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NATIONAL EXECUTIVE MEETING 13 April, 2002 - Panaji, Goa

RESOLUTION ON EMPOWERMENT OF PANCHAYATI RAJ


The Bharatiya Janata Party endorses the National Declaration passed by the All India Panchayati Raj Conference last week. It urges the Government to bring in a new Constitution Amendment at the earliest in the Parliament to ensure effective and speedy devolution of financial and administrative powers to Panchayati Raj Institutions.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the passage of the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution. The BJP too supported these Amendments for our party has always believed in decentralization of governance with Panchayats as the basic building blocks of our democracy.

Panchayats have existed in India for almost as long as India existed. They are the living proof that democracy is not import into India; but rather it is an inseparable part of India's civilization heritage. Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay used to emphasize that decentralization is the key to both healthy democracy and for the socio-economic development. This thinking is rooted in the Indian ethos of regarding a Panch, of a biradari or of the village as Parameshwar.

Since the attainment of freedom in 1947 and the adoption of a Republican Constitution in 1950, Panchayats have become a formal part of our democratic system. It is, however, a proof of the utter disregard for the importance of Panchayats that the earlier regimes, which ruled at the Centre and in most States for many decades after Independence, did not care to make them effective instruments of grassroots governance and participative developments. The people who claimed to inherit the mantle of Gandhiji in reality did not care for the kernel of Gandhiji's political philosophy, which gave Panchayats the prime position in building the new India based on Gram Swaraj.

The Constitution Amendments, which the earlier Governments brought about, did not empower Panchayati Raj Institutions in the true sense of the term. In most States, elections to Panchayats were either not held for years together or when held, the Panchayats were routinely superseded by the bureaucracy to serve the partisan ends of the ruling party. It is a telling commentary on the neglect of the Panchayati Raj Institutions that the average annual income, from their own sources, of Gram Panchayat is only Rs.30,000 a year; that of an Intermediate Panchayat is only Rs.60,000; and that of a Zilla Panchayat is a mere Rs.12 lakh.

With such meager internal resources, how can Panchayats be expected to discharge their responsibilities in as many as 29 subjects - ranging from primary health to primary education, from minor irrigation to minor forest produce, from sanitation to community lighting - that have been mandated to them by the Constitution?

The party notes some of the positive outcomes of the 73rd and 74th Amendments. In particular, they have partially promoted the ideals of social justice and women's political empowerment. This is borne out by the fact that of the 34 lakh elected representatives of our Panchayati Raj Institutions, 10 lakh are women and 6 lakh belong to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. However, even these positive developments have been largely negated by the lack of financial and administrative powers to Panchayats. After a decade of the passage of the Constitution Amendments it is universally and acutely realised that the empowerment of Panchayati Raj Institutions cannot be complete without devolution of adequate rightful financial and administrative powers to them.

It is in this context that the NDA Government under the farsighted leadership of Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee has initiated the process of true empowerment of Panchayati Raj Institutions. The National Declaration unanimously adopted at the conference is an indication of the tremendous urge, cutting across party lines, that exists among the elected representatives of our local self government bodies to have adequate and effective financial and administrative powers.

The party whole-heartedly endorses the contents of the National Declaration. In particular, it urges the Government to devise new and innovative ways of making non-budgetary resources available to Panchayats. The BJP feels that it is time to think in terms of earmarking funds specifically for various tiers of Panchayati Raj system without giving scope for any diversion or delay in reaching the funds. The BJP urges all political parties and also State Governments to support the early passage of the new Amendments to the Constitution to go ahead with the second generation Panchayati Raj Reforms.