Why in news? There is a debate on powers of local elected officials remain curtailed by State governments and local bureaucrats in multiple ways, thereby diluting the spirit of the constitutional amendments aimed at local empowerment
- More than three decades after the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts, that gave constitutional status to local governments, State governments, through the local bureaucracy, continue to exercise considerable discretionary authority and influence over panchayats.
The issue of funding
- Gram panchayats remain fiscally dependent on grants (both discretionary and non-discretionary grants) from the State and the Centre for everyday activities.
- Their own sources of revenue (both tax and non-tax) constitute a tiny proportion of overall panchayat funds.
Ex: For instance, in Telangana, less than a quarter of a panchayat’s revenue comes from its own sources of revenue.
- Access to discretionary grants for panchayats remains contingent on political and bureaucratic
- Failure of the State government to release funds in time has forced Sarpanchs to utilise private resources or borrow large amounts to complete panchayat activities.
- State governments often impose spending limits on various expenditures of panchayat funds that include purchasing posters of national icons, refreshments for visiting dignitaries, or distributing sweets in a local school at national festivals.
- System of double authorisation for spending panchayat funds that includes apart from sarpanchs, disbursal of payments requires bureaucratic concurrence
- It is usual to find higher-level politicians and bureaucrats intervening in selecting beneficiaries for government programmes and limiting the power of sarpanchs further.
- In many States, the recruitment of local functionaries reporting to the panchayat, such as village watchmen or sweepers, is conducted at the district or block level
The shadow of bureaucrats
- Often the sarpanch does not even have the power to dismiss these local-level employees.
- Gram Panchayat Acts in many States have empowered district-level bureaucrats, mostly district Collectors, to act against sarpanchs for official misconduct.
- Across the country, there are regular instances of bureaucrats deciding to dismiss sarpanchs from office.
Ex: In Telangana, more than 100 sarpanchs have been dismissed from office in recent years
- Implement the recommendations of the State Finance Commissions and enable the Panchayati Raj Institutions to raise requisite resources.
- Panchayats need to be given adequate control over natural resources – Land, Water, Minor Forest Produce and Minerals
- Local government to be given autonomy over powers of panchayat working and with minimum interference of bureaucracy
Powers of local elected officials remain curtailed by State governments and local bureaucrats in multiple ways, thereby diluting the spirit of the constitutional amendments aimed at local empowerment. Discuss