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Introduction

The 72 and 73rd amendment of Panchaythiraj act had bring a massive change in the power structure of Indian Governance. The decentralization of governance resulted in the widening of the base, localized planning, and decision-making processes and allocation of fund. This was a historic mark in the Indian governance and the power structure. Power was transferred literally to ‘people’ than politicians.

The Gram Sabha act
The Gram Sabha


Participation in election process is high in case of panchayath elections than that of state and centre elections which mean the people are eager more to participate in the political game play happening nearby their hands. Before decentralization of governance the limit of local institution in spending money was limited to maximum of 10,000 per annum but at present the amount shoots up to 5 to 6 crore for one financial year.

Kerala is a good example in case of local governance. Whenever discussion arises about local governance Kerala is projected as a classical example. People participation is believed to be more in local governance in Kerala. People participation is ensured through gramasabhas. Gramasabhas are meant to promote people participation on decision making on policy formulations of panchayath’s. Gramasabhas decide on how and where to spend money for the development of panchayath.

The Gram Sabha (GS) is an example of historical enlightened of Indian democracy. This devolves the power structure for widening and deepening of democracy at grass root level. GS is a gathering of all adults who live in a same locality covered by a Panchayath. Anyone who is 18 years old or more and who has the right to vote is a member of the GS. It is a venue where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify common problems, through that discussions finding solution for the problems and ensure the well being of the people. The state Kerala is a classical example for local governance, through introducing Panchayath Raj Act 1994, state ensures the participation of people in governance process.

Observations


As resident of Panchayath, the social work student participated in the GS held in 2014.  It was the last GS on the 2013-14 fiscal years. The main agenda of the GS was “Padhadi Vishadeekaranam” on next financial year.

 The Ward Member cum Panchayth president  was the chair person of the program and block member Mrs.  inaugurated the program. The quorum of the meeting is 110 hence there are 117 people participated in the meeting including women, students and elders. The minutes of the meeting was taken by LD clerk of the Panchayath.

The meeting was held on 10 am with presidential address and he spoke the main agenda of the meeting Such as analysis of 2012-13 and 2013-14 financial years’ activities and “Padhadi Vishadeekaranam” on 2014-15 financial years.  When member started to speak about the details of last year the opposite side had alleged some argument related to drinking water problem in ward as well as some problem related distribution of EMS house project. The following 45 minutes was on the discussion related to this allegation.

 The main argument which held by opposite side related to drinking water was wrong allocation of funds and failure of Panchayath to catch the accusers who burn the water tank of Panchayath. Next allegation was related to wrong allocation of EMS house project, they saying that the distribution of project could not reached the most needy people and it was held on the basis on political interference after that discussion go through ration card issues.

The other session was related to old age, and widow pension. In the meeting a volunteer person who collected forms which were distributed before related to pensions and agricultural benefits.  
After the tea brake, the block member speaks about the funds that allowed from block Panchayath for road and trench construction and funds were allotted to construction trench. After that the discussion was go though new water project “Jalandhi” and preparing list of eligible people for distribution fertilizer. On 12.30pm the meeting was dispersed.

The budget allocation for the current financial year was approximately 3.72 crore. Vice president read out the amount and the discussion was carried out on how to spend the money. Most of the people raised their concern for road. Most of the roads in the panchayath are in need of tarring and for some road, tarring is extremely urgent. Most of the members reached in a agreement to allocate a particular amount of money for road construction and the contract can be given to some private contractor.

The second major issue raised was on drinking water. In the summer’s the scarcity of drinking water become worse in many parts of the panchayath so that people raised their concern on that. Some areas of the Panchayath are in higher levels so that motor pumps are needed. It was decided to arrange suitable measures to tackle the issue by discussing with the people of other wards. Kudumbashree units were decided to be strengthened by ensuring more availability of credits. Also authorities put forwarded the measure to build a shopping complex under panchayath but they failed to reach in a consensus.

Critical analysis


The theoretical understanding of gram Sabha was to empower or ensure people participation of governance or decision making process and ensure the accountability of entire governance. Hence what social work students sow in field, this kind of activities never happened. Here, all activities or program are designed  before the GS.  Also the list of beneficiaries and how the benefits are allowing are not selected from the discussion. Thereby the exact needy people did not getting benefits. The authorities simply reading the list of beneficiaries in front of people and if somebody stand against the things. The authorities tactfully isolated them with the help of political interference.
  

Conclusion


Gram Sabha is a place where people can critically evaluates the governance of the Panchayath. It should act as a system of social audit where the policies of the Panchayath are scrutinized in the public and it should be a creative body developing strategic actions envisioning development of the Panchayath. But the ideal state is far away from reality. They act as a name sake meeting mechanically carrying out already prepared schedules.  Anyhow people’s active participation is the only way to GS to get its proper meaning.

 Author: akhil Updated: 25/05/2014 1:22 PM


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