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73rd Amendment:administrative Decentralisation 

Making the 73rd amendment work


  • Historical overview
  • The first few editions of the FYPs envisaged decentralised, participation-oriented planning
  • The subsequent FYPs switched to centrally directed, and administered, intervention strategies
  • Schemes: Community Development Programme (1952); the National Extension Service (1953); the Intensive Agricultural District Programme (1960); the Intensive Agricultural Area Programme (1966); the Small Farmer Development Agencies (1972); the National Rural Employment Programme (1980)
  • The policy shifts, organisational changes and programme innovations have  not succeeded in ensuring a desirable degree of self-governance at the grass-roots level
  • The key to enabling people’s participation in the development related decision-making process lies in reordering the policies so as to make self-government a reality at the local level.
  • Apart from the quantitative targets, quality and sustainability of the programme should also be objectives.
  • Need for decentralised planning at the district and local levels
  • Focus on the education system as a key agent of change in power and society
  • Professionalisation of civil services, with accent on performance, productivity and empowerment of the downtrodden

Grassroots Democracy in India: An Assessment

  • Origin of grassroots level democracy dates back to the Vedic Age and has been fairly well documented in ancient scriptures
  • Under the British LSG in rural areas did not make much progress
  • Gandhi’s vision
  • DPSP Article 40
  • After independence, the Community Development Programme and National Extension Service were launched to address rural reconstruction efforts
  • BR Mehta committee stated that the community needs to be involved in planning, decision making and implementation process
  • However, PRIs across the country faced resistance from bureaucracy, lacked capacity and were often captured by certain elitist sections of the community
  • Ashok Mehta Committe described the post 1959 period in three phases
  • Ascendancy (1959-64)
  • Stagnation (1965-69)
  • Decline (1969-77)
  • The committee recommended that district should be the basic unit for planning, coordination and resource allocation and should be supported by technical expertise.
  • GVK Rao Committee
  • PRIs need to play an important role in rural development programmes


  • Gram-Sabha which is considered as the life-line of PRIs by directly reflecting people’s views and voices has to see a much higher level of participation by the entire community
  • Considerable discretion is vested in the state governments.
  • Several non obligatory provisions, like the representation of legislators and members of parliament in PRIs is affecting the true expression of village democracy
  • Adequate training and sustained handholding efforts are not extended to elected representatives. Hence, there is a lack of professionalism in handling administrative, financial and other related issues
  • Devolution of three Fs – Funds, Functions and Functionaries which is imperative for effective public service delivery has not yet taken place in many states

District Planning Committee

  • Its performance levels need to be improved by making the District Panchayat Chairman as its head and reducing the role of in charge ministers
  • There are structural weaknesses
  • A greater amount of political will is essential to enable these bodies to function as true democratic institutions
  • However, in certain parts of the country the PRIs have emerged as powerful vehicles for social transformation
  • In Karnataka, under the Participatory Rural Energy Services, Gram Panchayat members were trained to offer electricity support services and transfer best practices for water farming and electricity management
  • Integrated Rural Accessibility Planning in Orissa uses PRIs to improve access in rural areas
  • In UP mid-day meal programme is managed by the gram panchayats


  • Constitution of certain types of committees not in line with the spirit of the PRIs
  • Strengths of SHGs need to be integrated for improving the capability of the Panchayats (eg Kudumbshree)
  • An organic linkage between gram sabha and gram panchayat is yet to be forged
  • In many states GPs do not constitute viable administrative units due to their geographical areas and physical distances from potential growth centres
  • The higher outlays and number of programmes require a much higher level of capability and professionalism for delivering the desired results
  • Physical infrastructure also needs to be substantially improved at the Panchayat level for data maintenance, record keeping etc
  • Positive role played by the PRIs
  • PRIs are increasingly being recognised as the best alternative to implement several developmental programs  and of late GPs are made to play a pivotal role in the planning and implementation process
  • Social audits at PRI level have shown that people’s participation is both qualitatively and effectively resolving local problems

To conclude

  • While at some places we have very strong PRIs, at other end we have a large number of PRIs which are not in a position to perform effectively
  • Their effective performance depends on the three Fs
  • Since the devolution of the powers and functions are within the ambit of the State Government and the Act does not make it mandatory for the full fledged transfer of powers, the PRIs have not developed uniformly across the country
  • The establishment of SHGs in many states, the participation of NGOs and CBOs working together with PRIs is a promising trend which can improve the delivery of governing systems at the grass root level.

Women in PRIs

  • 33% reservation exists
  • Proposal to increase this to 50%
  • General observationsWomen PRI members have generally performed well throughout the country
  • Women panchayat representatives consistently demand for adequate supply of drinking water, housing and social welfare programmes, expenditure on these counts are relatively higher in women headed panchayats
  • ProblemsSecurity: Sometimes due to lack of security women members fail to visit remote areas in odd hours or attend meetings in far away places
  • Due to lack of exposure and experience may find difficult in asserting themselves
  • Used as puppet candidates

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