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Rural Development and Panchayats in the State of punjab status, ISSES and suggestions.


Panchayats are playing a significant role in accelerating the process of Development. Since its inceptionin Punjab, panchayats have played a crucial role in community development programmes and later, in ushering the green revolution in the state. As per the 2013 panchayat election, the state has 22 Zila Parishads, 148 panchayat samities and 13028 gram panchayats, comprising around one lakh elected representatives, which is around 3 percent of total elected representatives of PRI's in the country. Nearly 35 percent of total elected representatives are from women and nearly one -third are from Scheduled caste category. In the year 2017, Punjab government reserved 50 percent seats for women. The area wise coverage per panchayat is 4 sq km area as against 25 sq km National average. The average population per panchayat is 1260 as against 3097 National average; which indicates that Punjab Panchayats are smaller in terms of population and coverage of area. This has both, positive and negative aspects in its operationalization. After independence, Punjab Gram Panchayati Raj Act, 1952 came into existence, which endows Panchayats with lot of powers and responsibilities. The Punjab government also passed the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad Act, 1961 and three tier Panchayati Raj System became operational in 1962-63. With the passing of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992, Punjab passed Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 in conformity with the Constitutional Amendment. With this, Panchayati Raj Institutions became Institutions of self-governance. Due to this, expectation from Panchayats for providing good governance and support in improving the service delivery mechanism has increased, because it became the third tier of Democracy with a legal "status. Panchayat election in the state is almost regular since 1952, except for the term of 1988 due to disturbance in the state.

Panchayats in the state are actively involved in the implementation of Rural Development programmes, particularly the wage and self-employment programme started since first five year plan. Currently MGNREGA, PMAY and some other schemes are implemented in the state through panchayat. Panchayat also has a little role in National Rural livelihood Mission, which is a self employment programme, particularly for women. In this paper status of PRIs, challenges, issues and the way forward has been discussed in detail. Despite of it the status of Rural Development Scheme and role of panchayats in their implementation has been discussed.

Status of PRIs

(i) Devolution of Functions

Government of Punjab transferred seven departments to the Local Self-Government Department through a notification in the year 2004. The state government has set up a fund for the disbursement of social security pensions to the concerned beneficiaries. The Gram Sabha has been empowered to identify and select the beneficiaries. The disbursement of pensions is done through the Gram Panchayat. The panchayats have also established direct link with Anganwaris for their better functioning. The scheme for distribution of scholarship and free books to the scheduled castes students is being operated by PRIs in co-ordination with the education department. To start the process for development, the state government transferred 876 single village scheme of rural water supply scheme, their 1294 regular and 656 muster roll employees to the Gram Panchayats. The Department of Rural Development and Panchayats worked in co-ordination and cooperation of panchayat bodies. The control of rural subsidiary health centres has also been given to Zila Parishads along with requisite funds to manage the schemes. As many as 1186 rural dispensaries have been transferred to panchayat bodies. To run the dispensaries, 1158 service providers had been recruited till September 2007 and there is provision for medicines also. The Panchayat Secretaries have been authorised to register births and deaths and to issue certificates. The management of primary education has been transferred to Zila Parishads. A total of 5752 primary schools with sanctioned posts of 13034 ETTs had been transferred to panchayat bodies of which, 11465 posts of ETTs had been filled up in the year 2007.

In the primary schools, the jobs of supplementary nutrition and scholarships and distribution of books to Scheduled Caste children are being operated by the panchayat bodies. Zila Parishads have been empowered and given requisite funds to manage rural veterinary dispensaries. This includes provision of veterinary services through veterinary service providers and provision of medicines. Till September 2007, 581 rural veterinary dispensaries were transferred to panchayat bodies and 328 service providers had been recruited. The service providers, both for health and veterinary services are paid Rs 30,000 per month as lump sum and Rs 7,500 per month for medicines. As per the latest development at the time of this publication, the Punjab Government had issued orders for the transfer of about 15,000 employees working earlier with Rural Development and Panchayats Department to their specialised departments. These are elementary teachers, rural medical officers and veterinary officers who were merged into their respective departments during the last quarter of 2014.

(ii) Transfer of Funds

A major impediment in the effective functioning of the PRIs is the lack of adequate funds for the implementation of need-based programmes. A large number of functions have been vested to decentralised bodies without sufficient finances and this has resulted in their virtual failure to fulfil their responsibilities leading to discontinuation of the system in many states (Hedge, 1994). Besides, the funds that are available are mostly tied in nature, leaving little flexibility to the Panchayats (Siva Subrahmanyam, 2003). The devolution of funds to the PRIs would enable these bodies to function as effective instruments of self-government. In Punjab, the devolution of untied fund was negligible and whatever funding was vested with panchayats, it was from the state or central grants for specific purposes. The government has enhanced the financial powers of panchayat bodies for granting administrative approval for Gram Panchayat (up to 10 lakh), Panchayat Samiti (up to Rs 20 lakh) and for Zila Parishad (more than Rs 20 lakh).

(iii) Transfer of Functionaries

In order to justify the duties and responsibilities assigned to PRIs, these bodies need the services of functionaries for executing rural development programmes. The state government has constituted a selection committee at the Zila Parishad level to initiate the devolution process. Steps were also taken in the area of education, health and veterinary sectors. The Recruitment and Service Rules -2006 were also framed based on which the recruitment, transfer and all service matters were to be dealt by Rural Development and Panchayat Department at their State Directorate level. Neither three levels of panchayats are having any role or are the functionaries willing to work under their control. The state government during its first half of 2014 authorised the Block Development Officers to monitor the working of rural doctors. This step of the government caused resentment among the rural doctors' cadre. This resentment and other reasons have upset the working mechanism of the functionaries working in education, animal husbandry and health sectors. Consequently, during the later half of the year 2014, more than 15,000 functionaries were transferred to their specialised department rendering the Panchayat less functional in these sectors and thus causing a setback to the process of decentralisation.

(iv) Other Issues Confronted by Panchayat in the State of Punjab

Nearly two and half decades have passed but the success of decentralization is partial and the reason for such a state of affairs is the reluctance of the state administration and lack of political will for devolving the functions, funds and staff to PRI's. These elected bodies are merely functioning as a government agency, only for identifying the beneficiaries for various Central and state government schemes. Even the main task of planning which has to be done by Panchyats is not prepared because of non availability of assured financial resources in their possession. Through State Finance Commissions were established as per the provision of 73rd amendment act, but their recommendations were not fully implemented due to which panchayats in Punjab are lacking in sufficient funds required for the development of their villages. Recently MOPR, GOI, initiated the Gram Panchyat Development Plan (GPDP) by providing untied funding as recommended by the 14th Central Finance Commission, which is also not sufficient to fulfill the minimum requirements of the people. Therefore, lot of emphasis on convergence was provided in preparing the GPDP. But the practice of convergence is by and large missing. This challenge can be achieved through departmental coordination. There is a need for a coordination committee of the different development departments at state and district level. Issue of people's participation in planning, implementation and monitoring is propagated since eleventh five year plan, but in actual practice, participation is negligible despite of reservation of SC's, OBC's and women in the PRIs. How to make the gram sabha more effective is another challenge. This can be done through effective training and capacity building programmes. Factionalism is another big obstacle in the way of smooth functioning of PRI's. Though panchayat elections are not fought on party symbol but every elected member particularly sarpanches are aligning to one or another political party. There is not much role clarity of Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad. The activity mapping of transferred present departments should be clearly defined to initiate the process of devolution as per the subsidiary principal.

The State government is pushing its rural development agenda through Guardian of good Governance (G.O.G). Their role is expected to be significant in bringing fast rural transformation in the changing setup. Hence they need latest know how about the schemes and development programme being implemented at the Panchyat level. To enable them to perform better, there is a need to equip them with the latest knowledge of development programmes and other social needs of the people. Earlier also, the state emphasized on training for gram sabha mobilization and used mock gram sabha meetings. Moreover training was provided to elected members for preparing Gram Panchyat Development Plan as well as to conduct the social audit. With such efforts, the performance of Panchyats started improving. So, there is a dire need to adopt approach of capacity building programmes to be continued more effectively.

For improving the service delivery and making governance more effective, the PRI's should be enabled to adopt IT technologies. National informatics Centre (NIC) has delivered a very comprehensive and user friendly IT platform for handling most of the services and functions of Panchayats. It promotes transparency and accountability in the PRI's system. However, in practice, the IT applications are not in full use by majority of panchayats in the state, due to various constraints such as non-availability of panchyat ghar, computer and Net facilities, etc, at every Panchyat level. It is suggested that integrated/unified service centers are to be established in a cluster of villages preferable at the larger size of panchayats which can provide services to 10-12 villages/panchayats.

Corruption, lack of accountability and transparency are the serious issues for effective functioning of panchayats. Though the provision of checks and balances are there through Gram Sabha, but Gram Sabha meetings do not take place in majority of the panchayats. The public has to give access to information on project implementation and no confidence motion should be in place to remove incapable panchyats members and even functionaries.

After analysis of the status of panchayats in the state, it has been found that the following issues and challenges are confronted by Panchayats

* Participation in planning is missing

* Meetings of panchayats and gram sabha are irregular

* Role of women and scheduled caste representatives in decision making is negligible

* Lack of effective devolution of funds, function and functionaries.

* Negligible role of panchayat samiti and zila parishads in development

* Lack of awareness of elected representatives on many development schemes

Way Forward to strengthen PRI's:

* Devolution of fund, functions and functionaries of core department to three tiers of PRI's.

* Regular holding of panchayat and gram sabha meetings.

* Gram Panchayat Development Plan be prepared in a participatory mode.

* Participation of women and SC's in decision making be ensured.

* Joint training of Sarpanches and GoG's.

* Regular capacity building of all elected members and government functionaries of PRI's.

* Focus on providing basic infrastructure like panchayat building and Information Technology enabled services.

* To empower Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad, monitoring and supervision of panchayat's works be given to these bodies.

* Setting up of Rural Infrastructure Development Fund to PRIs for repairs and renovation of community buildings, roads, streets and drains.

* For preparing GPDP, Working groups be constituted like Kerala.

* Statuary Committees under all three-tiers be made functional.

* For empowering women, a Mahila Sabha be conducted before gram sabha meetings and their issues be included in the gram sabha proceedings (As Practiced in Maharashtra).

Status of Implementation of Rural Development Schemes

As discussed earlier, Panchayat is one of key stakeholders in the implementation of rural development schemes. For this the department of Rural development and Panchayats, Punjab is implementing various development schemes such as MGNREGA, Prime Minister Awas Yojana, National Rural Livelihood mission, etc. These are centrally sponsored schemes aiming at providing wage and self-employment to the rural people. Among them MGNREGA is a very comprehensive programme with the objective of reduction of poverty in rural areas by giving a guarantee for 100 days works to households who are voluntarily ready to work. The schemes prove to be very useful in the state of Punjab for the poor, especially women and scheduled caste, for getting employment at their door step.

1. Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, MGNREGA

Some Facts about Mgnrega in the State of Punjab are:

* A total 151.72 lakh percentage was generated in the years 2016-17

* Total expenditure was Rs 500.03 crores in the end of financial years 2016-17

* A total of 5, 28,279 households got employment.

* Women participation was 62%, where as 79 percent of beneficiaries were from SCs. In the end of financial year 2016-17, A total of 13226 works were completed where as 25968 works were in progress.

* Total job cards in the state are 12, 42,757.

* Target of creating 180.00 lakhs person day, has been fixed for the year 2017-18. For this the estimate of Rs 699.00 cores has been planned, and nearly 530 crore was the expenditure upto 31st January 2018.

However in its implementation there are various issues such as:

* There is no demand in various sections of society because of lack of awareness of the workers on their entitlements for 100 days. A scheme is implemented as of earlier schemes.

* Problems in identification of permissible work under MGNREGA.

* Irregular fund flow and delay in Payment.

* Wages are not in commensurate with market wage rate.

* Social Audit has been started recently but aot needs to be done.

* Convergence with other line department schemes in almost negligible.

Suggestion for Better Implementation of Mgnrega

* Awareness among workers for their entitlements, so that more demand should be created under the scheme.

* Participatory planning for identification of the shelf of permissible work to be covered under the scheme.

* Ensure regular flow of fund by sending the utilization of previous grants timely.

* Regularly updating the MIS as per the guidelines of the schemes.

* Social audit should be done in order to promote transparency and accountability.

* Convergence with other rural development schemes and also with other line departments such as Agriculture, Irrigation, Horticulture and other concerned department.

1. Prime Minister Awas Yojana

Shelter is the basic necessity of human life. From time to time, Central and State governments have started various schemes for providing houses, particularly to the below poverty line population. Under Indira Awas Yojana, many of the eligible beneficiaries in the state of Punjab were covered but still there are some households which need financial assistance for construction of the house. In the year 2015-16, Ministry Of Rural Development, Government of India, started Pardhan Mantri Awas Yojana, under which Rs.1.20 lakh is given as assistance. In addition to it, Rs. 15000 and 12000 is provided from MGNREGA for 90 days of wages and from Swachh Bharat Mission respectively. For identification of beneficiaries, the Socio-Economic Caste Survey data of 2011 is to be considered. The SEEC data is to be verified by the Gram Sabha.

2. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY)

Deen Dyal Upadya Grameen Koshalya Yojana has been started to promote rural livelihood through skilling of rural youth who belong to the poor section of society. The scheme aims to provide job having regular monthly wages. GP's have a key role in the success of this programme by identification of youth, who are in need of jobs. The Panchayat has a role in generating awareness about the programme. Ministry of Rural Development provides financial support through the Project Implementing Agency. For better implementation of this scheme, the State can establish Career Counselling and Skill Development Centres in every block of the State, for this purpose eligible PIA's can be identified for imparting training to the rural youth, with minimum State Government expenditure.

3. National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM)

The basic objective of NRLM is to create an effective institutional platform for the rural poor that will enable them to increase their household income through sustainable livelihood enhancement and improved access to financial services. A total of 4012 SHGs have been promoted in Punjab. 237 village organizations have also been promoted, mostly in the four districts of Gurdaspur, Ferozepur, Patiala and Sangrur, which are in the 1st phase of NRLM. More than 45 thousands households were mobilized to join SHGs up to the year 2015-16.

Suggestion for NRLM Implementation

* Panchayat should be involved in mobilization of women in SHGs.

* Survey on identification of market for SHGs product should be done by some professional agency/institution.

* Facilitating SHG-Bank linkage should be done for fulfilling credit needs.

1. Drinking Water and Sanitation

Department of drinking water and sanitation, Punjab is implementing various schemes like NRDWM, World Bank Aided Scheme, NABARD Sponsored project for installing RO plants for providing adequate and quality Drinking Water and Sanitation facilities at the door step of the households.

Main Issues in the State of Punjab on Drinking Water are:

* Nearly one-fifth habitation in the state is affected with presence of heavy metal in water.

* Nearly one-half of the quality affected habitations are in Districts Muktsar, Patiala, Gurdaspur, Ferozpur and, Roop Nagar

* Nearly 30 Percent water affected habitations are having problems of aluminum and lead content in water.

* One-tenth affected habitation has Selenium/Chromium mercury content.

* Twenty one percent affected habitations have arsenic in water.

* Sizeable number of affected habitation has Cadmium/Nickel, Uranium, Fluroine and Iron contaminated drinking water.

Sanitation: Under SBM, the State's goal was to become a clean and healthy state by ensuring all the villages achieving open-defecation free status by October 2017 and adopting best practices in solid and liquid waste management. Though sanitation situation has improved a lot in the state, but still 7.91 lakh households in the rural areas are without toilets. Some of the initiatives taken in the State are: Monitoring by using mobile application, Latrine construction by beneficiaries of his choice, Promotion of bath-cum latrine, Community led total sanitation being followed to trigger change in behavior through motivators.

Suggestions for success of sanitation drive in the state.

* To make Gram Panchayat Drinking Water Sanitation Committee more effective and functional by providing training to the members on water and sanitation issues.

* Coverage of quality affected habitation through installing RO's.

* Providing adequate and Quality drinking water to all the habitations in the State.

* Involvement of community/Panchayats handling O&M and other issues.

* A holistic approach focusing on Coordination with all departments dealing with water and sanitation for designing the action plan.

* Coverage of households which have not constructed toilets. For cleanliness of villages, more emphasis on solid and liquid waste management is required a done by some of villages in the State.

Role of Research and Training Institutes

State Institute of Rural Development, Punjab (SIRD), Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration (MGSIPA) and Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) Chandigrah are engaged in spreading awareness and education programmes in the state. They have organized many training programmes at Block, District and State levels, where thousands of elected representatives participated. In the present context, these institutions can play the following role for strengthening the PRIs in the state of Punjab

* Monitoring, Evaluation, Research studies and Documentation of Best Practices on panchayats and rural development programmes including drinking water and sanitation;

* Training and capacity building of elected representatives of PRIs;

* One block can be adopted as a pilot project to facilitate in the planning and implementation of Rural development programmes, particularly MGNREGA. If successful, best practices can be replicated to other blocks;

* Awareness and Sensitization on issues concerning Drinking water and Sanitation should be provided to various stakeholders;

* Training of Trainers (ToTs) for motivation under SBM.

* Joint Training of Guardian of Governance and Sarpanches

Note: Author is thankful to Ms. Bindu Sharma, Computer Assistant, CRRID for her valuable assistance in completion of this paper.


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Author:Singh, Sukhvinder
Publication:Political Economy Journal of India
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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