When the whole country, including the Central Government and State Government of Odisha are preparing to celebrate the Panchayatiraj Day on 24th April, the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, (CSD), Odisha, which campaigns for implementation of Forest Rights Act, 2006 in the country, seeks transfer of real “Governance Power to the Rural People” on the occasion of the Panchayatiraj Diwas.
CSD is of the view that while the ‘Panchayaturaj System’ and even 73rd Constitutional Amendment 1992 said to have been adopted for the ‘Decentralisation of Democracy’ and ‘Local self-Government’ in the rural India, there are a number of inherent problems exists within the system itself. When Panchayatiraj System is said to have been adopted for the decentralisation of Democracy in the rural India, it is seriously lacking “governance by the local people”.
CSD contends that while a person living in a village identifies himself as a member of that village, but under Panchayatiraj System (Section 3 of the OGP Act, 1964), there is no recognition of Village as a unit of administration. There is no recognition of thousands of forest/un-surveyed village as village under Panchayatiraj. CSD has also targeted the Government of Odisha for diluting Section 243(m) (a) of PESA, Act 1996 (which recognises village as the unit of administration and even recognises hamlet level Gram Sabha) while extending the provision of Panchayat in scheduled 5th areas of the State.
Citing the Section 243 (G) of the 73rd Amendment, 1992 CSD contents that the ‘Panchayat’ has been authorised as the “Executive Body” without making it responsible to the Legislative Body, the ‘Gram Sabha’ and is limited to the preparation of plans for the economic development and social justice in relation to the 29 matters listed in the Eleventh scheduled (Article 243(G). In this context, CSD has criticised the concept of Gram Sabha at the Panchayat level which is never happened.
Alleging illegal influence of government employees while taking “Gram Sabha Resolution” by the member of the Gram Sabha, CSD complaints that under on going the ‘Panchayatiraj System’, the community people at the village level are not free to hold Gram Sabha as and when they require, they are not free to write/record their resolution, not free to keep the register of Gram Sabha Resolution in the village. Targeting the over empowered influence of Bureaucracy in the affair of ‘Gram Sabha Sarkar’, CSD alleges Odisha bureaucrats for forging Gram Sabha resolutions in the mining prone areas/ districts where the villagers have protested community land and forest land acquisition and alienation.
Demanding FRA Gram Sabha in every villages, irrespective of revenue forest/surveyed, CSD asserts that every executive body formed at the village level is to implement the decision of the ‘General Body-the ‘Gram Sabha’ should be exclusively consisting of the members of the Gram Sabha itself and no Employee/Govt. Servant can become its members and should always be remained responsible and accountable before the ‘General Body-the ‘Gram Sabha’ for its acts.
Advocating for replacement of Palli Sabha and Panchayat with Gram Sabha in in every villages in the line of Forest Rights Act, 2006, CSD has also criticised the 1/10th quorum of the Palli Sabha and Gram Sabha under Section 6(5) (a) and (b) of Orissa Gram Panchayat Act, 1964 substituted by Orissa Act 3 of 2004.
While the Panchayatiraj System legally does not want people in the Palli Sabha/Gram Sabha meetings with (1/10th quorum and no quorum once adjourned) to decide over their affairs and empowers the bureaucrats to take over their decisions, the FRA Gram Sabha with for 2/3rd quorum provides no role of the bureaucrats in the affairs of the Gram Sabha and empowers the community to take independent decision of their own affairs.
FRA, 2006 also aims at establishment of direct democracy in the villages by constituting Gram Sabha Sarkar in every villages which would have exclusive legislative, executive and judiciary power over its people and over natural resources and the decision of the Gram Sabha Sarkar would be the final.
Clarifying doubts arising due to the existence of number of Governments (Gram Sabha Sarkars) within a State, CSD asserts that as Govt. of Odisha exists within the framework of Indian Government having its own power and jurisdictions, thousands of Gram Sabha Sarkars should exist and function within the Govt. of Odisha having its own power and jurisdictions.
CSD has urged the Central and Govt. of Odisha to discard the Palli Sabha and Gram Sabha concept under Panchayatiraj system and to adopt FRA Gram Sabha in every village and to have Panchayat in every village to realise the Local Self Government. CSD has also urges the Govt. of Odisha for State funding in panchayat election and to avoid Panchayat election in political party line.
*Moderator, Campaign for Survival and Dignity, Odisha