Gram Sabha

Why Devolution Of Power To Panchayats Not Being Done In Jharkhand?

In November 2010, the Arjun Munda led government finally held the Panchayat Elections, after a gap of more than 3 decades in Jharkhand, but we won’t count that period as State was part of Bihar. But, even after the formation of Jharkhand in November 2000, the State Government took more than a decade to hold the Panchayat Elections. Now in November 2011, one year since the elections were finally held, we do not see any devolution of real power to the 3 tier Panchayat System, namely, Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad.

Gram Sabha
Gram Sabha

But why, State Government led by its elected representatives, viz., Members of Legislative Assembly (M.L.As.), the bureaucrats and few other behind-the-scene-people, are so reluctant to share the power with the newly (though they were elected a year ago) elected members of 3 tier Panchayat System in Jharkhand?

Well, to understand that let us look at the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension To The Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 or PESA that shall come into effect as and when the constituents of the State Government decides to delegate the powers to 3 tier Panchayat system.

Means:

An Act to provide for the extension of the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the Panchayats to the Scheduled Areas. (Please Note: Many areas of Jharkhand falls under this PESA Act). Be it enacted by Parliament in the 47th year of the Republic of India.

Short title:

1. This Act may be called the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996

Definition:

2. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, “Scheduled Areas” means the Scheduled Areas as referred to in Clause (1) of Article 244 of the Constitution.

Exceptions and modifications to part IX of The Constitution:

Notwithstanding anything contained under Part IX of the Constitution, the Legislature of a State shall not make any law under that Part which is inconsistent with any of the following features, namely:-

(a) a State legislation on the Panchayats that may be made shall be in consonance with the customary law, social and religious practices and traditional management practices of community resources;

(b) a village shall ordinarily consist of a habitation or a group of habitations or a hamlet or a group of hamlets comprising a community and managing its affairs in accordance with traditions and customs;

(c) every village shall have a Gram Sabha consisting of persons whose names are included in the electoral rolls for the Panchayat at the village level;

(d) every Gram Sabha shall be competent to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people, their cultural identity, community resources and the customary mode of dispute resolution;

(e) every Gram Sabha shall:

  • (i) approve of the plans, programmes and projects for social and economic development before such plans, programmes and projects are taken up for implementation by the Panchayat at the village level;
  • (ii) be responsible for the identification or selection of persons as beneficiaries under the poverty alleviation and other programmes;

(f) every Panchayat at the village level shall be required to obtain from the Gram Sabha a certification of utilisation of funds by that Panchayat for the plans, programmes and projects referred to in clause(e);

(g) the reservation of seats in the Scheduled Areas at every Panchayat shall be in proportion to the population of the communities in that Panchayat for whom reservation is sought to be given under Part IX of the Constitution;

  • Provided that the reservation for the Scheduled Tribes shall not be less than one-half of the total number of seats;
  • Provided further that all seats of Chairpersons of Panchayats at all levels shall be reserved for the Scheduled Tribes;

(h) the State Government may nominate persons belonging to such Scheduled Tribes as have no representation in the Panchayat at the intermediate level or the Panchayat at the district level:

  • Provided that such nomination shall not exceed one-tenth of the total members to be elected in that Panchayat;

(i) the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be consulted before making the acquisition of land in the Scheduled Areas for development projects and before re-settling or rehabilitating persons affected by such projects in the Scheduled Areas; the actual planning and implementation of the projects in the Scheduled Areas shall be coordinated at the State level;

(j) planning and management of minor water bodies in the Scheduled Areas shall be entrusted to Panchayats at the appropriate level;

(k) the recommendations of the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be made mandatory prior to grant of prospecting licence or mining lease for minor minerals in the Scheduled Areas;

(l) the prior recommendation of the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be made mandatory for grant of concession for the exploitation of minor minerals by auction;

(m) while endowing Panchayats in the Scheduled Areas with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government, a State Legislature shall ensure that the Panchayats at the appropriate level and the Gram Sabha are endowed specifically with-

  • (i) the power to enforce prohibition or to regulate or restrict the sale and consumption of any intoxicant;
  • (ii) the ownership of minor forest produce;
  • (iii) the power to prevent alienation of land in the Scheduled Areas and to take appropriate action to restore any unlawfully alienated land of a Scheduled Tribe;
  • (iv) the power to manage village markets by whatever name called;
  • (v) the power to exercise control over money lending to the Scheduled Tribes;
  • (vi) the power to exercise control over institutions and functionaries in all social sectors;
  • (vii) the power to control over local plans and resources for such plans including tribal sub-plans;

(n) the State Legislations that may endow Panchayats with powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government shall contain safeguards to ensure that Panchayats at the higher level do not assume the powers and authority of any Panchayat at the lower level or of the Gram Sabha;

(o) the State Legislature shall endeavour to follow the pattern of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution while designing the administrative arrangements in the Panchayats at district levels in the Scheduled Areas.

As one goes through the above mentioned provisions of PESA, then one could understand the immense reluctant on part of State Government to delegate their financial and administrative powers to the 3-tier Panchayati system, in last decade since 2000 and even a year after the Panchayat elections were held.

No one likes to share the “financial-power” and the “administrative-power”, more so the ruling-elite who have got used to these perks.

We are reminded of our country’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s grand statement, to quote he said, “There has been a systemic failure in giving tribals a stake in the modern economic processes that inexorably intrude into their living spaces……… The systematic exploitation and social and economic abuse of our tribal communities can no longer be tolerated………..”

But then harsh-reality of Jharkhand is difficult to be ignored. A State Government that simply talks too much and does too little.

Sameer Bhagat
Join me

Sameer Bhagat

Author, Salvaging Adidweep.
Sameer Bhagat
Join me
Sameer Bhagat

Written by

Author, Salvaging Adidweep.

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