For other uses, see Panchayat (disambiguation).
A gram panchayat (village council) is the grassroots-level of panchayati raj formalised local self-governance system in India at the village or small-town level, and has a sarpanch as its elected head.
The failed attempts to deal with local matters at the national level caused, in 1992, the reintroduction of panchayats for their previously used purpose as an organisation for local self-governance. There are about 250,000 gram panchayats in India, that are being gigabit-broadband enabled under the BharatNet and Digital India initiative.
Gram panchayats are panchayats at base level in panchayat raj institutions (or PRIs), governed by the 73rd Amendment, which is concerned with Rural Local Governments.
- Panchayat at District (or apex) Level
- Panchayat at Intermediate Level
- Panchayat at Base Level
The gram panchayat is divided into wards and each ward is represented by a Ward Member, also referred to as a Panch or Panchayat Member, who is directly elected by the villagers. The panchayat is chaired by the president of the village, known as a Sarpanch. The term of the elected representatives is five years. The Secretary of the panchayat is a non-elected representative, appointed by the state government, to oversee panchayat activities.
According to Section. 6 (3) of the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act of 1994, that state's gram sabha has to conduct a meeting at least twice a year.
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- ^"Only ‘Made in India’ equipment for BharatNet: Govt.", The Hindu, 12 November 2017.
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- ^"BBNL may become full-blown telecom services company". Economic times. Kolkata, India. 29 October 2013.
- ^Benoy Banerjee; Irfaan Khan; Rajeev Kumar et al. (2006). "Chapter Eight: Local Governments". India Constitution at Work: Textbook in Political Science for Class XI. National Council of Educational Research and Training. ISBN 81-7450-550-4. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
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How Gram Panchayat Development Plan is changing the villages of India
Updated: Jul 30, 2016, 02.36 AM IST
From a bamboo bridge in flood-affected Latak to rainwater harvesting in Jharkhand’s drought-hit regions and sensitisation programmes on open defecation in Goa, India’s villages are deciding what they want to solve age-old problems. The mantra behind focused planning is simple: your money, your plan.
The idea emanated in February 2015 from Fourteenth Finance Commission’s recommendation to give Rs 2 lakh crore to gram panchayats between 2015 and 2020. The idea was to give the panchayats the money through state governments and allow them to spend it. Even as the government accepted the recommendations, it was clear that this enormous kitty could not be given in the hands of panchayat functionaries, who had not been trained in planning, accounting and auditing.
The Ministry of Panchayati Raj came up with the idea of Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) — an annual plan of each panchayat where the villagers would decide where the money should be spent. State government communicates the "resource envelope" to all local bodies. At the end, every panchayat knows how much money it has under different schemes and how it should plan. Once a plan is formulated, the gram sabha passes it.
Joint Secretary Sarada G Muraleedharan, spearheading the project at the ministry, explains: "Planning is generally a very technical exercise. But here we were ready to take a leap of faith and take planning all the way to the people. A massive training exercise had to be undertaken. First we took all the states for a workshop in Kerala last July. After this, states formulated their GPDP guidelines."
The response from the states has been surprising. States which have been low on the devolution index have shown the most enthusiasm. "Assam, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Goa are some states that have shown good progress in terms of undertaking meticulous exercises for capacity building and generating momentum on the ground," says Muraleedharan.
At the grassroots, the villages are thinking out-of-the-box to address local issues. In Jharkhand, Chief Minister Raghubar Das was struck by the statistics on rainfall in the state. Jharkhand gets ample rainfall, but of the last 15 years, 10 have been drought years. This triggered a state-wide campaign with the theme "Every drop of water that falls on the village remains in the village".
On the extent of the campaign, Muraleedharan says: "In a village in Khunti district during a gram sabha, an old lady got up and said, 'We are only talking about water for human beings. What about the animals?' This was the extent of the campaign."
For Jharkhand, this was a complete turnaround. Officials remember that when GPDP was launched, the 'Yojana banao abhiyan' (Plan preparatory campaign) was jokingly called 'Panchayat kholo abhiyan' (Open panchayats campaign). "The mass mobilisation was immense in the state. In a largely tribal-dominated state, the increase in women participation in gram sabhas was anywhere between 25 per cent and 80 per cent," recalls Muraleedharan.
If Jharkhand is concentrating on rainwater harvesting and human trafficking in the tribal belt, Goa has taken up open defecation as a blot on its global image. Punjab villages have decided to take up projects to address the skewed sex ratio and drug abuse. Uttarakhand, which had seen a year of political uncertainty, was prompt in its implementation of the programme conducting 7,950 gram sabhas to pass plans in 2015-16. By the end of the first quarter of 2016-17, it has passed 1,632 plans.
Assam decided that it would need three gram sabha meetings to finalise the plans. The first is held to generate awareness about the exercise and form working groups that prepare draft situation reports. The second gram sabha meeting discusses these reports and identifies different projects. The final plan is passed in the third meeting.
The ministry's statistics show that 92,842 gram sabhas have been conducted in nine states to discuss annual plans. About 7,042 gram panchayats have approved their annual plans. However, there are several challenges before the systems are put in place and start working. Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Mizoram and Tamil Nadu have to walk the extra mile to train functionaries and make their processes participatory. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh remain difficult states with very little progress.
Budget 2015-16 had brought bad news for the Ministry of Panchayati Raj. Its Rs 7,000 crore budget outlay had been brought down to a meagre Rs 94 crore and major flagship schemes — the Backward regions Grants Fund (BRGF) and Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan (RGPSA) — had been transferred to the states. Amid rumours that the ministry would be folded up and turned into a department under rural development ministry, SM Vijayanand took charge as the panchayati raj secretary.
The 1981-batch IAS officer got down to his job from the word go. In his 11 years as secretary (local self-government) in Kerala, Vijayanand had played a key role in conceptualising and shaping the local self-governance institutions. He drew from his experience in the state.
Vijayanand, who has since taken over as Kerala chief secretary, started out with writing to chief secretaries of all states and speaking personally to them. The states were asked to form state-level core groups to help guide in framing GPDP guidelines. In July 2015, the ministry organised a five-day intensive workshop for all states.
Vijayanand entrusted the job of implementing the programme to an old Kerala hand: Joint Secretary Sarada G Muraleedharan. The 1990-batch IAS officer has seen the processes in Kerala closely as district collector and head of the state's Kudumbashree woman empowerment mission. As she speaks passionately about the initiative showing detailed manuals and data sheets, Muraleedharan says: "All you need is a champion in the state."
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