Panchayati Raj Institutions – the grass-roots units of self-government – have been proclaimed as the vehicles of socio-economic transformation in rural India. Effective and meaningful functioning of these bodies would depend on active involvement, contribution and participation of its citizens both male and female. Gandhiji’s dream of every village being a republic and Panchayats having powers has been translated into reality with the introduction of the three-tier Panchayati Raj system to enlist people’s participation in rural reconstruction. April 24, 1993 is a landmark day in the history of Panchayati Raj in India as on this day the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 came into force to provide constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj institutions.
Evolution of Panchayati Raj System in Assam:
The Rural Panchayat Act 1948. Under this system there were two tiers of Panchayats – Primary Panchayats at village level and Rural Panchayats at Mouza level.
Assam Panchayati Raj Act 1959: Under this act a three-tier system was introduced they are Gaon Panchayat, Anchalik Panchayat and Mohokuma Parishad.
Assam Panchayati Raj Act 1972: Under this system again a two-tier system was introduced they are Gaon Panchayat and Mohokuma Parishad
Assam Panchayati Raj Act 1986: Under this act again a three-tier system is introduced – Gaon Panchayat, Anchalik Panchayat & Mohokuma Parishad.
Assam Panchayat Act 1994: A three-tier system with Zilla Parishad has been introduced – Gaon Panchayat, Anchalik Panchayat and Zilla Parishad.
73rd Amendment Act, 1992
The Salient Features of the Act are :
a. To provide 3-tier system of Panchayati Raj for all the States having population of over 20 Lakhs.
Powers and Responsibilities:
According to the Constitution, Panchayats shall be given powers and authority to function as institutions of self-government. The following powers and responsibilities are to be delegated to Panchayats at the appropriate level :-
a. Preparation of Plan for economic development and social justice.
Structure of the Panchayati Raj System in Assam:
1. Members directly elected from the Zilla Parishad constituencies of the district.
Functions of the Panchayati Raj Bodies:
Members: Each committee shall consist of not less than three or more than four members elected from among the elected members of the Gaon Panchayats.
Functions: The standing committee shall perform the functions relating to the development of the rural areas and its people to the extent powers are delegated from the Gaon Panchayat.
Anchalik Panchayat: Three committees, they are
a. General standing committee.
Members: Each standing committee shall consists of such number of members not exceeding six including the Chairman, as may be specified by the Anchalik Panchayat and chosen by the Anchalik Panchayat from amongst its members.
Functions: The standing committee shall perform the functions relating to the development of the rural areas and its people to the extent powers are delegated from the Anchalik Panchayat.
a. General standing committee.
Members: Each standing committee shall consist of such number of members not exceeding five including the Chairman as specified by the Zilla Parishad from amongst its members whose terms will be one year at a time.
Functions: Standing committees shall perform functions to the extent, powers are delegated to them by the Zilla Parishad.
The Gram Sabha has been designed to be the place where villagers will discuss development issues, plan accordingly, initiate development programmes and select beneficiaries for the schemes.
Functions of Gram Sabha under Assam Panchayat Act, 1994: Gram Sabha shall consider the following matters and may make recommendations and suggestions to the Gaon Panchayats;
Ø The report in respect of development programme of the Gaon Panchayat relating to the preceding year and development programme proposed to be undertaken during the current year;
Ø Mobilising voluntary labour and contribution in kind and cash for the community welfare programmes.
Ø Gram Sabha shall meet from time to time but a period of three months shall not intervene between any two meetings.
Sources of income for Panchayats:
a. Share in land revenue.
Rural people has got a noble duty to ensure that the Panchayati Raj bodies can mobilize resources from the above sources so that these bodies can work for the socio economic development of the areas.
Reservations for Women:
73rd Amendment of the Constitution in the year 1992 reserved 33% seats for women in Panchayats. Accordingly, the provision has been incorporated under Assam Panchayati Raj Act. This provision is a major move towards strengthening the position of rural women. The introduction of women in sizable numbers into the new Panchayat could bring significant changes in the functioning of these grass-root level institutions. Involvement of women in the Panchayati Raj Institutions is expected to bring qualitative change in the matters relating to health nutrition, children welfare, family care, drinking water etc.
Reservations for SC/ST:
There is a mandatory provision for reservation of seats for SC/ST in every tier of Panchayati Raj System. The reservation for SC/ST is an another significant aspect for development of disadvantaged groups in the rural areas.
Role of Panchayats in Human Resource Development
a. Panchayati Raj Institution should ensure development of human resources by providing weak and under privileged opportunities like education, training, basic health services necessary for their growth and development.
Role of Panchayats in Social Mobilization and Participation for Development:
Panchayati Raj system has provided avenues for facilitating people’s participation at the grass-root level in the following ways:
a. Gram Sabha will provide an open forum for discussion on various village level development activities thereby ensuring peoples participation.
Panchayati Raj System and Micro Level Planning:
Planned development being an essential feature of Indian economy, Panchayati Raj Institutions have to play an effective role in the preparation of planning for socio economic development of the rural areas. Each tier has got responsibilities to plan for the socio economic development of the rural people as per their felt need.