Democracy requires the subordination of the bureaucracy to the elected representatives. This applies as much to the third level of governance through the elected local bodies as it does to governance at the level of the state or Union government.
Merger of District Rural Development Agencies (DRDAs) with the district panchayat (zila parishad) under the chairpersonship of the district panchayat chairperson should be considered, as recommended by the 37th Report.
Functionaries posted to the PRIs must be brought under the authority and discipline of the bodies. Progressively, states should build a cadre of bureaucrats and technocrats who would constituted into a Panchayats Service.
PRIs must be left free to determine the number of bureaucrats/technocrats on their rolls so free them of the financial overburden of excess staff which plagues state governments.
At present, the decisions and functioning of PRIs is subject to review by bureaucratic auto who are often empowered to over-rule the elected authority. States may move towards a system of review, where it is the panchayat at the higher level, rather than the bureaucracy, which reviews rectifies errors at the lower level.
Where decisions of the district panchayat require review, a st committee of the legislature may be constituted to undertake this task. For the municipalities, a system of peer review may be put in place. Of course, since the minister is ultimately responsible to legislature for the elected local bodies, he must remain the authority of last resort on matters that not resolved at lower levels.