as other grass root bodies have been instituted all over India. And, today it is acknowledged as the biggest network of grass root democracy not witnessed anywhere else in the world.

In Manipur, in the valley area, traditional institutions like the Ahalup (group of elders), Naharup (group of youth), Singlup (locality clubs) formed the local self-government. They looked after the general administration of the village and also resolved petty disputes. According to Saponti Borthakur, “in December 1896, the singlups were replaced by panchayats. These Panchayats were constituted with five members.

These members were remunerated through free grant of land up to a maximum of 25 hectare. In 1906, a cash payment of rupees 15/- per month for each panchayat member was sanctioned in addition to the free grant of land. These panchayats had the power to impose fines up to fifty rupees.

“The apex panchayat at Imphal, known as Sadar Panchayat, adjudicated in civil cases of appeal. Under the Manipur State Courts Act, 1947, village panchayats were conferred with powers of the lowest court for the administration of justice in criminal and civil cases.”(Dialogue vol.5.no.4, 2004, pp 1-8)

There have been very progressive 73rd and 74th amendments mainly focusing on the devolution of powers to the lowest rung that is the gram panchayat. The legislations in the gazette notifications as well as in the continuous amendments in the Manipur Panchayati raj Act bring out a picture of true empowerment to these local bodies. But is the ground reality matching the progressive rules on the paper? Do we have Gram Panchayats which are vibrant and emanate the true purpose of village republics?

The hills too has had a tradition of self-rule at the grass root level. Although each tribe has had its own systems of administration, the existence of village council as well the role of elders in the village has been there for a very long time. The Manipur (village authority in hill areas) Act, was enacted way back in 1956, and elections to the village authority was fairly regular. Therefore there has been village level institutions in the hills too, since more than 5 decades.

The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, was enacted in 1971, but it remained non-functional for nearly 20 years. They were revived in 2012, when the first elections to the District Council took place. Although here the 73rd kind of legislation has not yet made its inroads, the presence of ADCs do make the villagers in the hills feel the presence of the state apparatus. But here too one needs to question as to in the ADCs what is the actual level of autonomy?

One common issue between both these local self-governments are tackling is the attempt to work in the conflict situation plaguing this society for so long.

Today it has been more than 5 decades since the establishment of PRIs as well as the village authority and nearly 6 years since the revival of ADCs in Manipur. One witnesses a series of hurdles in the functioning of the both. The time has come to re-look, critique as well as recommend certain reforms towards a better functioning as well as understanding of these institutions. It is with this aim that this seminar will be holding its deliberations.

The major sub-themes of this seminar are:

1. Origins and Genesis of Grass -root Institutions in Manipur
2. Panchayati Raj Institutions in Manipur: Problems and Prospects
3. Autonomous District Councils and Village Authorities: understanding through diverse ethnicities
4. Grass root institutions and the wider political scenario

Last date for Abstract submission: 1st December, 2018
Last date for submission of full paper: 7th, December,2018
Send your submissions to: manipurstudiesseminar(AT)gmail(DOT)com
For any further queries contact: vbrara11(AT)gmail(DOT)com


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