Panchayati Raj Swaraj

The 73rd Constitution Amendments came into being in April 1993. It is an enabling provision, re-empowering Gram Panchayats and rural masses. Gram Panchayat, with all its limitations, remains the best possible local body created by the Constitution to elicit people’s participation in development process. Impacting and empowering the PRIs would lead to more sustainable development process. The 73rd Constitution Amendment is an opportunity to create political and economic empowerment at grassroots.

STRATEGIC TRUST

§         To strengthen the Village Panchayat in the light of 73rd constructional Amendment,

§         To capacitate the elected members of the Panchayat and organisations working in favour of Panchayats,

§         To undertake publication and advocacy related activities for the realisation of real Village Panchayat as grassroots self-governance,

OPERATIONAL AREA

STATE

CO-ORDINATOR FELLOWS

GOA, GUJARAT & MAHARASHTRA

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WIFPR(Western India Forum For Panchayat Raj)

The processes of involving like-minded groups working for Panchayati Raj were started in 1995. PS in the name of Western India Forum formed a forum for Panchayati Raj. Some of the details are given under the Organisational Branch.

The WIFPR became integral part of the SWARAJ Forum since its inception.

WIFPR was launched as an effort to provide a platform for sharing of experiences and promoting feeling of solidarity among organisations and individuals active in empowering panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) in the Western region of India. For the past three years, WIFPR has been trying to build up a network in the three western states of India viz. Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa.

Detailed background and rationale are presented in the perspective paper of WIFPR. It is in the context of the Seventy-third and Seventy-fourth Constitution Amendments and the respective State Acts that WIFPR assumes a special significance. it also is significant to note that WIFPR – as a forum – encourages empowering of women and dalits in the PRIs. A need was also felt to bring closer those who struggle for empowerment of these two marginalized sections of Indians Society as a supportive legal framework alone was not to be expected to change the scenario; opposition was massive and mainstreamed, well-established and powerful; it presented itself in the various -and sometimes combined -‘avatars’ of fundamentalists, orthodox practitioners, bureaucrats, and the those whose interest was served by keeping the masses disempowered. Under these circumstances, WIFPR has been trying to rekindle the spirits of those committed to empowering women and dalits.

FOCUS AREAS

Based on the above mentioned observations, feedback of partner organisations and as suggested by committee members of WIFPR, there is need to focus on the following areas in the coming six months:

–    STRENGHTHENING NETWORK in Maharashtra and Goa as also further increasing partner  -interaction among Gujarat partners.

–    Improving performance on DOCUMENTATION AND RESEARCH.

–    PUBLISHING series of booklets etc.

–    Popularising innovative TRAINING PROGRAMMES for Gram Panchayats in different environments (e.g. GPs in industrial areas)

STRENGTH AND WEAKNESSES

Details of WIFPR’s work uptill now has been presented in two progress reports presented earlier. It suffices to mention here some highlights of its work and some limitations so that the future planning can pick up threads from these strengthens and weaknesses:

–    WIFPR has been fairly active in persuing advocacy agenda, particularly in Gujarat; serious advocacy issues like Panchayat finances have been fairly effectively persued by WIFPR.

–    WIFPR again in Gujarat, has been regularly publishing its newsletter – ‘Sarpanch’- in Gujarati which voices issues concerning Panchayati Raj and highlighting success stories of Panchayats, its members, Gramsabhas and NGO interventions.

–    WIFPR has been quite acceptable in its networking efforts in Gujarat and has persistently encouraged women and dalit participation in Gram Panchayats.

–    WIFPR has endeavoured to mainstream practices of Gramsabhas, micro- planning at village level and rights of Gram Panchayats on CPRs.

–    WIFPR’s training has always reflected grassroot level experience of its members and this has been strengthened by sound knowledge of acts, procedures and other legalities.

–    Despite these achievements, there are some limitations also; WIFPR has not been able to build up its network in Maharashtra and Goa as much as desired.

–    Accessibility of women to the ‘Panchayati Raj Margdarshan Kendra’ (PRMK) should increase

–    In Gujarat also there is need to further strengthen the network with better incentives / support to the grassroot level groups and to selected Panchayats.

–    Documentation efforts need to be improved to cover interesting case studies enhancing learning from field realities.

–    Field based studies should be promoted in partnership with action-oriented organisations.

–    Publication of Marathi newsletter ‘Chavdi’ should be revived to boost networking efforts in Maharashtra.

INTERVENTIONS

Following interventions were made under the projects

a)  Publication of “Sarpanch” a bulletin in Gujarati for Gujarat chapter,

b)  Publication of “ Chawadi” a bulletin in Marathi for Maharashtra chapter,

c)  Publication of Info Calendar on Panchayati Raj

Releasing booklet on panchayati raj during a consultation on evaluation and shortcomings of 73rd amendment at Pune.

d)  Numbers of workshops, camps, consultations were organised in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa on the issue like role of women in PRI, Finance Commission and Recommendation, enhancing the role of OBCs, Role of NGOs in PRI, Voter Education etc.

e)      The Goa programme published following booklets which was widely acknowledged,

–      Gram Sabha,

–      Panchayat Functions & Responsibilities,

–      Powers & Duties of the Sarpanch-Secretary,

–      Construction Rules & Regulation,

–      Planning, Accounts, Budget & Audit,

f)   The Goa chapter had also launched a website in the name of www.goapanchayat.org in the hand of Mr. F. D’souza, Hon. Minsiter of Technology & Information.

g)  Panchayati Raj Margadarshan Kendra (PRMK) the guidance cell for panchayats in Gujarat is accessible to all panchayats in the State. PRMK is a guidance cell to which anyone especially Panchayat members can write to seek information and guidance on problems faced by Panchayats.

FUTURE DIRECTION

Ø      Take up common issues such as rights of Gram SabhaPanchayat finances etc.

Ø      Creation of website for wider reach and sharing of information and ideas.

Ø      Federate panchayats to provide a common platform for solidarity and addressing issues.

Ø      Networking of gram sabhas within one year.