Question: In absence of a well-educated and organized local level government system, `Panchayats’ and ‘Samitis’ have remained mainly political institutions and not effective instruments of governance. Critically discuss.
Answer: India has a three level governance structure that involves decision making in form of Centre, State and local bodies. Even after three decades of its existence, local bodies are accused as political institutions without any substantial powers to make decisions. But this opinion needs serious reconsiderations.
Panchayats and local institutions as toothless political institutions
- Absence of independent law making powers
Panchayats are at the mercy of state governments when it comes to making rules regarding local bodies. The state legislature is empowered to make laws related to anything that concerns local governance. This reduces the independent nature of working of panchayats, making it just a puppet institution.
- Lack of taxation and administration powers
Administration is carried out by state governments without any substantial contribution from panchayats. To carry out development and improvement, a vast amount of resources is needed which cannot be independently obtained by these panchayats due to absence of taxation powers.
Importance of role of Panchayats
- Ground level implementation
Eventhough panchayats act merely at the instance of state government, they have an important role of implementing government orders and steps at the ground level. Due to this feature, the positive measures and steps reach the poorest sections of our society. This role played by panchayats cannot be ignored.
- Identification of beneficiaries
Due to the nature of interaction, panchayats are most equipped to identify the beneficiaries of government welfare. This makes their existence more important as proper identification of beneficiary is the foundation for a successful government scheme.
It is necessary to look forward to giving more powers to local government such as panchayats, municipality etc as they are better equipped to handle the ground level challenges.
Thus, Panchayats are not just political institutions as believed by some sections. Their role in our governance structure is unique and strategic. But they require more powers in order to make substantial contribution in the future.