Peter, a student of the 5th grade had done badly in the term-end exam. The headmistress had a detailed discussion with Peter’s class teacher on whether he should be kept back and not sent to the 6th grade. The class teacher advised that Peter had been ill that month, but was really bright and deserved to go up to the 6th grade.
Why did the headmistress consult the class teacher? Naturally, because the class teacher meets Peter everyday and knows what he needs in order to succeed. The headmistress doesn’t know Peter all that well because she’s in charge of other classes too.
It is precisely on this principle that the system of local governments is formed.India is a vast country with a huge population: there are rich people, poor people, people from different religions, different castes, from urban citizens to forest dwelling tribes and many more categories. A single central government can’t possibly deal with this vastness and variety.
Hence India has a federal structure, where there are governing bodies at lower levels. The administrative hierarchy is something like this:
Centre —> State —> District —> Taluka (block) —> Village (Panchayat).
The central government is the policy maker and makes important decisions for the nation. It makes decisions about big issues like whether the country should be a nuclear power and what kinds of infrastructure should be implemented to benefit everybody.
At the other end is the village panchayat which chiefly deals with its own village. This group of villagers are in charge of asking the state government for the needs of the village.
It is funded by the state government and the central government and must abide by the state and central government laws.
Benefits of Panchayat –
- Reduces poverty by addressing needs at a grass root levell.
- Better use of local resources.
- People are directly involved in their local government.
A village council system is maybe as old as Indian civilization but somehow got lost over time. With the efforts of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the 73rd Amendment Act came into force in 1993 and the Panchayati Raj system was part of the constitution. It aims to reach even the smallest and remotest village.
STRUCTURE OF THE VILLAGE PANCHAYAT
Each village has a gram sabha made up of people in an area over the age of 18 and are citizens of India. The gram sabha is represented by a panchayat and elects a president who is the sarpanch. The panchayat is further divided into wards, smaller areas with its own representatives or ward panchs. Together the ward panchs and the sarpanch make up the gram panchayat.
There is a panchayat at the village, intermediate and district level. In states with population below 20 lakhs, there would be panchayats at the village and district level only. Members of the panchayat (five in number) would be elected by the people. The panchayat would be headed by the sarpanch or village headman.
The panchayat can plan and implement schemes related to agriculture, cottage industries, fisheries, rural housing and electrification, clean drinking water for all, poverty alleviation, adult education, health and sanitation, and welfare of the weaker sections such as remote forest tribes in their area.
The 73rd Amendment Act is an attempt to restructure the Panchayati Raj to affect administration at the grassroot level. In many cases it has succeeded. For example in Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra, under the guidance of Anna Hazare, the villagers of this arid land contributed their labour (shramdaan) to create rainwater catchment areas. This gave the villagers employment as well as much needed water reserves.
Attempts are being made to provide employment so that the village youth do not migrate to cities. It is also heartening to see the village women actively involved in the business of the panchayat.
This picture depicts the Panchayati Raj undertaking village development Projects.
Elect your class panchayat (your teacher will be able to help you with the process). Make one of them the sarpanch. The panchayat must then get to work, motivate the entire class to win the ‘Best Classroom Competition’ amongst your standard.
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