The key role of Panchayats in rural governance and socio-economic development has been recognized since the 1950s. In the current context, the need to strengthen Panchayatshas intensified with the rise in expenditure on programmes of social welfare and inclusion, asPanchayats are vital to ensure that the benefits of these schemes reach the people, management of local institutions is improved and accountability is enhanced. There is need to provide Panchayats with adequate technical and administrative support, strengthen their infrastructure and e-enablement, promote devolution, improve their functioning i.e. regular democratic meetings of the Panchayat, proper functioning of the standing committees, voluntary disclosure and accountability of the Gram Sabha, proper maintenance of accounts etc. It is against this background that the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Rajiv GandhiPanchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan (RGPSA) has been launched to strengthen PanchayatiRaj. This scheme was approved on 07.03.2013
The goals of the RGPSA are to enhance capacities and effectiveness of Panchayats and the Gram Sabhas; Enable democratic decision-making and accountability in Panchayats and promote people’s participation; Strengthen the institutional structure for knowledge creation and capacity building of Panchayats; Promote devolution of powers and responsibilities toPanchayats according to the spirit of the Constitution and PESA Act; Strengthen GramSabhas to function effectively as the basic forum of people’s participation, transparency and accountability within the Panchayat system; Create and strengthen democratic local self-government in areas where Panchayats do not exist; and Strengthen the constitutionally mandated framework on which Panchayats are founded.
The scheme recognizes the fact that States have different needs and priorities and therefore allows for State specific planning, whereby States can choose from a menu of permissible activities. Moreover 20% scheme funds are linked to States’ performance on devolution and accountability. States prepare perspective and annual plans to access funds under the scheme. A Central Steering Committee headed by the Union Minister, PanchayatiRaj provides policy level guidance, while a Central Executive Committee headed by Union Secretary, Panchayati Raj oversees the implementation of the scheme.
This scheme is applicable to all States/ UTs including those which presently are not covered by Part IX of the Constitution.
States are required to fulfill some essential conditions for accessing any RGPSA funds which include - Regular elections to Panchayats or local bodies in non-Part IX areas under the superintendence and control of the State Election Commission (SEC); At least one third reservation for women in Panchayats or other local bodies; Constitution of SFC every five years, and placement of Action Taken Report on the recommendations of the SFC in the State legislature; and Constitution of District Planning Committees (DPCs) in all districts, and issuing of guidelines/rules to make these functional.
States that do not fulfill the above essential conditions are not eligible for funds under RGPSA.
Twenty percent scheme funds are linked to action taken by the States for implementation of the provisions of the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India in the following areas - Articulating an appropriate policy framework for providing administrative and technical support to Panchayats; Strengthening the financial base of Panchayats by assigning appropriate taxes, fees, etc.; Provision of untied funds to Panchayats and timely release of SFC and Central Finance Commission (CFC) grants; Ensuring devolution of funds, functions and functionaries; Preparing and operationalizing a framework for bottom-up grassroots planning and convergence through the DPC; Ensuring free and fair elections, and making the SEC autonomous; Strengthening the institutional structure for capacity building of Panchayats, selecting suitable partners for capacity building, and improving outreach and quality of capacity building; Putting in place a system of performance assessment of Panchayats; Strengthening Gram Sabhas, promoting Mahila Sabhas/WardSabhas; Institutionalizing accountability processes such as voluntary disclosure of information and social audit; Strengthening the system of budgeting, accounts and audit, including use of e-enabled processes. Maintenance of Panchayat accounts on-line at least for District and Intermediate Panchayats. Issuing of guidelines/rules for voluntary disclosure of budget and accounts by Panchayat, and ensuring compliance of State laws and rules with PESA.
Activities that can be included in State plans under RGPSA are - Administrative and Technical Support at the Gram Panchayat level; GP Buildings; Capacity Building and Training of Elected Representatives & Functionaries; Institutional Structure for Training at State, District & Block level; e-enablement of Panchayats; Support to Panchayat Processes and Procedures in Panchayats with Inadequate Revenue Base; Special Support for GramSabhas in PESA and NE Areas; Programme Management; Information, Education, Communication (IEC); Strengthening of State Election Commission (SECs) and Innovative Activities in States. In addition, RGPSA will provide support to innovative projects to strengthen Panchayati Raj and incentivize Panchayats for their performance.
By strengthening Panchayati Raj, RGPSA will strengthen grassroots governance in the country, enhance accountability and increase the space for people’s participation.
Courtesy: (pib.nic.in) Press Information Bureau