Q. 1. Discuss the main features of Panchayati Raj System with reference to the 73rd Constitutional Amendment.
Ans. The 73rd Amendment passed by the Parliament in December 1992 constitutes a major milestone in the history of rural local government in India. The 73rd Amendment became operative from 24 April 1993. In the Constitution, Part-IX and Schedule XI have been inserted with contains certain provisions for Panchayat bodies at village, intermediate and district level. Some of the important provisions contained in the Act are:
1. Constitutional Sanction to democracy at the grass-root level. The 73rd Amendment Act has sought to provide constitutional sanction to democracy at the grass-root level by inscribing in the Constitution a new part and a new schedule relating to Panchayats in the Constitution. Before the passage of this Act, the Panchayats in India did not enjoy constitutional sanction.
2. Definition of Gram Sabha. The 73rd Amendment Act provides the definition of Gram Sabha. According to it, “Gram Sabha means body consisting of persons registered in the electoral rolls relating to a village comprised within the area of Panchayat at the village level.”
3. Definition of Panchayat. According to 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, Panchayat means an institution of Self-Government constituted by the government for the rural area.
4. Constitution of Panchayati Raj Institutions.
The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act provides that the state government shall constitute Panchayati Raj institutions in its territory as under:
(a) A village Panchayat in every village level in rural area.
(b) Panchayat Samiti at the intermediate (Tehsil or Development Block) level.
(c) A Zila Parishad at the district level.
5. Direct Election of the Members. According to 73rd Amendment, all members of the Gram Panchayat are directly elected by the voters of the Gram Sabha. For this purpose, the territorial area of each Gram Panchayat is divided into territorial constituencies and one member is elected from each constituency. Minimum age of members of Panchayat is fixed at 21.
6. Reservation of Seats. (a) According to 73rd Amendment Act, seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes in proportion to their population in the Gram Panchayat. Not less than one third of the total number of the elected seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes shall be reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes.
(b) One seat is reserved for Backward Classes in a Gram Panchayat where population Backward Classes in the Gram Sabha area is more than 20 per cent of the total population of the Gram Sabha area.
(c) Not less than one-third (including the number of elected seats reserved for women belonging to the scheduled castes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Gram Panchayat shall be reserved for women.
7. Tenure of Panchayat. According to 73rd Amendment Act, the tenure of Panchayats in all the states is 5 years. If a Panchayat is dissolved or superseded before the expiry of its tenure, it is obligatory to hold election within 6 months. Next elections of the Panchayat must be held before its term is over.
8. Powers and Functions of the Panchayati Raj Institutions. According to 73rd Amendment, the state government shall give the Panchayats powers and functions relating to subjects mentioned in the 12th Schedule.
9. Sources of Income of Panchayats. The 73rd Amendment Act provides to the evolution of resources to local bodies and also empowers them to raise source resources of their own. Panchayats may be empowered by the State legislature to impose taxes and fees and duties and may assigned a share in state government taxes and grants-in-aid.
10. State Election Commission. For the supervision, superintendence and control of election staff of Panchayati Raj institutions, provision for the establishment of independent election commission at the state level has been made. The State Election Commission shall be appointed by the Governor and can be removed only in the manner prescribed for the Judge of the High Court.
11. Finance Commission. According to 73rd Amendment Act, the Governor of a state shall appoint Finance Commission to review the financial position of the Panchayats and make recommendations to the governor to improve the financial position of the Panchayats. The Finance Commission shall make recommendations for distribution of income of the state between the government and the municipalities and Panchayati Raj institutions.
12. District Planning Committee. The 73rd Amendment provides for the constitution of a District Planning Committee. District Planning Committee is responsible for the consolidated development plan for the district on the basis of development plans of muncipalities and Panchayati Raj institutions of the district.
13. Audit of Accounts of Panchayats. The Legislature of a state may be law, make provision with respect to the maintenance of accounts by the Panchayats and the auditing of such accounts.
14. Metropolitan Planning Committee. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act also provides for the constitution of Metropolitan Planning Committee for making development plans for a metropolitan area consisting of two or more municipalities and Panchayati Raj institutions.
15. Election Petitions. The 73rd Amendment has provided that the state legislature shall make law for the hearing of election petition pertaining to the election of municipalities and Panchayati Raj institutions.
16. Part not to apply to Certain Area. Nothing in this part shall apply to scheduled areas referred to in Clause (1) and the tribal areas referred to in Clause (2) of Article 244.
17. Bar to interference by Court in Electoral Matters. The 73rd Amendment Act puts a bar to interference by courts in electoral matters of Panchayats.
According to 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, the state government will have to amend their existing Panchayat Acts accordingly. All the state governments have enacted the fresh Panchayat legislators.
The Panchayati Raj, today, is functioning in all the states though there are inevitable variations from state to state. Following states have a three-tier structure— Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, Assam, Haryana, Manipur, Odisha and Kerala have a three-tier structure of Panchayati Raj while Jammu Kashmir, Sikkim, Tripura and Goa have only one-tier. The north-eastern states of Meghalaya and Nagaland have a traditional council of village elders and thus lie outside the network of modern Panchayati Raj institutions.
Conclusion. New Panchayati Raj system as introduced by the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act is a historical development in the Indian Political System. The most distinctive feature of the new system is that an election to constitute of Panchayat has to be completed before the expiry of its normal tenure of five years.
Q. 2. Write a note on Gram Sabha.
Ans. The Gram Sabha is the general body consisting of all the voters residing in the jurisdiction of Gram Panchayat which extends over one village or a group of villages. In some states, the Gram Sabha is a statutory body while in some others it is a nonstatutory body.
Office bearers. The Gram Sabha elects a Gram Pradhan for five years. He is also the Pradhan or Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat. The Gram Sabha also elects executive council known as Gram Panchayat.
Meetings. The Gram Sabha meets at least twice a year. One meeting is held in December after the harvesting of the Sawni crop and the second meeting is held in June after the Harhi crop. The Gram Pradhan has a right to call special meetings of the Gram Sabha. Quorum of the Gram Sabha meeting is 1/5th of the total members of the Gram Sabha.
Functions of Gram Sabha
Following are the main functions of the Gram Sabha:
(1) The Gram Sabha decides the broad policies for the development of the village.
(2) The Gram Sabha approves the annual budget of the village and it deliberates on the taxes proposed by the Gram Panchayat and votes on impositions of taxes or tolls.
(3) The Gram Sabha considers the audit report of the Gram Panchayat and also considers administrative report of the Gram Panchayat.
(4) The Gram Sabha elects the Pradhan and the Panches of the Panchayat.
(5) The Gram Sabha can remove the Pradhan and Panches of the Panchayat by passing a resolution by 2/3rd majority.
(6) The Gram Sabha promotes programme of adult education and family welfare within the village.
(7) The Gram Sabha promotes unity and harmony among all sections of the society in the village.
The Gram Sabha is supposed to work as a watchdog of the Gram Panchayat. But in practice, it is not functioning effectively and it also does not meet regularly. People show little or no interest in attending the meetings of the Gram Sabha. The microscopic minority dominates the show when Gram Sabha meetings are held. Iqbal Narain and P.C. Mathur observed that the Gram Sabha is yet to emerge as a forum of constructive criticism of the working of the Panchayati Raj institutions. Diwakar Committee has suggested that the Gram Sabha will have to be gradually brought into the picture by assigning to it a definite status.
Q. 3. Describe the composition, functions and sources of income of Gram Panchayat.
Ans. The Village Panchayat is the main institution for running the administration of local affairs of the village. At present, more than 2,50,000 Village Panchayats are working in India. In the past also the Panchayats were attached with great importance. The village administration was run by these Panchayats. The Panchayats, peformed their functions efficiently even in small village. With the advent of the Britishers, the Panchayats got a big setback. After 1880, the British rule in India made efforts to revive the local self-government system. It was only in cities that local self-government institutions were established. After Independence, our Government paid special attention towards this end.
Eighty per cent of India lives in the villages and if the conditions of the villages does not improve, the country cannot make any progress. Mahatma Gandhi stressed the need of establishment of Panchayats and of giving more powers to them. In 1952, the Punjab government established Panchayats in all the villages by passing a law to this effect. Steps were taken to establish Panchayats in other States also. At present there are more than two lakh and twenty five thousand Panchayats in India.
Composition. In Punjab, Panchayats have been established in all the villages whose population is two hundred or more than this. If the population of a village is less than 200 then a joint Panchayat of two villages is established. The size of the membership of the Gram Panchayat varies from 5 to 31. In Haryana, membership of the Panchayat is between 6 and 20 while in Punjab it is between 5 and 13. The membership of a Panchayat is fixed on the basis of the population of the villages. In Punjab, every Gram Sabha elects a Sarpanch and such number of Panches is as indicated below against each slab of population.
Reservation of Seats: (1) Seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes in proportion to their population in the Gram Panchayat.
Not less than 1/3rd of the total number of the seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes shall be reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes.
(2) Seats are reserved for Backward Classes in a Gram Panchayat where population of Backward Classes in the Gram Sabha area is more than 20 per cent of the total population of the Gram Sabha area.
(3) Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the scheduled castes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Gram Panchayat shall be reserved for women.
Election. The members of the Gram Panchayat are elected by the members of the Gram Sabha directly by secret ballot. Every adult who is a resident of the village has got the right to vote in the Panchayat elections. Any voter who is 21 years of age or more can contest the elction and become a member of the Village Panchayat.
Tenure. Before 73rd Amendment, the tenure of Panchayat in all the states was not uniform. Usually the members of a Panchayat were elected for a five year term. But according to 73rd Amendment, the tenure of Panchayat in all states is five years. If a Panchayat does not perform its functions properly, the Director of Panchayat can dissolve it. But election to the dissolved Panchayat must be held within six months.
Chairman. There is the head of the Panchayat who is called the Sarpanch. Other members of the Panchayat are called the Panches. Sarpanch is elected direcly by the voters. Offices of Sarpanches of Gram Panchayat in the district are reserved for Scheduled Castes in proportion to the population of Scheduled Castes to the total population of the district. Not less than one-third of the offices of Sarpanches of Gram Panchayat belonging to the Scheduled Castes shall be reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Caste. Not less than one-third of the total number of offices of Sarpanches in the district shall be reserved for women including the seats reserved for women belonging to Scheduled Castes. The offices of Sarpanches reserved shall be allotted by rotation to the different Gram Panchayats in such a manner as may be prescribed. The tenure of the office of the Sarpanch co-terminates with the term of the Gram Panchayat.
Functions of the Sarpanch: Following are the main functions of the Sarpanch:
(1) The Sarpanch is responsible for convening the meetings of the Gram Panchayat and preside over its meetings.
(2) The Sarpanch is responsible for convening the meetings of the Gram Panchayat and preside over its meetings.
(3) The Sarpanch is responsible for the maintenance of the records of the Gram Panchayat.
(4) The Sarpanch has the general responsibility for the financial and executive administration of the Gram Panchayat.
(5) The Sarpanch exercises administrative supervision and control over the work of the staff of the Gram Panchayat.
Quorum: The majority of the members of Gram Panchayat constitute the quorum for the meetings.
Procedure of Taking Decision. All the decision of the Panchayat are taken by an ordinary majority.
The Sarpanch has got the right to exercise a casting vote.
Meetings. The Panchayat must hold its meetings at least once a month and the Sarpanch presides over the meeting of the Panchayat.
Powers and Functions of the Village Panchayat.
Following are the main functions of the Village Panchayat:
1. Administrative Functions:
(a) It maintains peace and order in the village.
(b) It helps the police in the prevention of crimes and in the arrest of criminals.
(c) It can oppose the sale of wine in its jurisdiction by passing a resolution by 2/3rd majority.
(d) It keeps a watch on the work of the government officials in the village. The Village Panchayat can lodge a complaint to the Deputy Commissioner against the Patwari, Lambardar and Chowkidar if they do not perform their duties properly.
2. Public Welfare Functions:
(a) It makes sanitary arrangements in the village.
(b) It makes efforts for improving the helath of the people, and for this purpose, it opens hospitals and dispensaries. It also establishes child welfare and maternity centres. It makes arrangements for giving small pox and cholera vaccinations to the people.
(c) It makes arrangements for pure drinking water and for pouring medicine in the wells, tanks, etc.
(d) it makes arrangement for street and road lighting.
(e) It also makes arrangements for providing primary education to the children.
(f) It opens libraries and reading rooms in the village.
(g) It looks after the public places and makes arrangements for their sanitation.
(h) It makes arrangements for cremation and burial grounds.
(i) It gets trees planted and looks after them.
(j) It tries for the promotion of animal husbandry.
(k) It is also the duty of the Panchayat to work for the promotion of agriculture. It makes arrangements for good seeds and acquaints the villagers with improved and scientific methods of agriculture.
(l) It tries for the development of cottage industry so that unemployed villagers get employment.
(m) It tries to improve the social life of the people by eradicating social evils from the society.
(n) It helps people economically in case of floods, famine and drought.
(o) It makes arrangements for fairs, exhibitions, wrestling matches and kabaddi matches for providing recreation to the people.
(p) It constructs and maintains streets, roads and bridges in the village.
(q) It formulates and implements development programmes of the village.
(r) It works for the welfare of the backward sections of the village communities, especially the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
3. Judicial Powers. It decides minor civil and criminal cases within its areas. Now the villagers need not go to the tehsil or the District headquarters to get their disputes decided. In criminal sphere, the Panchayats can hear petty cases involving mischief, assault, theft of property, etc., on payment of prescribed fee. These fees are of a nominal nature.
They can hear civil cases of the value of ₹ 200. They can impose a fine upto ₹ 200. One thing is to be noted that the lawyers cannot appear before the Panchayats.
Both the parties are to appear before the Panchayat to plead their case. In criminal cases, the Panchayat can only impose a fine and it cannot sentence anybody to imprisonment. It can impose a fine up to ₹ 25 upon those who defy its orders. Normally, the decisions of the Panchayats are final but an appeal can be made to the court of District Magistrate with its prior sanction.
Sources of Income
The Panchayat needs money for the performance of its functions. It gets this amount from the following sources:
1. It gets 10 per cent of the total revenue collected from the village.
2. It imposes house tax.
3. Anybody who approaches the Panchayat for deciding a case is to pay a nominal fee. This fee is to be given in cash.
4. It imposes fines on the criminals and keeps that amount with it.
5. It gets profit from the sale of fertilisers.
6. It imposes tax on animals, vehicles, profession, etc.
7. Income from water, if provided.
8. Fees for use of rest houses.
9. Drainage fee.
10. It can get subscription from villagers for performing some important duty.
11. It imposes tax on village fairs, markets and exhibitions.
12. The Panchayats are given financial aid by the government annually.
13. The Panchayats issue various types of licences and get a fee for the same.
14. It takes money by selling the skin of dead animals.
Q. 4. How the Election of Municipalities is held? Explain its functions and sources of Income.
Ans. Municipal Committee or Council is the most important institution of urban government. The Municipal Committees are governed by the Municipal Acts of the states. The Municipal Committees are generally set up in those cities whose population is more than 20,000. At present there are more than 1,600 Municipal Committees in India.
Composition. The membership of the Municipal Committee is fixed by the state government on the basis of the population of the city. In U.P., The total members of the Municipal Committees vary from 20 to 45 according to population. Members of the Municipal Committees are elected on the basis of adult franchise. Every adult citizen who lives within the Municipal jurisdiction has the right to vote. There is a provision for reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the same proportion to the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in that Municipality, as the population of the Scheduled castes, in the Municipal area according to 74th Amendment. One-third of total elected seats are reserved for women. One seat is reserved for the Backward classes. All members of the Legislative Assembly of the state representing constituencies comprising wholly or partly the Municipal area are members of the Municipal Committee.
Qualifications. Only that person can contest the Municipal elections who possesses the following qualifications:
1. He should be a citizen of India.
2. He should have completed 21 years of age.
3. He should not hold any office of profit under the government or a Municipal Committee.
4. He should be a resident of that city and his name should exist in the voters’ list of that area.
Tenure. Before 74th Amendment, the tenure of Municipal Committee varied from three to five years.
In Punjab and Haryana, the tenure of Municipality is five years. The government can suspend or supersede the Municipal Committee even before the expiry of its term and can appoint an administrator to run the municipal administration.
President. The members of the Municipal Committee elect a President from among themselves.
The members of the Municipal Committee can remove the President from office by a majority vote. There are two Vice-Presidents of the Municipal Committee — the Senior Vice-President and the Junior VicePresident.
Secretary. There is a Secretary of the Municipal Committee who is given a fixed salary. He runs the day-to-day administration of the Municipal Committee. He is appointed by the Municipal Committee. In some Municipal Committees there is an Executive Officer instead of a Secretary. Besides this, there are many permanent officials in the Municipal Committee. For example, the Engineer, Health officer, Sanitary Inspector and Octroi Inspector, etc.
Functions of the Municipal Committee. The local bodies run the administration of local affairs.
The Municipal Committee is to perform the following functions:
1. Sanitation. The municipal administration is to look after the sanitary condition of the city. It is to ensure that the public roads are properly swept, cleaned and watered. Suitable arrangements are made for drainage and conservancy. For discharge of these functions, a Municipality maintains sanitary staff under a Chief Sanitary Inspector. The Municipalities have also the power to examine and approve the plans of houses proposed to be built in the town. It sees that houses are built according to scientific and sanitary principles. It is the fundamental duty of the Municipal Committee to look after the sanitary conditions of the city.
2. Public Health. The preservation of public health is a very important function of the Municipal Committee. The Municipal Committee makes arrangements for giving vaccinations of small pox to the people. Functions performed by it are establishment and maintenance of hospitals and dispensaries, vaccination, prevention of the outbreak of a disease, provision of public lavatories, prevention of the sale of adulterated food stuffs, provision of maternity and child welfare facility, etc. Every Municipality runs a medical department under the charge of a Health Officer.
3. Roads and Bridges. It makes arrangement for the construction of roads and bridges within its area. Pucca roads are constructed in the bazaars and the streets. It also gets the roads and the bridges repaired whenever necessary. It provides every facility to the people for the purpose of movement.
4. Education. The Municipal Committee also makes arrangements for providing education to the people. The establishment and maintenance of primary schools is one of the most important function of the Municipalities. Many Municipalities run colleges also. Reading rooms and libraries are also opened by the Municipal Committees. The Committees also give financial aid to the privately managed schools. Adult Education Centres are also opened by the Municipalities for educating the adults.
5. Water and Electricity. It is another important function of the Municipal Committee to make arrangement of pure drinking water of the area.
Previously, the Municipal Committees used to dig wells for this purpose but now water is supplied in the houses of the people. Arrangement of water pumps is made in streets, bazaars and on public places. The municipality also makes arrangement of providing street lights. The arrangement of supply of electricity nowadays is made by the State Government, but previously the Municipal Committee used to do all this.
6. Transport. People experience great difficulty in big cities in going from one place to another. The Municipal Committee makes arrangement of tramways to remove this difficulty of the public. It issues licences to rickshaws, tongas and autorickshaws.
7. Other Functions. (a) The Municipal Committee makes arrangements for cremation grounds.
(b) It makes arrangements for extinguishing the fire and maintaining fire brigade stations for this purpose.
(c) It makes arrangements for killing mad dogs and wild animals.
(d) It makes arrangements for playgrounds, parks and gardens.
(e) It approves plans for constructing houses.
(f) In big cities it makes arrangements for providing pure milk, vegetable oil and butter to the people.
(g) It also pays attention to the recreational activities of the people and makes arrangements for fairs, exhibitions and games for the people.
Sources of Income. The Municipal Committee requires a huge sum of money for the performance of its functions. It gets the money from the sources given below:
(a) Octroi. The main source of the income of a Municipal Committee is the octroi tax. This tax is imposed on all those things which come to the city from the village. This tax is imposed only upon those things about which the Municipality has already decided. The rate of octroi tax is different on different things.
(b) House Tax. The Municipal Committee imposes house tax on all the houses in its jurisdiction.
(c) Licence Fees. The Municipality imposes tax on the possession of certain things for example, tonga, cycle, rickshaw, tempo and other vehicles. The Committee issues licences to this effects.
(d) Toll Tax. In certain cities a tax is imposed on the use of a bridge or a stream. Such tax is very much imposed in Uttar Pradesh.
(e) Water and Electricity Tax. The Municipal Committee makes arrangement for the supply of water and electricity in the streets and bazaars and for this purposes it imposes water and electricity tax on the owners of the house. It charges separately for the consumption of water and electricity in homes.
(f) Professional Tax. It imposes tax on trade professions in its jurisdiction.
(g) Entertainment. The Municipal Committee imposes tax on theatres, cinemas and wrestling matches.
(h) Tax on Animals. It imposes tax on the possession of animals by the people.
(i) Income from its Property. The Municipal Committee has its own property also which is given on rent. The rent from property is a great source of income.
(j) Grants-in-aid from the State Government. The income of the Municipal Committee is not enough by which all its needs can be satisfied. Every year the State Government gives grants-in-aid to the Municipal Committees.