Developmental Schemes and Challenges of Panchayati Raj: A perspective on Bishnupur District, Manipur

By : Amom Thoinu
Asst. Prof. Department of Political Science, Kumbi College,
Bishnupur District, Manipur

The main target of the study is to insight different issues of developmental schemes that many schemes have been implementing in the state but it is very much questionable on the achievement in the rural areas of Bishnupur District. It is also to study the issues and challenges of local self government in Manipur in general and Panchayati Raj in particular. Besides, there are issues of unable to submit utilization certificate by Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department. Even in the administration there is lot of confusion that the issue of devolution of power is still alive.

Local Self-government is the management and governance of local affairs by a local body or authority. These local bodies may be municipal corporations or panchayats. Local government may be loosely defined as a public organization, authorized to decide and administer a limited range of public policies within relatively small territory which is a subdivision of a regional or national government. (Nico, 2015) A nation develops from its roots and for a nation to develop we need a strong base and in a country like India, the base is the local self-governments like municipalities and panchayats etc. These are the grassroots of a democracy in our country. It gives a good amount of exposure to the people who participate in the governance and running of these institutions, in both political and social aspects. (Geeta and Sanjay, 2017). In rural areas the self-governing bodies are the Panchayats and in urban it is the municipal corporations etc. Panchayati Raj System in Manipur comes into existence since the time immemorial as an organized institution to provide justice to the villagers by the elders Gram Sabha (Khunja Mipham). However, present Panchayat system of elected representatives in Manipur was introduced in the year 1960 under the provisions of the United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh) Panchayati Raj Act 1947, which was extended to the state. In Manipur, the Panchayati Raj institutions are functioning in accordance with two Acts namely, the Manipur Panchayati Raj Act, 1975, and the Manipur Panchayati Raj Act, 1994. The later was passed under the general guidelines provided in the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992. Although the Act of 1975 had provided for a three-tier system i.e. the Gram Panchayat at the village level, the Panchayati Samiti at the Block level and the Zilla Parishad at the district level, only a two-tier system is actually functioning. The Manipur Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, replaced the Act of 1975 in the districts of Imphal West, Imphal East, Thoubal and Bishnupur. The main objective of the Act was to ensure the participation of the people in the effective implementation of rural development programmes. At present Manipur panchayat consist of 161 Gram panchayats (Shyamsunder, 2017: 19) and 4 Zilla Parishad. (Ishani & Suresh, 2015)
Statement of the Problem
The Bishnupur District is one of the smallest Districts in Manipur, having a geographical area of 496 kms. and only three sub divisions.  It has one Zila Parishad (consisting of 11 ZP Members) and 24 Gram Panchayats, 4 Municipal Councils and 3 Nagar Panchayats and 89 villages. Different developmental schemes have been implementing in the state but it is very much questionable on the achievement in the rural areas of Bishnupur District. There are issues relating to difficulties in implementation of certain schemes/projects, such as IAY (Indira Awaas Yojana), NREGS, (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) SGSY, (Swaranjayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana) IWDP (Integrated Watershed Development Programme), NRHM (National Rural Health Mission), SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan), PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Gram SadakYojana), Food and Public Distribution, Banking, Youth Affairs & Sports, Minor Irrigation, Commerce & Industries, Water Supply and Sanitation, Fisheries, RGGVY (Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana). Besides, there are issues of unable to submit utilization certificate by Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department. (Sanjoy and Tomba, 2013). Mention may be made that under the twenty point programs of the government of India, the centre has been providing fund through Tribal Development Department for implementation of scheme to assist Schedule Caste families in Manipur. However, the actual implementation of the scheme is being taken up by Rural Development and Panchayati Raj/Zilla Parishads and the performance level has been recorded ‘nil’ following the failure of submitting the Utilization Certificates in time. Even in the administration there is lot of confusion that the issue of devolution of power is still alive.
The local self government being organically linked and necessary power devolved upon them to enable to function as unites of self government for bringing all round development in the life style of the rural masses. The Gram Sabha, recognized as the basic unit of democracy consisting of all adult residents of the village, should not only deliberate but also participate with its executive, namely the Gram Panchayat, in planning and implementing various development programmes for causing socio-economic transformation.
In Manipur we have two tire system of Panchayati Raj, i.e. Gram Panchayat at the village level and Zilla Parishad at the district level. The Panchayat at the both levels are involved in the implementation of centrally sponsored and state planned schemes for creation of community assets, infrastructure development and employment generation etc. in rural areas of the state. As a unit of local self government the Panchayati Raj Institutions play a vital role in the development of rural areas for poverty alleviation through the process of ensuring maximum participation of general masses by holding Gram Sabhas for preparation of Plans for economic development and social justice. The Gram Sabha is the general assembly of the adult villagers. It is through this forum that the rural poor, women and marginalized get an opportunity to participate in the discussion and expression of their views on common problems they face in their villages. The State Act., provides for not less than 4 Gram Sabha meetings in a year. In the dispensation of Panchayati Raj, the Gram Sabha takes the model of being a forum for direct democracy in rural governance. Characteristically, the Gram Sabha can be compared with the citizens’ forum of democracy in the ancient Greek-city-States. Active Gram Sabha is a must for participatory democracy and transparent village administration. Rather the Gram Sabha is to function as the basic platform of the Panchayati Raj system.
Review of Literature
Different studies are found on the concerns of local self government and Panchayati Raj institutions, some of the literatures may be reviewed as the following: Geeta & Sanjay (2017) analysed to understand the impact of the constitutional amendment on the empowerment of women. It is true that reservation for women in PRIs have opened up huge vistas for their empowerment, particularly women belonging to the weaker sections. However, there are many challenges and issues. Entrenched patriarchal system and mindset, rigid caste divide and rampant caste discrimination in the rural society, massive female illiteracy and female dependence on male have ensured that, by and large, the real levers of power are still in the hands of males. Studies have been cited to show that some of the southern and western states are far more advanced than the northern and some of the eastern states. The study found that women in Gram Panchayats represented highest in Bihar (54.6 per cent), followed by Manipur (43.5 percent), Karnataka (43.0 per cent), Sikkim (39.9 per cent), Arunachal Pradesh (39.4 per cent), Dadara& Nagar Haveli (39.4 per cent), Assam (39.2 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (39.1 per cent) and least in Kerala (30.3 per cent). Haokip and Ananda (2017) argued that decentralized governance is an instrument for multifaceted development and it can ensure effective and equitable development at grassroots level. This is because, locally elected representatives know their small constituency better and are in advantageous position to provide better services according to their electorate’s preferences. Development refers to the progress achieved in decentralized governance per se equitable and sustainable delivery of services to the satisfaction of the people. Effectiveness is understood as the ability of decentralized governance to produce results that meet the future needs of society while making the best use of resources at their disposal. Sustainability means the ability of decentralized governance to generate and to maintain the development process for a longer period. This paper focuses on the effectiveness of service delivery by the panchayats in the State of Manipur. Nico (2015) analysis revealed the increased status and role of local government, intergovernmental relations between the three levels of government have not only become more complex, but also critical for the demarcation of responsibilities and effective cooperation in service delivery. Although India has given recognition to local government in the 73rd and 74th amendments, the manner of allocation of powers to local government appeared crucial. When powers are granted by another sphere of government, the granting authority often perceives the transfer of powers as a loss of its own authority. Although local government powers are listed in the Indian Constitution, they are still dependent on allocation by the state governments, which has resulted in slow progress regarding the empowerment of local authorities. Stina et al (2015) argued that for inclusive growth, livelihood security and democratic empowerment as envisaged in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the state of Manipur is implementing the scheme with the mandate to provide at least 100 days of demand based guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work and creation of durable social assets in the process. Their study examined the performance of the scheme in that state with respect to extent of employment generation, efficiency in work completion rate and efficiency in fund utilization through analyzing official records. The finding shows that the shabbiest parts of the scheme were detected in the forms of provisioning of 100 days employment to only 7.39 per cent of job card holders and failure to complete 95.55 per cent of the undertaken works by scheduled time. This calls for playing of more responsive role by the state authority so that very purpose of MGNREGA is not defeated. Ishani & Suresh (2015) emphasised on the women members of gram panchayat and the changes in their involvement in politics particularly after the 73rd amendment of the constitution of India. The experiences and views of the members of panchayat are important for a successful rural development process. Most of the people are not well educated and easily get influenced or worked under the guidance of a second person, be it an influential male member or respective husbands of the women representatives. Some of the women came without even having the knowledge of local self-government but just to fulfil the privilege of reservation policies for women participation. This has definitely created many loophole in terms of using the funds as well as devaluation of the functions authorised to them. However, it is also true that some of the women representatives gained knowledge and confidence and became assertive in the politics of Panchayat and little scope has been given for them to try and make efforts for a genuine participation due to the lack of various social and mental inspirations or readiness towards the women folk of the Panchayati Raj System. The analysis suggested that there still needs to orient and encourage such women despite being very enthusiastic and vocal to bring confidence and assertiveness among them so that they themselves become the one who can play active participation in the decision making and administrative process of rural development.
[Paper presented in the National Seminar on Issues and Challenges of Local self-government in Manipur orgd. by Centre for Manipur Studies, Manipur University (14-15 Dec 2018)]
Sanjoy and Tomba (2013) analysis focus on Rural Poverty Alleviation Programmes: A Study of Mgnrega in Manipur, it revealed that  the Govt. has implemented many rural development schemes such as the SGSY (Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana), IAY (Indira Awaas Yojana), PMGY (Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana), PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Gram Shadak Yojana) etc. But this programme could not bear the desired reasons due to inconsistency between scheme aims, poor quality of asset creation, lack of resources and manipulation of the record. To overcome this problem the present paper, an attempt has been made to analyse the implementation of MGNREGA in Thoubal District of Manipur. Dipanjan, (2005) argument stated that the Panchayati Raj institutions were functioning only in the valley districts and Jiribam sub-division. In the hill districts, there were village authorities, almost similar to village Panchayats, functioning under the provisions of the 1956 Manipur (Village Authorities in Hill Areas) Act. The Post- independence phase of Panchayat Raj is marked with significant developments. Further the analysis revealed that there is also a need to re-look at the way Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) are working in the North-East. The PRIs which devolves the powers to the people and promotes self-reliant and self-sufficient local institutions has remained defunct in the region largely due to overlapping laws and institutions.
Issues of power devolution
The constitution leaves it to the discretion of the states to devolve funds, functions and functionaries (3Fs) to the Panchayats. Under the Section 35 and 61 of the Manipur Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 the Government of Manipur have issued order for devolution of powers and functions to the PRIs for economic development and social justice relating to 22 like departments in conformity with the 29 items listed in the Eleventh Schedule of the constitution of India and approved the Activity Mapping in respect of 16 line department. (Shyamsunder, 2017) Out of which 5 departments, viz; Fisheries, Horticulture, Tribal Development (SC), Science and Technology, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Departments only have transferred funds, functions and functionaries to the PRIs for implementation of water bodies to enable pisciculture scheme, for increasing agricultural production, land reclamation and development of Schedule Castes. Implementation of Rural Energy/Electricity project (IREP) scheme sponsored by Science and Technology Department has also been taken up in the four Valley Districts of Manipur. The Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj has been transferring their staff and funds to the PRIs for implementation of development programmes entrusted to them from time to time by the government.  The remaining other line departments have been reminded to devolve their functions, funds and functionaries as approved by the government at the earliest.
Step forwards for social development
State finance Commission – with a view to ensuring regular flow of funds to the PRIs so as to enable them to discharge their functions the State Government had constituted different Manipur State Finance Commission in different years since 1996 to improve the financial position of the PRIs. Finance Commission Awards – Many infrastructural development changes were brought / initiated at the village level under the funding from the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th Finance Commission. Under the scheme, maintenance of civic services and infrastructure development works, e.g., Primary School Buildings; market sheds; drinking water supply assets; street lighting; and cremation/burial ground. The 13th Finance Commission Awards further enriched living standard of the villages by taking up core services like drinking water, sewerage, waste management programmes etc. further, under the 14th Finance Commission Awards (2015-16 to 2019-20) during the year 2015-16, and 2016-17 work related to basic core services like sanitation, waste management etc. have been taken up successfully. (Shyamsunder, 2017).
Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY)
The Union Government has initiated a visionary scheme called the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development programme (MPLADP). The scheme envisages to initiate building the Nation from the village level  and develop  one model GP/ Village in each of the constituency of the concerned MP by the year, 2015 and 2(two) more model villages by the year, 2019. In Manipur, 3(three) Model GPs villages were selected to initiate the scheme during the year, 2016. They are (i) Ngairangbam model village at Ngairangbam GP (Imphal West District) launched by the MP(IPC) Dr. Th. Meinya, (ii) Hayel-Hangoon Modet village at HayeL-Hangoon G.P. (ThoubaL District) launched by the MP (RS), Late Haji Abdul Salam and iii) Kangvai Model village (Churchandpur District, launched by the MP (OPC) Thangso Baite. The 4th Model Village has been initiated under the aegis of the District Rural Development Agency (DRADA), Imphal East by launching the Pukhao GP of Sawombung CD Block as the Model Gram Panchayat / Village on 18th March, 2017 by MP (IPC) Dr. Th. Meinya at Pukhao Khabam Community Hall. The scheme is regarded as one that actualizes the dreams of Rural India. The basic activities under the scheme will be to enhance the entrepreneurial skills of the indigenous and innovative villagers.
Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)
Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) / Total Sanitation Campaign is another scheme which is implementing throughout the India under NDA Government with a target to make India an open-defecation-free Nation by the Gandhi Jayanti Divas of 2nd October 2019. In the village level, PRIs and Village Authority are amongst the implementing agencies that they will select the beneficiaries. Sanitary toilets are provided as an indispensable civic infrastructural item to all the beneficiary rural households. The scheme is a distinct step towards creating an atmosphere for healthy and hygienic lifestyle in the rural areas.
Case study on Wangoo Gram Panchayat, Bishnupur
Under the leadership of P. Baleshwor Singh, Pradhan, Wangoo Terakhong Gram Panchayat, of Bishnupur District, has taken up many developmental programs under state and central sponsor schemes viz, MGNREGS, 14 Finance Commission, State Finance Commission, IWMP etc. The GP have 1995 members of household, 1413 members of household have their own land while 582 household are landless. Most of the people are farmers and labourers. The GP has 1856 nos. of Job card holders under MGNREGA. There is shortage of drinking water in the GP that 220 nos. of household gets drinking water from 3 numbers of public hydrant located in the GP and others remaining households gets drinking water from 13 nos. of hand pumps 9 nos. of ponds and 1 nos. of spring water tank constructed by the Panchayat and other departments under 14 Finance Commission and state finance commission.
It is known to all that MGNREGS is targeting to provide 100 days of guaranteed wage employment to any rural household but in implementation it is very tough to fulfil the target in the sense that so far during 2017-18 period the authority provides only 13 days which is 7 days from GP; 4 days from ZP and 2 days from Line Department. For the poverty alleviation of the villagers, the Gram Panchayat also took initiative to construct Houses in this Wangoo GP area under PMAY (G) Pradhan Mantri Awaj Yojana – Gramin, (since March 2016 Indira Awaj Yojana was rename as PMAY). So far 28 nos. of houses are completed out of 147 targeted. The beneficiaries are selected on the basis of Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC). Mention may be made that the scheme was launched in Manipur by Chief Minister N. Biren Singh on 29 June 2017. That, 9740 housing units were targeted for the FY 2016-17 (backlog) in Manipur. Financial assistance is released to the beneficiaries in their bank account in three instalments like 25:60:15 which are at the time of house sanction, completion of plinth level and completion of lintel level. They are also liable to get Rs. 12,000/- for (SBM/MGNREGS) construction of low cost latrine and another Rs. 19380 (existing @Rs. 204 Job Card holder per day under MGNREGS) for 95 days. As such each beneficiary is entitled to get Rs. 192760/- (Rs 161,380 +12000+19380). (Somarendro, 2018)
Need of the hour
In regard to the District planning committee – The district planning committees for the four valley districts have been constituted by the government as provided under the state Panchayati Raj Act. However the District Planning Committees are not functioning properly. Adequate infrastructure development and manpower support for the four District Planning Committees are still lacking and these need to be put in place to initiate the functioning of DPCs. It is recommended by a committee of three men that constituted for the smooth functioning of DPCs under the aegis of Prof. N. Mohendra Singh in 2014.
In regard to financial availability – To enable the PRIs to become financially viable and self –supporting the Manipur Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 under its Section 40 and 70 empower the Gram Panchayat and Zilla Parishads taxation within their Panchayat areas with the approval of the government. However the Punchayats do not have any income of their own and do not levy any taxes, fees, etc. at present. As part of streamlining income generation by the PRIs, which has become a burning issue, the Director, Rural Development and Punchayati Raj, during 2014, submitted to the government a detailed proposal containing all the relevant facts, figures regarding income generation by the PRIs in the state but still yet to approve.
·Implementation of MNREGS is still problem in Manipur that the record finding in the field investigation confirm that most of the PRIs cannot provide 95 days of work to the job card holders.
·    In particular to the Wangoo Terakhong GP, only 13 days are provided it is indeed very serious
·    Beneficiaries can get direct benefit from the MGNREGS and PMAY while the state finance commission and 14 finance commission indirectly benefited to the villagers in the sense that different developmental programmes are undergoing through this SFC and 14 FC like watershed management, road construction, well and pond digging, repairing and construction of primary schools in deferent villages.
An active Gram Sabha is a must for providing effective socio economic transformation in the rural areas of the State. The rural leaders and elected PRIs representatives will need to go all out to motivate their electorate-members to instil in them a firm sense of faith in the system of grass-roots democracy by way of ads, awareness generation with circulation of annual report of the Gram Panchayats showing income, expenditure and works taken-up during the year and even providing nominal remuneration to the participants as a token of acknowledgement for being present during the Sabha meetings. For, without the participation of the general public / electorate members, the deliberation of the Sabhas will remain incomplete and disputes unresolved thereby dislocating the true texture of participatory democracy. The member, representative is needed to visit other developed states to make them familiar with the working of more dynamic and responsive Panchayates. It is opined that such activities would help in motivating and reinforcing the working of panchayats in the home state.

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