TODAY -

PRI and the Mission – “Go to Village”
- Imphal Times Editorial :: May 11 2018 -



73rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution, which came into effect on 23 April, 1993, created a three-tier structure of Panchayati Raj.

The Act provided for mandatory conduct of panchayat elections to the three tiers – district, intermediate and village – every five years, the setting up of a State Election Commission, a State Finance Commission and reservation of not less than one-third of the elective seats of members and chairpersons for women, and for SC and ST persons in each district in proportion to their population.

The Constitution, moreover, provided for devolution of powers upon panchayats. Article 243 G of the Constitution.

A 243 G powers, authority and responsibilities of panchayats – Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, the legislature of a State may, by law endow the panchayats with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self government and such law may contain provisions for the devolution of powers and responsibility upon panchayats, at the appropriate level, subject to such conditions as may be specified therein, with respect to (a) the preparation of plans for economic development and social justice, and (b) the implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice as may be entrusted to them, including those in relation to matters listed in the Eleventh Schedule.”

According to the Expert Committee on Leveraging Panchayats for Efficient Delivery of Goods and Services, headed by Mani Shankar Aiyar, which gave its report in April 2013, Article 243 G “calls” for “Panchayats” to be endowed with the required power and authority function as “institutions of self government” for planning and execution of economic development and social justice, pertaining to the 29 subjects listed in schedule XI, whether in respect of devolution to PRIs through Central Government schemes, or through devolution to the PRIs through State Governments”.

The provision relating to grassroots planning contained in Article 243 ZD, is to be read with Article 243 G.

We Manipur follow a two tier system while running the PRI. This is as per the adaptation to the tradition of the state.

The enthusiastic ‘Go to Village” mission is something which would not have been required had the PRI function properly.

The existence of PRI lost its significance until Chief Minister N. Biren Singh launched the Go to Village mission to fulfil the desires of the people and to address their grievances at grassroots.

His assumption to reach out the citizens by visiting them at their door steps by the official concerns. His mission is to cover all the villagers and find out the problems of the citizens.

It is a real good initiative. But when one ponder upon why the chief Minister is starting then mission when there is a local body to take up what he had been doing so appears as his lack of understanding about the presence of local body like the Panchayat or the Gram Sabha.

There were also reports that some of the Panchayat members who were elected have not been invited at the launching function of the go to Village Mission at their places.

This creates apprehension among the people if the “go to village mission” is strategy to skip the Panchayat body.

Well, words of appreciation pour from almost every section of people when Chief Minister N. Biren Singh announced his government mission “Go to Hill”, which also pointed the failure of the Autonomous District Council. Next comes the “Chief Minister Gi Hakcshel Tengbanf” – an exclusively project to provide medical treatment to patient who cannot afford the medical cost due to poverty.

Arranging specific days in a month to meet the people directly to listen to the grievances is also another laudable works of the chief minister. And now it is the “Go to Village” Mission begins.

So far, so good. But certain things that the Chief Minister has taken up need to be critically examine.

Twenty years down the line, many things have changed. The subject of Panchayati Raj was dealt with by a division in the Ministry of Rural Development till mid-2004.

The earlier years saw focus on the implementation of certain provisions, such as conduct of elections under the 73rd Amendment as well as the Panchayat’s Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, which was passed in December 1996.

Even during those early years, the Central Government was mindful of the need for grassroots planning as well as devolution of powers and functions under Article 243 G.

It was equally clear that the spirit of the law envisaged empowered panchayats and vibrant Gram Sabhas.

It was also equally clear that empowerment would result not only from a generalised devolution from State governments, but that this devolution would work only if there was clarity of roles among the two tiers.

The “Go to Village” will serve its motto if the goal is to make PRI strengthens. Centralisation of power will not help in keeping the Democracy – a healthy one.



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