Some useful facts on Union territories without legislatures (India)

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(i) Several complaints have been received from the Panchayati Raj Authorities in Union Territories significant improvement need to be made both in respect of legislations and practice of Panchayati Act in these. This may be undertaken in conjunction with the suggestion that “mini-assemblies’ established in the UTs.

Parallel Bodies

(i) Once devolution of any subject or range of subjects receives the approval of the legislature by the p of the required state legislation, setting up parallel programmes to run through “nodal officers” progress which stand constitutionally and legally devolved to the PRIs, or parastatal bodies to administer and finances devolved to the local bodies, constitutes a travesty of the constitution and the law, undermines the purposes for which the Constitution was amended by the 73rd and 74th amendments, such, all parallel programmes and parallel parastatal bodies might be abolished. Functions (and re’ finances) devolved to the PRIs must be exercised solely through the elected local bodies.

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(ii) As regards bodies like Parents-Teachers Associations and Water Users Association, their legitimacy be recognized but they might be brought under the overall aegis of the PRIs and not left to function parallel bodies outside the Panchayati Raj system. In particular, forest development agencies must fun under the overall aegis of the panchayats in accordance with the provisions of PESA.

(iii) The practice of appointing bureaucrats or ministers as chairpersons of the DPCs needs to be discouraged as this tends to convert DPCs into parallel bodies. Moreover, as district plans, according to the Constitution (Articles 243G and W respectively), have to conform to the “conditions” stipulated by the state legislative and have, in any case, to be submitted to the state authority, it is in the state capital and not at the di level that ministers and state governments should have their say.

Therefore, to ensure that DPCs r the consensus of the elected local bodies rather than perspectives imposed from outside, chairpersonship of the DPC should invariably vest in the chairperson of the district panchayat chairperson.

(iv) Equally, planning mechanisms which second-guess or substitute the functions of the DPCs at the dist level must be wound up forthwith as they are subversive of elected local bodies fulfilling their constitution role as “institutions of local self-government.

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Capacity-building and training

(i) In association with specialist academic institutions and experts, NGOs, and civil society in general, state governments need to embark on a sustained programme of capacity-building and training at all level from the gram/mahila sabha and the elected local bodies (especially women and the weaker sections society) to the DPCs and the bureaucracy at all levels, extending to MPs and MLAs, to optimize th working of Panchayati Raj to the benefit of all.

(ii) Distance education has a particularly important role to play in training and the multimedi ‘programmes devised by the Indira Gandhi Open University deserve particular attention. Indeed the electronic media constitute the single most cost-effective method of reaching large numbers of those concerned with the best available training talent in the state and country.

State of the panchayats report

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To facilitate informed review and appraisal by the state legislature, Parliament and civil society/public opinion in general, the presentation of an annual State of the Panchayats Report, perhaps in conjunction with the annual budget.

As in the case of the Human Development Index, pioneered by the United Nations Development Programme but adopted by many state governments since, the core of the annual State of the Panchayats Report might be a Devolution Index which would enable a ready measure to be made of the progress in promoting development through empowerment.

The Planning Commission in New Delhi might consider preparing a nationwide Devolution Index, which would enable states to consider further progress based on the best practice obtaining in the nation.

Jurisprudence

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Numerous cases relating to the interpretation of the constitutional ad legal provisions of Panchayati Raj have been referred to the High Courts and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is already engaged in harmonizing the jurisprudence in this regard as there appear to be variations in judicial pronouncements on aspects of Panchayati Raj.

A clear and consistent body of jurisprudence is essential for the full and proper implementation of the constitutional provisions in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the 73rd and 74th amendments.

It was the legislative practice in British India to attach a Local Government Memorandum to draft legislation (as is the practice now with the Financial Memorandum) to ensure that legislation was in conformity with the devolved powers of local bodies. It would be appropriate to revive this practice.

The Constitution requires that extant legislation be reviewed to ensure that nothing in that legislation contravenes the provisions of Parts IX and IXA of the Constitution. However, virtually no state government has undertaken this exercise. It is recommended that the Law Commissions of the centre and the states be requested to study the matter and action be taken thereafter expeditiously.

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