73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, also known as the Panchayati Raj Act, was a landmark legislation enacted by the Government of India in 1992. The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act was passed in 1992 and it came into effect on 24 April 1993. The central government chose to recognise April 24 as National Panchayati Raj Day every year in 2010. The Act empowered state governments to take the necessary steps that would lead to the formalisation of the gram panchayats and help them operate as units of self-governance.
In this essay, we will delve into the historical context, key provisions, significance, and impact of the 73rd Amendment Act, which marked a significant step towards grassroots democracy in India.
73rd Constitutional Amendment: Inside Story
Panchayati Raj is the oldest system of local government in the Indian subcontinent. Panchayati Raj Institutions as local government units have existed in India for a long time
To understand the significance of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, it is essential to examine the historical context in which it was enacted. India gained independence in 1947, and the framers of the Constitution recognized the importance of decentralization of power. However, it was only in the late 1980s and early 1990s that there was a renewed push for local self-governance.
Although the Rajiv Gandhi and VP Singh governments attempted to grant the Panchayati Raj Institutions constitutional status, but Narasimha Rao’s administration was the only one to get success in the adoption of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act
- Grassroots Mobilization: The 1980s saw a wave of grassroots movements demanding greater participation in decision-making at the local level. Activists like Mahatma Gandhi had long championed the idea of local self-governance, and these movements gained momentum in the post-independence period.
- Economic Reforms: The early 1990s also witnessed economic reforms and liberalization in India. There was a growing recognition that decentralization could help in effective implementation of development programs and poverty alleviation.
Constitutional Provisions of Panchayati Raj
- Through this amendment, the constitution gained the 11th schedule, which listed 29 Panchayat-related topics.
- Additionally, Part IX, which included provisions from Articles 243 to 243 O, was introduced to the Constitution by this measure.
- The state governments were now required by this modification to implement the new Panchayati Raj system in conformity with the act’s stipulations.
Remarkable Features of the 73rd Amendment Act:
The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act introduced several key provisions that aimed to strengthen rural local self-governance. Here are some of the most important provisions:
- Establishment of Panchayats: The Amendment mandated the establishment of Panchayats at the village, intermediate (block), and district levels. These Panchayats were to be elected bodies with representatives chosen through direct elections.
- Reservation of Seats: The Act provided for the reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and women in Panchayats to ensure their representation in local governance.
- 3-Tier Structure: The Act introduced a three-tier structure of Panchayats, with Gram Panchayats at the village level, Panchayat Samitis at the intermediate (block) level, and Zila Parishads at the district level. At every level of the Panchayat, there is a provision for the reservation of seats for SCs and STs. This hierarchy aimed at decentralizing decision-making and ensuring a broader reach of governance.
- Powers and Functions: The Amendment Act empowered Panchayats with specific functions related to local planning, economic development, social justice, and implementation of government programs. It gave them the authority to levy taxes and collect fees for these purposes.
- State Election Commissions: To oversee Panchayat elections and ensure their fair conduct, the Act called for the establishment of State Election Commissions in each state of India.
Significance of the 73rd Amendment Act:
The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act had several significant implications for Indian democracy and governance:
- Decentralization of Power: The Act marked a significant shift towards decentralization of power, bringing decision-making closer to the grassroots level. This was in line with the principles of federalism and subsidiarity.
- Empowerment of Marginalized Communities: Through reservations, the Act ensured the political representation of marginalized groups, such as SCs, STs, and women, in local governance. This helped in addressing historical inequalities and social justice.
- Strengthening Democracy: The Act strengthened the democratic fabric of the country by providing opportunities for citizen participation and involvement in local governance. It encouraged civic engagement and accountability.
- Local Development: By entrusting Panchayats with local planning and development functions, the Act aimed at more effective and targeted development programs tailored to the needs of specific regions.
- Poverty Alleviation: The Act played a crucial role in poverty alleviation by enabling the implementation of rural development schemes and poverty eradication programs at the grassroots level.
Impact of the 73rd Amendment Act:
Over the years, the 73rd Amendment Act has had a profound impact on Indian governance and society:
- Increased Participation: The Act has led to increased participation of women and marginalized communities in local governance, fostering social inclusion and equity.
- Grassroots Development: Panchayats have played a crucial role in the planning and implementation of local development projects, addressing the unique challenges faced by different regions.
- Social Justice: The reservation of seats has helped in the empowerment of marginalized communities, allowing them to have a say in decisions that affect their lives.
- Poverty Reduction: Panchayats have played a significant role in implementing poverty reduction programs and ensuring that government resources are utilized effectively for the benefit of the rural poor.
- Accountability and Transparency: The Act has promoted accountability and transparency in local governance through mechanisms such as Gram Sabhas (village assemblies) and public audits.
The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 marked a significant turning point in India’s democratic journey. It empowered rural local self-governance institutions, promoted social justice, and decentralized power to the grassroots level. While there have been challenges and variations in implementation, the Act has undoubtedly contributed to strengthening democracy, promoting inclusive development, and addressing the needs of marginalized communities in India. Gandhi ji also advocated the third level of government that can understand the problems of the people of the village at the grassroots level.
Read in Hindi also: 73rd संविधान संशोधन 1992 क्या है? 73वें संविधान संशोधन की विशेषताएं क्या थीं?