Rural India-Panchayat, Rural Government of India – Panchayati Raj
The term ‘Panchayat Raj’ is relatively new, having originated during the British administration. ‘Raj‘ literally means governance or government. Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayati Raj, a decentralized form of Government where each village is responsible for its own affairs, as the foundation of India’s political system. His term for such a vision was “Gram Swaraj” or Village Self-governance. It was adopted by state governments during the 1950s and 60s as laws were passed to establish Panchayats in various states. It also found backing in the Indian Constitution, with the 73rd amendment in 1992 to accommodate the idea.
The Amendment Act of 1992 contains provision for devolution of powers and responsibilities to the panchayats to both for preparation of plans for economic development and social justice and for implementation in relation to twenty nine subjects listed in the eleventh schedule of the constitution. The panchayats receive funds from three sources ie, local body grants, as recommended by the Central Finance Commission, funds for implementation of centrally-sponsored schemes, and funds released by the state governments on the recommendations of the State Finance Commissions.
A new situation is emerging in India. Very rarely in history have we come across such a constellation: an ascending economic trajectory, rising foreign exchange reserves, reducing inflation rates, global recognition of technological competence, energy of 540 million youth, umbilical connectivities of 20 million people of Indian origin abroad, and the interest shown by developed countries to invest in our engineers and scientists, including in new R&D centres.
Governments have been emphasising economic development by ensuring growth rates of seven-eight per cent annually, enhancing the welfare of farmers and workers and unleashing the creativity of entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers. This opportunity must be fully utilised to bridge the rural-urban divide, using knowledge as a tool. As such, I would like to focus “Empowering Rural India.”
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List of Indian States and Union Territories and Their Capitals
The term Panchayats implies the assembly of five wise people. In India the Panchayat has been an age-old institution for governance at village level. As per the 73rd Constitutional Amendment, PRI also known as the Panchayati Raj Institutions were strengthened with more areas of jurisdiction and authority and funds. These PRI’s had also been assigned the task of several development activities like health and population stabilization in the rural areas.
The Panchayat is one of the most vital authorities that are responsible for the health and sanitation areas of the villages. These Panchayats also have the Gram Sabha, which acts as a community level accountability mechanism. This also ensures that the functions of the PRI respond to people’s needs and their needs are taken care of.
The Panchayat in India has been given the powers and responsibilities at various levels and one of the most vital ones include the management of events and related festivities and functions. The responsibilities delegated to Panchayats at the appropriate level include the planning for economic development and social justice along with implementing the various schemes for the economic development and social justice. This responsibility has been given as per the 29 subjects in Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution.
The Panchayat is also liable for the collection of the taxes, duties and tolls and ensure they are levied and collected in a fair and just manner. The money collected through these modes is not only used for the development and health care of the rural sectors but it is also used for the organization of various events.
The panchayat is one of the most grass root levels of government authorities and it is also one of the rare groups, which communicates directly to the people also. Hence there is a certain amount of vigilance and alertness levels which the panchayat should maintain as a legal authority. For these reference and queries related to the people the government has made provisions for the setting up of libraries across the country. These libraries are the centers of learning for the people of the village and also for the panchayat.
The villages across India are suffering from the problems of medical facilities and medication and the main reason for the same is the lack of doctors and other experienced medical personnel to guide through the situation. But the panchayat of the states and district levels have made tremendous efforts to improve the conditions of the people in their village and provide them with medical aid also. Basically the idea behind the setting up of clinics in these areas can only be successful if the villages have a well maintained medical storage system and pharmacies. Even if the doctor is present and there are no medications or chemists available then there are no benefits of having the same.
Hence in an attempt to ensure drastic measures of checking and controlling epidemics the panchayats have encouraged the setting up of various pharmacies in the villages. This is basically very helpful for the people of the village because there are instances when epidemics of cholera and malaria spread through homes and there are not enough doctors present to treat patients. In such instances the pharmacies can provide general medications like immunity shots or medicines suggested by the doctors to the people. Also in cases where medical help arrives late these pharmacies are a boon for emergencies and ailments.
The village panchayat has various kinds of duties to perform and these include providing safe and clean drinking water, development of child and woman, provision for small scale and village industries and endless other similar options. But one of the most vital functions of the Panchayat is to provide the villagers with various kinds of medical facilities. These facilities can be provided through options like clinics which are set up in various villages. Due to the limitation on population and sources of funds it is not possible for all villages to have hospitals with advanced features but there are options through which the panchayat can set up a clinic or clinics in their village for the welfare of the people.
These clinics are usually made from support of the state or central government but there are also industrialists and businessmen who have large holdings in these areas, and thus they help in setting up these clinics. But the setting up of the clinic is not the solution to the health problems of the villages and there is a need to provide regular medication and doctor’s aid here. It has usually been seen that the villages and their clinics lack proper medical care and doctors and people are still resorting to ancient methods of treatments, which can be slow and fatal at times.
Corruption and crime has increased in all avenues of life and the poor people are often the ones who are deprived of various opportunities and rights because of the same. To overcome these problems suffered by people and to ensure that all people are provided commodities at fair prices the Panchayats have what is called a panchayat market place. At this market place all the people of the village and from the neighboring villages also, get together to sell their goods and commodities. This market place is usually held once a week or a month, depending upon the area where the same is held and also on the needs of the people.
Through these means the Panchayat makes an attempt to regulate the prices of the unfair dealers who often charge exorbitantly for various products and thus cheat people who are not aware of these prices. Also there are many illiterate people in these villages who are not aware of calculating their prices and gains effectively. Such people usually get duped by various traders and businessmen and this attempt is made to put a halt on these illegal services.
The duty of the village and district panchayats are not restricted to the development and administration of the economy but it also spreads to various avenues like the development of the social and functional abilities of the people living in the jurisdiction, improvement of health and sanitation conditions and also improvement in the overall educational and vocational capacity of these villages. The Panchayats have been vested with various kinds of legal duties that need to perform and amongst these duties is also the need to perform various other kinds of activities which helps for the welfare of the people.
These services are not the legal duties of these panchayats but they are vital for the development of the abilities of the people of the village. There are various moral obligations and service factors which the panchayat should commence and these also include improvement in the lifestyle of the villagers.
There are different kinds of Panchayat programs implemented by the government of various states. These programs are implemented keeping in mind the financial and social condition of the area and the efforts of the members of the Panchayat also. There are various kinds of groups from different parts of the State coming together at various Panchayats so that they can improve business and trade in the area and also involve the youth in development of the same. Various Panchayat leaders and representatives of youth clubs, functioning under the umbrella of the government and formulate various kinds of plans to improvise the economical situation of the area.
Efforts are also made to tie up different self-help groups and individual entrepreneurs from various districts and villages to promote rural-oriented businesses. Under the programs of these rural business hubs different kinds of activities like the production of compressed bricks, sources of natural food nutrients and related products and other similar kinds of productions in the village. These products are usually the specialty of these villages and these are implemented for promoting more profitable business for the villagers.
There are thousands of Panchayats in a huge country like India but the criteria for rating the Panchayat as good or bad is done on the basis of the services that they perform. There are about 400 to 1500 families covered under each Panchayat and this segregation is done on the basis of the number of houses, which constitutes of a single family. An important consideration here is that the number of families covered by each family also takes into account the number of family members.
There are some Panchayats where the numbers of families are less but the number of people in each family is more and thus there is an increase in the population of the village. Usually the Panchayat that has covered maximum number of un-electrified households by Solar Lanterns, SPV Home Lighting Systems and SPV Street Lighting Systems, are considered to be efficient as these are essential for meeting lighting energy needs for most families.
There are various kinds of surveys carried out by the state and the Central government to check on the working of the Panchayats and to keep a track of their jurisdiction. These surveys help the government and the Panchayats to see if their implemented welfare programs and educational programs are providing the villagers with any results or advantages. These surveys are also vital for keeping crime and corruption in check because there are instances where the villagers have been denied various kinds of rights on the basis of religion or social status.
It is not possible for all human beings to think the same way and the procedure of justice is thus often dominated by malpractices. Through these surveys the government is able to see it their efforts are bearing any fruit and if the people are actually getting any advantages from the same.
There are various kinds of complaint matters and issues which are related to the Panchayats. Complaints regarding the Panchayats are not always related to the members of the Panchayat but also include the complaint list of the villagers, complaints against various welfare programs or educational programs held by the Panchayat and even the complaints of the members of the Panchayat against the government or any other organization.
But the Panchayats tackle these problems in various ways and ensure that the complaints of all their people are registered with the Panchayat and action against the same is taken. The Panchayat maintains a list of the various complaints which are registered with them and also categorize them on the basis of their priority and the duration or tenure since, which the complaint has been laying with them.