The provisions of Part IX of the constitution relating to the Panchayats are not applicable to the Fifth Schedule areas. However, the Parliament may extend these provisions to such areas, subject to such exceptions and modifications as it may specify. Under this provision, the Parliament has enacted the “Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act”, 1996, popularly known as the PESA Act or the Extension Act.
At present (2016), ten states have Fifth Schedule Areas. These are: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhatisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan. All the ten states have enacted requisite compliance legislations by amending the respective Panchayati Raj Acts.
Objectives of the Act
The objectives of the PESA Act are as follows6:
1. To extend the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the panchayats to the scheduled areas with certain modifications
2. To provide self-rule for the bulk of the tribal population
3. To have village governance with participatory democracy and to make the gram sabha a nucleus of all activities
4. To evolve a suitable administrative framework consistent with traditional practices
5. To safeguard and to preserve the traditions and customs of tribal communities
6. To empower panchayats at the appropriate levels with specific powers conducive to tribal requirements
7. To prevent panchayats at the higher level from assuming the powers and authority of panchayats at the lower level of the gram sabha
Features of the Act
The features (or the provisions) of the PESA Act are as follows:
1. A state legislation on the Panchayats in the Scheduled Areas shall be in consonance with the customary law, social and religious practices and traditional management practices of community resources.
2. A village 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 traditions and customs.
3. Every village shall have a Gram Sabha consisting of persons whose names are included in the electoral rolls for the Panchayat at the village level.
4. Every Gram Sabha shall be competent to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people, their cultural identity, community resources and the customary mode of dispute resolution.
5. Every Gram Sabha shall--
(i) approve of the plans, programmes and projects for social and economic development before they are taken up for implementation by the Panchayat at the village level; and
(ii) be responsible for the identification of beneficiaries under the poverty alleviation and other programmes.
6. Every Panchayat at the village level shall be required to obtain from the Gram Sabha a certification of utilisation of funds for the above plans, programmes and projects.
7. The reservation of seats in the Scheduled Areas in every Panchayat shall be in proportion to the population of the communities for whom reservation is sought to be given under Part IX of the Constitution. However, the reservation for the Scheduled Tribes shall not be less than one-half of the total number of seats. Further, all seats of Chairpersons of Panchayats at all levels shall be reserved for the Scheduled Tribes.
8. The state government may nominate such Scheduled Tribes which have no representation in the Panchayat at the intermediate level or the Panchayat at the district level. But such nomination shall not exceed one- tenth of the total members to be elected in that Panchayat.
9. The Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be consulted before making the acquisition of land in the Scheduled Areas for development projects and before resettling or rehabilitating persons affected by such projects in the Scheduled Areas. However, the actual planning and implementation of the projects in the Scheduled Areas shall be coordinated at the state level.
10. Planning and management of minor water bodies in the Scheduled Areas shall be entrusted to Panchayats at the appropriate level.
11. The recommendations of the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be mandatory for grant of prospecting licence or mining lease for minor minerals in the Scheduled Areas.
12. The prior recommendation of the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be mandatory for grant of concession for the exploitation of minor minerals by auction.
13. While endowing Panchayats in the Scheduled Areas with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government, a State Legislature shall ensure that the Panchayats at the appropriate level and the Gram Sabha are endowed specifically with -
(i) the power to enforce prohibition or to regulate or restrict the sale and consumption of any intoxicant
(ii) the ownership of minor forest produce
(iii) the power to prevent alienation of land in the Scheduled Areas and to take appropriate action to restore any unlawfully alienated land of a Scheduled Tribe
(iv) the power to manage village markets
(v) the power to exercise control over money lending to the Scheduled Tribes
(vi) the power to exercise control over institutions and functionaries in all social sectors
(vii) the power to control local plans and resources for such plans including tribal sub-plans
14. The State Legislations shall contain safeguards to ensure that Panchayats at the higher level do not assume the powers and authority of any Panchayat at the lower level or of the Gram Sabha.
15. The State Legislature shall endeavour to follow the pattern of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution while designing the administrative arrangements in the Panchayats at district levels in the Scheduled Areas.
16. Any provision of any law (relating to Panchayats in the Scheduled Areas) which is inconsistent with the provisions of this Act shall cease to be in force at the expiry of one year from the date on which this Act receives the assent of the President7. However, all the Panchayats existing immediately before such date shall continue till the expiry of their term, unless dissolved by the State Legislature sooner.
FINANCES OF PANCHAYATI RAJ
The Second Administrative Reforms Commission of India (2005-2009) has
summarized the sources of revenue of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs)
and their financial problems in the following way7a:
1. A major portion of Part IX of the Constitution deals with structural empowerment of the PRIs but the real strength in terms of both autonomy and efficiency of these institutions is dependent on their financial position (including their capacity to generate own resources). In general, Panchayats in our country receive funds in the following ways:
(i) Grants from the Union Government based on the recommendations of the Central Finance Commission as per Article 280 of the Constitution.
(ii) Devolution from the State Government based on the recommendations of the State Finance Commission as per Article 243-I.
(iii) Loans / grants from the State Government.
(iv) Programme-specific allocation under Centrally Sponsored Schemes and Additional Central Assistance.
(v) Internal Resource Generation (tax and non-tax).
2. Across the country, States have not given adequate attention to fiscal empowerment of the Panchayats. The Panchayats own resources are meager. Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are the states which are considered to be progressive in PRIs empowerment but even there, the Panchayats are heavily dependent on government grants. One can draw the following broad conclusions:
(i) Internal resource generation at the Panchayat level is weak. This is partly due to a thin tax domain and partly due to Panchayats own reluctance in collecting revenue.
(ii) Panchayats are heavily dependent on grants from Union and State Governments.
(iii) A major portion of the grants both from Union as well as the State Governments is scheme specific. Panchayats have limited discretion and flexibility in incurring expenditure.
(iv) In view of their own tight fiscal position, State Governments are not keen to devolve funds to Panchayats.
(v) In most of the critical Eleventh Schedule matters like primary education, healthcare, water supply, sanitation and minor irrigation even now, it is the State Government which is directly responsible for implementation of these programmes and hence expenditure.
(vi) Overall, a situation has been created where Panchayats have responsibility but grossly inadequate resources.
3. Though, in absolute terms, the quantum of funds the Union/State Government transfers to a Panchayat forms the major component of its receipt, the PRI’s own resource generation is the soul behind its financial standing. It is not only a question of resources; it is the existence of a local taxation system which ensures people’s involvement in the affairs of an elected body. It also makes the institution accountable to its citizens.
4. In terms of own resource collection, the Gram Panchayats are comparatively in a better position because they have a tax domain of their own, while the other two tiers are dependent only on tolls, fees and nontax revenue for generating internal resources.
5. State Panchayati Raj Acts have given most of the taxation powers to Village Panchayats. The revenue domain of the intermediate and District Panchayats (both tax as well as non-tax) has been kept much smaller and remains confined to secondary areas like ferry services, markets, water and conservancy services, registration of vehicles, cess on stamp duty and a few others.
6. A study of various State Legislations indicates that a number of taxes, duties, tolls and fees come under the jurisdiction of the Village Panchayats. These interalia include octroi, property/house tax, profession tax, land tax/cess, taxes/tolls on vehicles, entertainment tax/fees, license fees, tax on non-agriculture land, fee on registration of cattle, sanitation/drainage/conservancy tax, water rate/ tax, lighting rate/tax, education cess and tax on fairs and festivals.
REASONS FOR INEFFECTIVE PERFORMANCE
Even after conferring the constitutional status and protection through the 73rd Amendment Act (1992), the performance of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) has not been satisfactory and not upto the expected level. The various reasons for this sub-optimal performance are as follows7b:
1. Lack of adequate devolution: Many States have not taken adequate steps to devolve 3Fs (i.e., functions, funds and functionaries) to the PRIs to enable them to discharge their constitutionally stipulated function. Further, it is imperative that the PRIs have resources to match the responsibilities entrusted to them. While SFCs (state finance commissions) have submitted their recommendations, not many few States have implemented these or taken steps to ensure the fiscal viability of the PRIs.
2. Excessive control by bureaucracy: In some States, the Gram Panchayats have been placed in a position of subordination. Hence, the Gram Panchayat Sarpanches have to spend extraordinary amount of time visiting Block Offices for funds and/or technical approval. These interactions with the Block staff office distort the role of Sarpanches as elected representatives.
3. Tied nature of funds: This has two implications. The activities stated under a certain scheme are not always appropriate for all parts of the district. This results in unsuitable activities being promoted or an underspend of the funds.
4. Overwhelming dependency on government funding: A review of money received and own source funds shows the overwhelming dependence of Panchayats on government funding. When Panchayats do not raise resources and instead receive funds from outside, people are less likely to request a social audit.
5. Reluctance to use fiscal powers: An important power devolved to GP (Gram Panchayat) is the right to levy tax on property, business, markets, fairs and also for services provided, like street lighting or public toilets, etc. Very few Panchayats use their fiscal power to levy and collect taxes. The argument pushed by Panchayat heads is that it is difficult to levy tax on your own constituency, especially when you live in the community.
6. Status of the Gram Sabha: Empowering the Gram Sabhas could have been a powerful weapon for transparency, accountability and for involvement of the marginalized sections. However, a number of the State Acts have not spelt the powers of Gram Sabhas nor have any procedures been laid down for the functioning of these bodies or penalties for the officials.
7. Creation of Parallel Bodies: Often, Parallel Bodies (PBs) are created for supposedly speedy implementation and greater accountability. However, there is little evidence to show that such PBs have avoided the evils including that of partisan politics, sharing of spoils, corruption and elite capture. Missions (in particular) often bypassing mainstream programmes, create disconnect, duality, and alienation between the existing and the new structures and functions. PBs usurp the legitimate space of PRIs and demoralize the PRIs by virtue of their superior resource endowments.
8. Poor Infrastructure: A large number of Gram Panchayats in the country do not have even full time Secretary. Around 25 percent of the Gram Panchayats do not have basic office buildings. The database for planning, monitoring etc., are lacking in most of the cases.
A large number of elected representatives of PRIs are semi-literate or literate and know little about their roles & responsibilities, programmes, procedures, systems. Often for want of good, relevant and periodic training, they are not able to perform their functions properly.
Although all the District and Intermediate Panchayats are connected with computers, only around 20% Gram Panchayats reported to be having computing facility. In some States, Village Panchayats do not have any computing facility.