Gram Sabha and Tribal Development: With Particular Reference to a Village in Scheduled Area of Madhya Pradesh.
The concept of Gram Sabha was also introduced in the Scheduled Areas. Scheduled Areas refer to those which are under the fifth schedule of the Constitution of India where the tribal population is in a numerically superior position. (1) In the scheduled area Gram Panchayat works through the provisions of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 popularly knows as PESA or the Tribal Self Rule. (2) PESA is supposed to work with the assumption that inhabitants of the area have managed themselves on the basis of their own customary practices and traditional beliefs and thus general laws (statutory laws) should not be imposed with their customary laws and ethos. Through PESA power was transferred to the Gram Sabha, particularly matters related to development planning, management of natural resources and disposal of disputes in accordance with prevalent traditions and customs. In addition to the powers and functions, as enumerated under Section 7 of the Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Raj (Dwitiya Sanshodhan) Act 1997, the Gram Sabha in the scheduled areas have special powers and functions. These are: (i) to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people, their cultural identity and community resources and the customary mode of dispute resolution, (ii) to exercise control over institutions and functionaries in all social sectors transferred to the Gram Panchayat through that Panchayat, (iii) to manage natural resources including land, water and forests within the areas of the village in accordance with its traditions and in harmony with the provisions of the constitution and with due regard to the spirit of other relevant laws in force; (iv) to advise the Gram Panchayat in the regulation and use of water bodies, to manage village markets and melas including cattle fairs; by whatever name called, through the Gram Panchayat; (v) to control local plans, resources and expenditure for such plans including tribal sub-plans, and (vi) to perform and exercise such other powers and functions as the state government may confront or entrust under any law for the time being in force (Sisodia: 2002). All the states having scheduled areas were given one year time to amend their respective Panchayat Acts to conform to the letter and spirits of PESA. Madhya Pradesh is one of the states which amended the Act accordingly.
As per the Madhya Pradesh Panchayati-Raj and Gram Swaraj Adhiniyam, 1993 each Gram Panchayat is supposed to organise Gram Sabha meeting during the month of January, April, July and October in the normal course and on other special occasions as required, with the permission of the Collector. This Adhiniyam was subsequently amended in 1997 to make Gram Sabha more fruitful and functional. The purpose of the meeting is to make villagers aware about powers and functions of Gram Panchayat. It is also organised to identify and discuss relevant issues which needs to be addressed by the Panchayat for overall development of the village. Villagers, on the basis of their experience, are supposed to identify those issues faced by family and community which need urgent intervention by the Panchayat. Any scheme sanctioned by the District and Block level Panchayat and government departments must be approved by the Gram Sabha. All the adult men and women of the village, whose names are in the voter list, are members of Gram Sabha. They are supposed to attend Gram Sabha meetings as and when it is organised. But there were some changes in the Adhiniyam 1993, mentioned above, from the point of view of Gram Sabha, particularly in the scheduled areas. As tribes live in scattered manner and their density is very low therefore, the Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Raj (Dwitiya Sansodhan) Adhiniyam, 1997 defines a village in the scheduled areas as that "which 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 (its) traditions and customs."
In normal case every village shall have a Gram Sabha, but if members of Gram Sabha desire, more than one Gram Sabha may be formed in a single village looking into the habitation pattern of tribes. However, not less than one-third of the total number of members of the Gram Sabha shall constitute the quorum for a meeting, and of this number not less than one third should be women member. The meeting must be presided over by an elected tribal member from the Gram Sabha.
Gram Sabha in Pathai: A Case Study
The study was conducted to know frequency and number of meetings organised and number of persons who attended the meeting as per the norm, decisions taken in the meetings and relevance of decisions from the point of view of main concerns/challenges in the village and overall functioning of Gram Sabha in the management of ongoing development schemes in the village. The study was conducted in Pathai village of Betul district of Madhya Pradesh. There are 61 per cent tribal population in Sahpur Block to which the study villages belong. As per 2001 Census 91 per cent households in the village are of Gond tribe. Gond tribe is numerically the second highest in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Panchayat register having minutes of Gram Sabha meeting was the main source of information, although on some issues discussion was held with Panchayat representatives and villagers. There are three villages in Pathai Panchayat viz. Pathai, Nishana and Bhaktandhana. All villages are tribal dominated. Gond is the main tribe inhabitating these villages. The study covers the tenure of Rajni Dhurve Sarpanch (2005-09) who was a Gond. During the period all the 21 members of village Panchayat were tribal. Their educational and economic status was low. The paper is restricted to the functioning of Gram Sabha in Pathai village. There was a single Gram Sabha in each studied village. All the meetings of Gram Sabha during 2005-09 were for namesake (because Rajni Dhurve's husband decided the course of action in Panchayat activities) presided over by Rajni Dhurve. Panchayat is directly responsible for holding Gram Sabha meeting. Rajni Dhurve and Mansa Ram, Sarpanch and Secretary of Gram Panchayat respectively were the key persons in the activities. Both of them belonged to Pathai village. Secretary was a clever person. He knew how to manage officials and keep records complete. Sarpanch was totally dependent on her teacher husband and the smart secretary to run the Panchayat. This state of affair and style of functioning of Panchayat have also impacted organisation of Gram Sabha in the village. The above description clearly reflects that even after several years of the functioning of New Panchayat Raj actual empowerment of Gram Sabha could not be achieved to the desired extent.
During the tenure of Rajni Dhurve, altogether 21 Gram Sabha meetings were organised. Seventeen meetings were convened but four meetings were cancelled due to lack of quorum. (3) Low attendance was witnessed in Gram Sabha meetings. In most meetings, villagers were not present. Only the office bearers such as Sarpanch, Up-Sarpanch and couple of Panchs participated in the meeting. (4) The data reveal that out of 17 meetings, attendance was good only in five meetings. It is also revealed that many meetings were formally not called upon but all formalities were completed on paper, by Sarpanch and Secretary of the Panchayat and some like minded Panchs were persuaded to put their signature. (5) Hence, it is difficult to say that all the agendas presented in the so-called meetings and its approval by committee was really based on members participation. (6) During the course of study it was observed that villagers do not know about importance of Gram Sabha and its meetings. They only assemble in large number at the Panchayat Bhavan (Office of Panchayat) as and when they are directed by the Sarpanch/Secretary especially at the time of visit of some officials from the state. (7)
Details of all these meetings along with the number of members present, type of agenda put up and its approval by the Gram Sabha are presented in Table 1.
Needless to mention that total 103 individual issues were presented in the meetings for discussion and approval. The record made available by Panchayat secretary clearly reveals that none of these 103 agendas were either revised or rejected.
So far as nature of issues presented in the meeting and its approval are concerned, of the total 103 issues raised, large number of them were related to surface water management, identification of households for different types of government benefits and overall functioning of MNREGS. Social security benefit related issues, land up-gradation issue, village road construction, construction of small stop dam etc. were discussed and approved. Meeting also approved construction and repair of temple, purchase of stationery, instruction to Panchs to attend Gram Sabha meeting and so on.
If one examines table 1 and table 2, two pertinent questions arise. Looking at the poor presence of villagers in the Gram Sabha meetings can we call it meeting in the real sense of the term? Looking at issues/resolutions passed in the meetings can we say that these issues are really closer to the heart of tribes? Are these issues were raised from bottom or imposed from the top. The answer is not encouraging if not frustrating. People at large do not attend meetings because they are indifferent, they do not wish to loose wage on the meeting day, there is over assertiveness on the part of Sarpanch Rajni Dhurve, her husband and Panchayat Secretary, they discourage villagers to attend meeting and the Gram Sabha does not have proper linkage with local level bureaucracy and change agents. During her tenure she herself never conducted meeting of Gram Sabha and presented proposal on her own. She said, "My husband knows difference between right and wrong. The level of his wisdom is much higher than me. If I will do on my own I can commit mistake. Hence, most often whatever I do, I do it under the advice and guidance of my active and well informed husband" (Chaudhary, 2012: 163).
In most of the meetings only small number of villagers were present, and in none of these meetings any grave problem faced by villagers were discussed. (8) Some of the important problems which cover the entire area of the Pathai Gram Panchayat are consumption of locally made Mahua liquor at large scale, poor quality of teaching and learning at primary and middle schools, erosion of local forest, corruption and manipulation in different rural development schemes, improvement in the level of ground water table, capacity building of tribal youth, effective functioning of primary health centre, improvement in the functioning of PDS, Anganwadi Kendra and so on. No attention was paid to raise income of tribal farmers from their agriculture and wage work and management of their income. No effort was made to protect farmers from Sahpur based Sahukars who purchase some of their farm produce at cheap rate and also charge high interest rate in case villagers take loan from them. No discussion was made to protect tribals from indebtedness. Issues related to disputes were also not addressed properly. During past few years several self help groups (SHGs) were formed but except one, all of them became non-functional. Even members of SHGs do not know about functioning of their respective SHG. Why SHG could not succeed is a serious issue but the Gram Sabha meeting had nothing to do with such issues. Analysis of item wise agenda, presented and approved by Gram Sabha, it is evident that in meetings only discussions were held on the schemes and benefits which were supposed to be implemented and made available by the state. No effort was made for capacity building of villagers. No value addition in their occupation related issues were discussed. No discussion was also observed on community contribution for overall development of the village itself. (9)
During the period 2005-09, number of tasks were performed by the Pathai Panchayat. Activities like construction of khet talab (5), construction of percolation tank (1), gravel road construction (2), construction of well in plantation field (1), plantation work (2), construction of well under Kapil Dhara scheme (38), Nirmal Neer (1), tank construction (1) and construction of structure for water conservation (15) etc., were undertaken by the Panchayat. Pathai Gram Sabha only took decision relating to construction of these. But it had nothing to do with quality of construction, transparency in construction, completion of construction in time and so on (Chaudhary, 2012: 175). Further, these projects were not sanctioned as per the demand rather it was done by the concerned departments on their own according to availabilitiy of funds. Villagers were merely informed through so-called Gram Sabha meetings. Gram Sabha has largely failed to ensure effective functioning of Public Distribution System (PDS), Anganwadi Kendra, SHGs, primary school and so on. It has also failed to stop manufacturing and marketing of Mahua liquor in an illegal manner. It has also failed to arrest illegal mining, logging and various types of crimes taking place in the village.
Hence, it can be said that Gram Sabha meeting is not organised as per the guidelines in the Pathai village and even if it is regularly held and not attended by larger number of villagers, it is neither self sustaining nor it can make villagers self reliant. Members are indifferent to collective issues of villages. They are ignorant and unassertive. The very purposes of Panchayat Raj to make villagers self reliant, cultivate feeling of cooperation have not witnessed in the villge. It has almost worked like a government department for the mere implementation of government initiated development projects with financial support in the light of terms and conditions laid down by the State. There is no people's involvement in Gram Sabha meetings and decisions taken by it. There is no transparency in the functioning of Gram Sabha. Gram Sabha is totally managed by Sarpanch and Panchayat Secretary. And they are not impartial and objective while deciding agenda, informing villagers, organising meetings of Gram Sabha and implementing decisions taken by the Gram Sabha and approved and sanctioned by the competent authority. They are unable to decontextualise themselves. And in many issues the context is primordial in nature. The process of social capital formation among villagers is very slow. Officials at the Block and district level are least interested in the functioning of Gram Sabha. Under the given situation it is very difficult to make comment on the future of Gram Sabha. Actually Gram Sabha meeting should be conditioned by the local context, which was missing in the functioning of Gram Sabha in the village and negating the spirit of PESA.
(1.) The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution refers to states with having large tribal population like, AP, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Rajasthan. There are four dictricts (Jhabua, Barwani, Mandla and Dindori), 33 Tehsils and Six Development Blocks in the Scheduled Area in Madhya Pradesh. The study was conducted in Scheduled Block Sahpur of Betul Disctrict.
(2.) According to PESA, there are three partners in governance at the village level in the Scheduled areas viz., the community in the form of Gram Sabha (GS), Panchayat and the State. Panchayats and the state are expected to assist GS, behaving its stature and authority. This would require fine tuning between the powers and jurisdiction of different authorities.
(3.) As per the revised Adhiniyam (6) 2005, of the total voters of the Panchayat, who are members of Gram Sabha either 1/10 of them or 500 members, whichever is less, fulfil the quorum. But of 1154 inhabitants of Pathai about half of them (586) are above 20 years of age. 1/10 of them will be around 58. On this parameter, of 17 meetings organised by Pathai Panchayat only five meetings and its decisions may be perceived as valid.
(4.) Mander (1999) also observed that in most of the cases studied by him elsewhere meetings of Gram Sabha were called without prior and adequate notice. In most places, only a formality was observed, proxy meetings were at times convened and proceedings were written even without the knowledge of those who attended. Meetings if arranged, either proved to be abortive or unsuccessful because of this attendance.
(5.) However, it is said by Panchayat officials that all members of Gram Sabha are informed about agenda, thorough discussion is encouraged. Subsequently schemes are approved and mode of wage payment to labourers is decided. Once the work is complete, it is approved by the Gram Sabha as well as the vigilance committee. Ultimately the chapter is closed (Awaz, Newspaper, No. 1, 2008).
(6.) A study conducted on transparency in Panchayats in West Bengal has found very low attendance of the people in the Gram Sansad meetings. The main reason for low attendance is that the Panchayats are not interested (mostly) in making people interested in the activities of the Panchayats. Less involvement of common masses in the functioning of the local bodies certainly reduces the chances for being transparent in the eyes of the people. The public view is that these institutions are nothing but extension of the block level government offices (Buch: 2012).
(7.) Fernandes (1999) also experienced the same state of affair regarding the functioning of Gram Sabha. To him both the grassroots leadership and grassroots bureaucracy have not been able to strengthen the Gram Sabha. The Gram Sabha is dysfunctional due to lack of leverage of local leaders to initiate meaningful participation in the Sabha and their inability to persuade people to support local initiatives.
(8.) According to Narayan Swamy (1996) Gram Sabha is an institution approach to popular participation. It provides a base for the three-tier structure of the Panchayat Raj institutions. But the idea of Gram Sabha, by and large, has not struck roots in the minds of the people. It has so far reached the prominent persons in the village.
(9.) More or less similar observation was made by the R.R. Diwankar Committee. Kurekshetra (1999) covered the observation made by R.R. Diwakar who was a Chairman of the committee constituted to examine functioning of Gram Sabha, the team identified number of reasons for its unsatisfactory performance ranging from lack of time, lack of communication, unwillingness of the Pradhan, and lastly apathy of the villagers. Gram Sabha seldom made effort to discuss and find solutions for their needs and basic problems.
Chaudhary, S.N. (2012) In Search of Sustainable Development: Scenario in a Tribal Village of Madhya Pradesh, Serials Publications Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi.
Buch, N. (2012) 'Gram Sabha and Panchayati Raj', Social Action, Vol. 62.
Narayan Swamy, S. (1996) 'Gram Sabha in the New Panchayati-Raj System' in G. Palanthurai (ed.) Empowering People: Issues and Solutions, Kanishka Publications, New Delhi.
Fernandes, A. (1999): 'Reconnecting the Sabha to Gram', Paper Presented in the National Conference on Gram Sabha, National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad, July 28-29.
Mander, H. (1999) 'Towards Direct Democracy: The Legal Empowerment to Gram Sabha', Krukshetra, Vol. 48(1).
Sisodia, Y.S. (2002) 'Decentralised Governance in Madhya Pradesh: Experience of the Gram Sabha in Scheduled Areas', Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 45, October 5.
S.N. Chaudhary (*)
(*) Professor, Rajiv Gandhi Chair in Contemporary Studies, Barkatullah University, Bhopal (M.P.), E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Table 1 Agenda and Decisions of Gram Sabha Meetings Organised during the Tenure of Rajni Dhurve (2005-2009), Sarpanch, Pathai S. Meeting Attendance No. Date 1 09/01/06 No signature of participants 2 26/01/06 Sarpanch, Up-Sarpanch and 4 ward Members (Panch) 3 02/02/06 Lack of quorum led to cancellation of meeting 4 03/02/06 Sarpanch and Up-Sarpanch and 5 panch participated 5 13/02/06 Sarpanch, Up-Sarpanch Panch and Patwari participated 6 19/02/06 Sarpanch 12/04/06 Sarpanch, Up-Sarpanch and 4 Panchs participated 8 12/08/06 Sarpanch, Up-Sarpanch and 3 Panchs participated 9 11/12/06 Sarpanch, Up-Sarpanch and 3 Panchs participated 10 06/01/07 Sarpanch, Up-Sarpanch and 7 Panchs participated 11 14/04/07 Sarpanch, Up-Sarpanch and 7 Panchs participated 12 15/08/07 Lack of quorum led to cancellation of meeting 13 19/08/07 Sarpanch and 54 members participated 14 23/01/08 Sarpanch, Up-Sarpanch and 5 Panchs participated 15 26/01/08 Sarpanch and Up-Sarpanch 16 13/08/08 Sarpanch and 41 members participated 17 26/01/09 Lack of quorum led to cancellation of meeting 18 27/01/09 Sarpanch and 75 members participated 19 02/05/09 20 15/08/09 Sarpanch and 43 members participated 21 23/08/09 Sarpanch and 55 members participated S. Agenda presented and approved by Gram No. Sabha 1 1. Land transfer from deceased to the descendent 2 1. Circulation of BPL list 2. Action agenda for MNREGS 3. Annual Action Plan for other schemes 4. Identification of beneficiaries under IAY 5. Identification of beneficiaries under Balika Samridhi Yojna 6. Decision on application received under maternity benefit scheme 7. Encourage Panchs to attend Gram Sabha meeting 8. Amount distribution under old age pension/social security scheme 9. Land to landless 10. Second installment to beneficiaries under IAY 3 Lack of quorum led to cancellation of meeting 4 1. To share information relating to preparation of Job Card under MNREGS 2. To obtain stationery 5 1. Up-gradation of land related paper. 6 1. Job card preparation under MGNREGS 2. Account opening for social security/senior citizen pension holders 3. Formation of Infrastructural Development committee 4. Identification of villagers for the construction of Khet Talab 7 1. Preparation of AAY card 2. Construction of percolation tank 3. Road construction from Pathai to Nishana 8 1. Plantation 2. Identification of persons to extend benefit under IAY 3. Identification of persons for AAY 4. Proposal for rapta/stop dam preparation 5. Construction of roof of temple 6. Road Construction 7. Stop dam Construction 8. Stop dam Construction 9 1. Identification of families for well allotment. 2. Well construction under MNREGS 3. Rapta cum stop dam construction 4. Payment of old age pensions/Social security amount 5. Well construction for irrigation in plantation field 10 1. Rapta cum stop dam construction 2. Rapta cum stop dam construction on Aam river 3. Honorarium to Kotwar for informing villagers about Gram Sabha meeting 4. Payment of old age pension/social security benefit 5. Installation of hand pump 6. Renewal of family register 7. Stop dam construction 8. Stop dam construction 9. Stop dam construction 10. Stop dam construction 11. Stop dam construction 12. Toilet in Anganwadi Bhawan 13. Boundary wall of Anganwadi Kendra 14. Reminder to panchs for attending meeting 15. Economic assistance for land up-gradation 11 1. Identification of beneficiaries under old age pension/social security scheme 2. Distribution of BPL card/verification of AAY card 3. Rapta construction 4. Stop dam construction 5. Tank construction 6. Road Construction 7. Identification of houses for repair under IAY 8. Well construction 9. Stop dam under MNREGS 10. Stop dam under MNREGS 12 Lack of quorum led to cancellation of meeting 13 1. Plantation of 17320 Jatropa seedling 2. Identification of beneficiaries for well facility 3. identification of households for AAY benefit 4. Distribution of old age pension/social security benefit 5. Construction of Choupal near Panchayat and Anganwadi Bhawan 14 1. Information given to villagers for the Badi Project 15 1. Formation of standing committee for Total Sanitation Programme, drinking water 2. Formation of committee under Forest Rights Bill-2006 3. Social auditing of works under MNREGS 4. Identification of new beneficiaries under Kapil Dhara scheme 5. Identification of beneficiaries under Bhumi Shilpa Yojna (Up-gradation) 6. Identification of beneficiaries under Nandan Phalodyan 7. Repair and light facility in two temples 8. Up-gradation/modernisation of Panchayat Bhawan 9. Connecting road up-gradation 10. Updating of household list of village 16 1. Identification fo family and community development centric projects for 2009-10 2. Identification of beneficiaries for Kapil Dhara scheme 3. Construction of boundary of agricultural land 4. Construction of percolation tank 5. Social auditing works under MNREGS 6. Formation of vigilance/monitoring committee under MNREGS 7. Up-gradation of household list of the village 8. Popularisation of charter prepared by the core committee formed under Panchayat Raj Adhiniyam 9. Share of information relating to developmental works going on, total expenditure and total man days employment generated. 10. Sharing information related to work under MNREGS, Backward Area Development Scheme, SSA, Total Sanitation campaign and MDM 11. Action programme for Nursery establishment by one SHG 12. Construction of bracket (speed breaker) in Pardhan Dhana 13. Percolation tank in private farm. 14. Establishment of kanji house 15. Construction of cemented road in the Bada Dhana 17 Lack of quorum led to cancellation of meeting 18 1. Identification of family and community development centric projects for 2009-10 2. Construction of boundary of agricultural land 3. Construction of Community well 4. Identification of beneficiaries under old age pension scheme 5. Updating of household list of village 6. Share of information relating to ongoing development scheme 19 Lack of quorum led to cancellation of meeting 20 1. Identification of households under AAY 2. Identification of beneficiaries under old age pension scheme/social security scheme 3. Allotment of water reservoir (8.75 hectare) for fishing 4. Establishment of Anganwadi Centre in one of the mohallas 21 1. Social audit of work done during 2006-07, 2007-8, 2008-09 and 2009-10. 2. To share financial information related to MIS (Income-expenditure statement) 3. To share information relating to income/expenditure of MNREGS Note: Total Meetings of Gram Sabha organised--21, Meeting actually held--17 and Meeting Postponed due to lack of quorum--04. Source: Gram Sabha meetings related register available at Pathai Panchayat office. Table 2 Issue-wise Agenda Discussed and Approved in Gram Sabha Meetings S.No. Issues 1 Land Management/Up-gradation 2 Social Security Benefit/BPL related work 3 Water management 4 Road Construction 5 Forestry/Environmental management 6 Bridge construction 7 House/building construction and repair 8 Identification of Beneficiaries under different schemes 9 MNREGS related work/evaluation/road map preparation 10 Others (*) Total S.No. No. of Agenda 1 6 2 8 3 16 4 5 5 4 6 5 7 2 8 19 9 12 10 27 103 (*) Encourage Panchs to attend Gram Sabha meeting, issue reminder letter to Panchs, purchase of stationery, formation of different types of committees, construction of roof of temple and electrification work, honorarium to Kotwar for informing villagers about Gram Sabha meeting, renewal or up-gradation of family register, establishment of kanji house and Anganwadi Kendra etc. Source: Chaudhary (2012)
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|Publication:||Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2017|
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