Panchayati raj in Haryana
Haryana, one of the smaller states of India in terms of its size and population, was a part of Punjab till November 1966 when it attained statehood. Traditionally, the rural area of the region later became Haryana has the institutions of bhaichara (community) panchayats, the statutory panchayats and district boards during the British regime. The district boards were set up in 1884 having Deputy Commissioner as the chairman. However, this institution had gradually democratised by introducing the element of election.1 The genesis of statutory panchayats in this area during the British Raj, could be traced to the Punjab village panchayats. The Act of 1912 as replaced by the village Panchayat Act of 1921 but this also failed to produce the desired results. The Government of Punjab enacted the Panchayat Act, 1939 which superseded the earlier Acts and conferred among other, wide judicial powers both civil and criminal on the panchayats. Efforts were made to improve the financial resources of the panchayats through government grants equal to judicial fees and fines credited by the panchayats to the government treasury. Panchayats were also allowed to levy taxes with prior sanction ofthe government.
After independence, with the enactment of the Punjab Gram Panchayat Act, 1952, gram panchayats were set up at the village level on a mandatory basis. This Act of 1952 was later amended in 1960, and hence, when Haryana became a separate State in 1966, the local government institutions operating in the State had three tiers. These included the gram panchayat, the panchayat samiti and zilla parishad under Punjab Panchayat Samitis and Zilla Parishads Act, 1961. This basic pattern, formulated on the lines of the recommendations of the Balwantrai Mehta study team in 1957, was retained after 1966.
Panchayati Raj in Haryana after Separation
Haryana, came into being on November 1, 1966 having a population of 10,36,808 with an area of 44, 056 square kilometer.6 As per 2001 census the provisional population of Haryana State has increased to 21,082,989 out of which 14,968,850 population belongs to rural and rest 6,114,129 population to urban areas. The rural population lives in 6955 villages, and is largely dependent on agriculture and its allied activities for its livelihood. The number of literates has also shown significant improvement in both rural and urban areas of Haryana. In absolute terms the number of literates in rural has increased from 4,974,926 in 1991 to 8,002,496 in 2001. Thus rural literacy has gone up from 49.85% to 63.82% during the decade. The female literacy has also gone up from 40.47% to 56.31% but the sex ratio has gone down from 865 to 861 female per thousand male. The sex ratio of literates is 617 females per thousand males. The density of population per square kilometer is 477.
Till 1966, Panchayati Raj only a gradual headway in Haryana, Part of Punjab. Afterward its progress had accelerated in the State of Haryana but not significantly. Elections have not been held regularly. The legitimate autonomy of panchayati raj institutions was not present due to state government’s control over their supervision. In 1973, zila parishad was abolished on the recommendations of Maru Singh Ad-hoc Committee on Panchayati Raj, 1972. The Committee mentioned that there was unnecessary overlapping of functions between zila parishad and panchayat samiti and therefore the zila parishad should be abolished and its functions should be added on to the functions alread\ assigned statutorily to panchayat samiti. The panchayat samiti, the committee argued, should be strengthened financially and administratively to play a large role in development processes.8 9 However, the recommendations of this committee were not accepted by the government, which preferred instead to accept the recommendations of the ad-hoc committee constituted by it in 1972 to evaluate the performance of zila parishads. This latter committee had expressed the view that the zila parishads be abolished as these were superfluous bodies which had failed to perform the coordinating functions for which they had been constituted. The zila parishads were abolished with effect from July 13, 1973 on the recommendations of the ad-hoc committee. The abolition of the zila parishad was also justified by the state government on the grounds that there was no clearcut demarcation of powers between the zila parishads and panchayat samitis/ Therefore, Haryana had only a two-tier panchayati raj system from 1973 to 1994.
Since the separation of Haryana and till 1993 the Punjab Grain Panchayat Act, 1952 was amended nineteen times, the Punjab Village Common Land (Regulations) Act, 1961, eleven times and the Punjab Panchayat Samitis and Zila Parishads Act, 1961, seventeen times. Major amendments to the Punjab Gram Panchayat Act, 1952, included the Haryana Act No. 19 of 1971 which extended the term of panchayats, from three to five years, the Haryana Act No. 22 of 1973. which abolished the zila parishads and assigned all their powers to the deputy commissioners, the Haryana Act No. 3 of 1976, which provided for the removal of the sarpanch in case of failure to hold two consecutive meetings of the gram sabha. the Haryana Act No. 13 of 1987. which made provision for the reservation of seats for the members of the backward classes if their population attained to 2 percent or more in the gram sabha area. Here it may be mentioned that no sarpanch have ever actually been removed for his failure to hold the meetings of the gram sabha, and the Haryana Act No. 14 of 1987. which provided for representation of one member ofthe backwards classes in the panchayat samiti.
Main Provisions of Haryana Panchayati Raj Act, 1994
The Haryana Panchayati Raj Act 1994 incorporated all the essential features of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act. It has made the gram sabha a soul of the panchayati raj system. It provides a platform for the direct participation of the people themselves. It is mandatory to hold at least two gram sabha meetings annually in the month of May and November. The Act provides for a quorum to convene the meetings of gram sabha, which is fixed at one-tenth ofthe total voters of villages.
Further, the Act makes a provision for the sarpanch to hold three’4 consecutive meetings of the gram sabha, his sarpanchship may be automatically ceased from the date on which second meeting was to be held. In order to ensure that gram sabha becomes a true democratic institution, the Act confers a number of powers and functions on the gram sabha. The Block Development and Panchayat Officer (BDPO) and the Gram Sachiv, attend every general meetings of panchayat samiti and gram panchayats respectively. And for any reason.
beyond his control, the is unable to attend every meeting, the Social Education and Panchayat Officer (SEPO) or block extension officer attends the meeting. This will facilitate not only in discussing the various issues but also helps to build mutual confidence and understanding between the members of the gram sabha and the local level bureaucracy. Several functions have been entrusted to the gram sabha. such as review of annual statement of accounts and the report on administrative activities, and developmental affairs of the panchayat like the location of schemes and other works, including consideration of the budget prepared by the gram panchayat and the execution of future development programmes and the plans. Infact, the gram sabha is to develop a system of internal checks and balances to ensure larger involvement of people in developing programmes, enhance political and administrative awareness, inculcate community spirit to facilitate direct communication between the people and the elected leaders and finally to create in the gram sabha a reservoir of power, authority, ownership by empowering it to play the role of a parent body.
The Act provides for direct election of members to the panchayati raj institutions at all the three levels on the basis of wards for the gram panchayat and territorial constituencies in the case of panchayat samitis and zila parishads. The Act makes it clear that the minimum number of gram panchayat members will not be less than 6 and not more than 20.
In case of panchayat samiti members, one member for every 4,000 population will be elected and the number of elected members will be 10 to 30. Similarly, the zila parishad will also have 10 to 30 directly elected members and one member will be elected for every 40.000 population. The Act provides that the government will divide a district into wards in such a manner that the population of each ward be the same throughout the district. This will ensure that all the territorial constituencies have the same number of voters.
Provision has been made for ex-officio membership for Members of Legislative Assembly (M.L.As) in the panchayat samitis; while the Members of Parliament (MPs) have been kept out. The MLAs also could have been kept out from this body as in the case of Maharashtra. In zila parishads, both MPs and MLAs have been made ex-officio members with right to vote except in the election and the removal of president. Legislators have bigger roles to play in Assemblies and Parliament. Their presence in panchayati raj institutions will affect the smooth and frank discussions in the meetings of panchayat samitis and zila parishads. Involvement of MPs and MLAs had resulted in the past in emergence of groups and factions thereby affecting the functioning of panchayati raj institutions.
All the chairpersons of panchayat samiti will also be ex-officio members of the zilla parishad. Similarly, sarpanches of the gram panchayats. equal to the one-filth of the total number of panchayat samiti seats, will be the ex-officio members of panchayat samitis for one year by rotation and lots.
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