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Strengthening of Panchayati Raj System in India
1/11/2021 10:55:52 PM
Dr. Rajkumar Singh

The premiership of Rajiv Gandhi provided life blood to the dying institutions of Panchayati Raj. He had always taken special care to project an image of a dynamic young man interested in futuristic techno-economic policies inspired by modern technology in such fields as computers, telecommunications and bio-technology. Under him India’s quest for techno-economic and socio-cultural modernity gave rise to the necessity of a series of inventions amongst which the idea of democratic decentralisation and its institutional manifestation in the form of Panchayati Raj Institutions deserves to be ranked very high. To revitalise the PRIs Prime Minister himself took initiatives and five workshops were organised between December 1987 and June 1988 at different places in the country on the broad theme of ‘Responsive Administration’. He laid special emphasis on the development of rural India and a Committee on Administrative Arrangements for Rural Development (CAARD) was constituted on 31 March 1985 with G.V.K. Rao as its chairman. The Committee, in its report, pointed out that the decline of PRIs may be attributed to the reluctance of political leadership at the state level to share powers with district leadership. Another committee was also set-up in June 1986 headed by L.M. Singhvi to prepare a concept paper on the revitalisation of the Panchayati Raj Institutions. After exhaustive preparations it took the form of 64th Constitutional Amendment Bill which could not be enacted due to the lack of support in the Rajya Sabha.
Political background of reforms
In a fresh general election the congress party again came to power with P.V.Narasimha Rao as the new Prime Minister. He spelled out in May 1991 the new economic agenda of privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation of Indian economy. Globalisation may be broadly seen as a process that widens the extent and form of cross-border transactions among people’s assets, goods and services that deepens economic interdependence between and among globalising entities. True economic globalistion involves a qualitative shift towards a system based on a consolidated global market place for production distribution and consumption rather than on autonomous national economies. The emerging implications of the liberalisation process which had begun in the early 1990s, are far more evident in terms of the resultant of new economic policy and change in the historical – ideological orientation of our political economy. Though considerable progress has been achieved in terms of higher growth rate and GDP, the basic needs and the crucial concerns of the core sectors of Indian economy such as agriculture and textiles affected millions of people pose a challenge to the successive governments. Developed countries erect obstacles to trade in particular, barriers to trade in agricultural products and textiles. The West, under the guise of globalisation, pushes the developing countries to open their markets. But they raise barriers of entry into their markets. Globalisation the way it is practiced, encourages an unequal distribution of power and wealth among the countries of the world.
Globalisation and Panchayati Raj
In the word-wide atmosphere of globalisation India enacted the Constitution Seventy–third Amendment Act in 1992 and having got president’s assent it came into effect from 24th of April 1993. The necessity of its passing arose in view of the ineffectiveness of the PRIs which failed to gain the status and dignity of liable and responsive people’s bodies. The new amendment, has, accordingly provided for the constitution and composition of the Panchayats at various levels, reservation of seats for weaker sections, regular elections, devolution of power, authority and responsibilities, constitution of Finance Commission to review financial position and regular audits of Panchayats, etc. The Provision of the Act can be broadly classified into two heads – the provisions which are mandatory for the states and the areas which have been left for the state legislatures to take decisions keeping in view the socio-economic conditions and other factors of their state. The two amendments – 73rd and 74th have the rich potential to transform the character of democracy from a representative to a participatory one. Regarding devolution of power the amendments are aimed to transfer the power from the dominant group to the weak and the meek. It is a power shift from men to women, from the upper caste to the Dalits.
Negative aspects of globalisation pose a challenge and danger as well for the Panchayati Raj Institutions at large in rural areas where people are unable to understand the complexities of globalisation. Grassroot leaders are not aware of the implications of the process of globalisation and Panchayats are victims of the globalisation process. On water mining, sand mining and many other issues, the Panchayats are not able to do anything. If Panchayat representatives have sufficient knowledge about globalisation, they will take steps to avoid threats, if any and at the same time, they will make use of the opportunity if any. In addition there is a wide gap between globalisation and devolution of power at rural level. Globalisation works for the rich and decentralisation works for the poor and at this stage a mass movement is needed for decentralisation.
Need of the reforms
The Indian agriculture and its related work force has also been adversely affected by the spread of globalisation. Like India in many traditional societies agriculture is not considered merely as an occupation but a major source of livelihood and for the vast majority a way of life. The traditional relationship between the people, land and agriculture has emotive overtones and any careless tampering with this delicate subject could unleash waves of violence and social disruption. Its direct result is the increase of insecurity of individuals, groups and nations in various domains-economic, financial, culture, employment, legal, social, health care, ecological, political and personal. And this is why the concept of globalisation is encountering resistance from various interest groups-environmentalists, labour leaders, cultural traditionalists, religious leaders of different persuasions and non-government officers. In rural areas it has put intense downward pressure on the wages of the unskilled and less skilled labours making the gap between the rich and the poor wide. To get the best out of globalisation, nations must learn to govern better along with the nations of the world as it does not aim just about the growth in GDP but about sustainable, democratic and equitable development.
Today even in rural areas technology has made a significant impact on the lives of consumers. With television and the internet extending their reach to rural India, People are better informed and their aspirations have changed. The changing face of Indian society is bringing with it new challenges and opportunities. In the circumstances, decentralisation the heart of Panchayati Raj system, will work effectively and to the best of our hope if I. there is a strong presence of a middle class; II. land reform is done; III. larger pressure of civil society organisations is ensured; IV. high literacy rate is ensured; and V. adequate powers and finances are with the grassroots, institutions. In India a new proposition is emerging in this direction and we hope it to be a success in the shortest possible span of time.
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