Panchayathi Raj: Mile stones

1950:

Article 40 of Indian Constitution (Part IV, Directive Principles of State Policy), explains the need to organize village panchayats as ‘units of self government’.

1952:

Launched the ‘Community Development Programme’.

Balwantrai Mehta Committee (1957) was constituted to evaluate the Community Development Projects and the National Extension Service to understand how far these programmes succeeded in utilising local initiatives and in building adequate institutional mechanisms to improve the economic and social conditions in rural areas.

K. Santhanam Committee (1963) was appointed to examine the financial capacity of the PRIs (Panchayati Raj Institutions) seeing that the rich resources of revenue are pre-empted by higher levels of government.

Ashok Mehta Committee (1978) was created for suggesting measures to strengthen PRIs. (The Committee recommended a decentralised system – a two-tier system – to support the PRIs).

G.V.K. Rao Committee (1985) was formed to study and to generate a comprehensive picture of the PRIs. (The Committee suggested that the PRIs must concentrate on rural development issues).

L.M. Singhvi Committee (1986) conducted a study on the PRIs and recommended that the “Gram Sabha” should be treated as the base of a decentralised democracy on the one hand, and the PRIs should be considered as institutions of self-governance for facilitating peoples’ participation in the process of planning and development on the other.

The suggestion of giving constitutional status to the panchayats was opposed by the Sarkaria Commission (1983), which was constituted to examine the centre-state relations and to suggest relevant constitutional changes.

1989:

Rajiv Gandhi introduced the 64th Constitutional Amendment Act in the Parliament to give the PRIs a constitutional status. But the Bill was defeated in the Rajya Sabha.

The 73rd & 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts passed by the Narasimha Rao government in 1992 and they came into force in 1993 (on April 24 and June 1 respectively). The initiatives meant to provide constitutional status to the PRIs and to establish democracy at the grassroots level. As the Bill endorsed, the Panchayats and Municipalities came under Part IX of the Constitution.

1993-1994:

All state governments passed conformity acts.

1994: The enactment of Kerala Panchayat Raj Act & The Kerala Municipality Act in tune with the constitutional changes made in 1993.

1996:

In July, the Left Democratic Government, under the leadership of E.K Nayanar, appointed a committee under the chairmanship of S.B Sen for a comprehensive overhaul of the legislation on local self-governments.

The Sen Committee laid down the basic principles of decentralised planning as follows; autonomy, subsidiarity, role clarity, complementarity, uniformity, people’s participation, accountability and transparency.

1996:

Launched the People’s Plan Campaign (PPC) to trigger the process of decentralisation in the state. The Campaign initiated by the transfer of one-third plan resources of the State to the local governments in the ninth five-year plan. The State budget of Government of Kerala set apart a small amount of untied funds to draw local plan projects by the local governments. It was a milestone in the history of decentralisation in the state.

1999:

Based on the Sen Committee Report the Government of Kerala amended the Kerala Panchayat Raj & Municipality Acts. The GoK institutionalized the new development culture through decentralized planning.
As Thomas Issac (1999), one of the main architects of decentralised planning in Kerala, explained: 1) the GoK has earmarked 35-40 per cent of the plan outlay of the Ninth Plan towards the projects drawn up by local self-governments – the funds given by the government to the local bodies comprised three components: General Sector Plan (GSP), Special Component Plan (SCP) for Scheduled Caste and Tribal Sub Plan (TSP). 2) the devolution of funds has enhanced the autonomy of local bodies. 3) the central function of planning has been assigned to the local bodies. 4) the planning system is based on the maximum participation of people and on transparency. 5) the local bodies have been encouraged to supplement the grants-in-aid with as many additional resources as possible from other sources, including beneficiary or voluntary contribution of money, material and manpower.

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