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Development and Panchayats

This topic provides information about Development and Gram Panchyats.

Concept of Development

The concept of development has been defined by many in different ways. However, it can be generally stated that

  • Development is about improvement in economic and social condition of people and places
  • It is linked to addressing poverty, education, health, employment, infrastructure and facilities, basic amenities like housing, drinking water, sanitation.
  • It is also about equity and enhancing human abilities.

In the 1990s the human development paradigm was introduced. It argued that development is not merely economic growth, it is also about the people and their capabilities. It is linked to a healthy life, education and decent standards of living. This emphasized the need to shift the focus from national income as the only indicator of development to expanding the choices people have. Thus, it became a people centric development process.

In 1990, the United Nations Development Programme introduced the first global Human Development Report (HDR) and with it the Human Development Index (HDI) that measures a country’s progress beyond gross national income to include social indicators such as health and education.

India welcomed the concept of human development. This was reflected in the Eighth National Five-Year Plan formulated in 1992 which stated that "human development was the ultimate goal of all planning".

How is development reflected at the village level?

Development at a village level can be reflected by the facilities that a village has to enrich a human life and sustain the environment around it. Water, sanitation, housing, no poverty, energy, health, environment, education, employment etc. reflect how developed a village is. While we think about village development, do think about justice for all, conserving our eco systems and gender equality.

Why Panchayats?

The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution of India laid the way for a paradigm shift in the governance system of the country. From two levels of the National and State governments, a new level was introduced which could be broadly called local government.

The major guiding principles followed in this shift were

  • Autonomy of local governments
  • Powers to take decisions in matters transferred to local governments, and
  • Devolution of functions, finance and functionaries.

The major objectives of these Constitutional amendments include Ensuring social justice and local economic development. And these definitely cover all aspects of human development.

Salient Features of the Constitutional Amendments

  • Every State shall have Panchayats in rural areas and Municipalities in urban areas.
  • A three-tier system for States having population over two million.
  • For others, a two-tier system with no intermediate tier.
  • Panchayats and Municipalities are established as institutions of self-government.
  • There is reservation of seats – not less than one-third seats for women while for scheduled caste and tribes, proportional to their population.
  • The term of office for the elected representatives of these local governments is five years.
  • The local governments are also to prepare local area development plans.
  • Resources to the local governments may come from own resources generated by them like from taxes, duties, tolls, fees, rent, user charges, taxes collected by the state and a part of which assigned to or shared with the local governments, specific purpose grants from the State and Central governments, untied grants, borrowing, donations and gifts. These are to be decided by the State governments based on the recommendations of a mandatory State Finance Commission.
  • Each district has a District Planning Committee (DPC), which prepares a development plan for the district consolidating the urban and rural local plans and higher tier plans.
  • Village assemblies’ alias Gram Sabhas with all adult citizens as members are established in every local government.
  • States are mandated to confer power and responsibilities to these Gram Sabhas.
  • The State governments shall constitute independent State Election Commissions.
  • 29 subjects are transferred to the local governments; the details of which have to be defined by the State governments.

Subjects Transferred to Local Governments

As per the Eleventh Schedule of Article 243 G of 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution, following subjects fall within the responsibilities of local governments

  1. Agriculture including agricultural extension
  2. Land improvement, implementation of land reforms, land consolidation and soil conservation
  3. Minor irrigation, water management and watershed development
  4. Animal husbandry, dairying and poultry
  5. Fisheries
  6. Social forestry and farm forestry
  7. Minor forest production
  8. Small-scale industries, including food-processing industries
  9. Khadi, village and cottage industries
  10. Rural housing
  11. Drinking water
  12. Fuel and fodder
  13. Roads, culverts, bridges, ferries, waterways and other means of communication
  14. Rural electrification, including distribution of electricity
  15. Non-conventional energy sources
  16. Poverty alleviation programmes
  17. Education including primary and secondary school
  18. Technical training and vocational education
  19. Adult and non-formal education
  20. Libraries
  21. Cultural activities
  22. Market and fairs
  23. Health and sanitation
  24. Family welfare
  25. Women and child development
  26. Social welfare, including welfare of the handicapped and mentally retarded
  27. Welfare of the weaker sections, and in particular, of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes
  28. Public distribution system
  29. Maintenance of community assets

Almost all the determinants of human development are covered under these subjects.

Measuring Human Development

Human Development Index considers Health (Life expectancy at birth), Education (Mean of years of schooling for adults aged 25 years and more and expected years of schooling for children of school entering age) and Standard of living (Gross national income per capita) to measure human development. This is only for global comparisons. More dimensions can be considered. There are other similar indices also – on inequality, gender disparity and human poverty.

Millennium Development Goals

Indices alone are not enough. We need to have actions which would lead to a few goals that together contribute to human development. Thus, came the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to be achieved by 2015 to which all member states of the United Nations committed themselves. The eight goals and their targets were aimed at eradicating poverty, achieving universal primary education, empowering women, reducing child mortality, ensuring environmental sustain-ability and forging new partnerships for development.

Sustainable Development Goals

Having completed the deadline for MDGs, the world has moved to the Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal set of goals

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal set of goals, targets and indicators that 193 countries in the world have jointly set under the leadership of the United Nations. The countries are expected to frame their agendas and policies over the next 15 years to end poverty, protect the planet, enjoy peace, and ensure prosperity for all.

193 countries, including India in September 2015 adopted a global development vision called Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda is “a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity”. 2030 Agenda contains 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets to stimulate global action over the next 15 years on issues critical to humanity and the planet. It has become applicable from January 2016. The deadline for the SDGs is 2030.

The concept of SDGs was born at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, in 2012. The SDGs build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and seek to build on the progress of MDGs and complete what they did not achieve.

The cornerstones of this Agenda are People, Prosperity, Peace, Partnerships and the Planet. This is known as Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

SDGs

India is one of the signatories to the resolution on SDGs. It has moved ahead on the nationalising of the implementation of the SDGs and initiated preparation of the Vision Document 2030 with NITI Aayog in the lead. Based on the guidance from NITI Aayog, State governments have begun the process of SDGs implementation. In addition to the State level, there is a critical need to take SDGs to the local level. Here lies the importance of local governments, especially the Gram Panchayats.

Gram Panchayats and SDGs

  • The twin objectives of the Panchayati Raj system as envisaged by the Constitution of India are to ensure local economic development and social justice.
  • The Eleventh schedule of the Constitution expects the Panchayats to play key roles in various thematic domains enlisted as 29 functions, though the specific mandates and capacities of these local governments vary from State to State.
  • Many of the SDG targets are within the purview of these functions listed in the Eleventh Schedule.
  • There are also the various flagship programmes such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Make in India, Digital India, Skill India, and Jan Dhan Yojana which are at the core of the SDGs and local governments play a pivotal role in many of these programmes.

The Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDP) initiated after the historical recommendation of the Fourteenth Finance Commission paves the way for the Panchayats to link planning with the SDGs.

For localisation of SDGs, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) has prepared a ‘Draft Vision Document for Achieving SDGs’. It has mapped roles of Panchayats in terms of SDGs and centrally sponsored schemes (CSS).

The challenge related to Panchayats is to capacitate them for planning, fund absorption and improving service delivery towards achieving sustainable development goals. It is important that the SDG goals and targets are deconstructed with the perspective of local governments and presented to them in a way in which they can be used in local planning and implementation.

Source : Handbook on Sustainable Development Goals and Gram Panchayats

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