Devolution Day to highlight ‘slow’ transfer of power to PRIs

Special Correspondent

16 years have passed since the passage of the historic 73rd amendment to the Constitution

It pertained to decentralisation of power to Panchayati Raj institutes

JAIPUR: The Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) – working for strengthening of democracy at the grassroots in 14 States across the country – will observe this Friday as “Devolution Day” to highlight “slow pace” of transfer of powers to the Panchayati Raj institutions despite the lapse of 16 years since the passage of the historic 73rd amendment to the Constitution.

A large number of civil society organisations and partner groups will join PRIA in the observance of Devolution Day for the first time in the history of decentralisation of powers to mark the day when the Constitutional amendment was brought into effect in 1993.

PRIA-Jaipur programme officer Ahmed Tahreem Siddiqui said here on Thursday that the devolution of resources, functionaries and funds had remained restricted, activity mapping was not done in at least six States and the memoranda of understanding had been signed without any real efforts to put them into practice.

“The cavalier manner in which the 73rd amendment has been implemented defeats its very spirit,” said Mr. Siddiqui, while pointing out that the politicians cutting across the party lines had treated the devolution of powers to panchayat bodies as a threat to their authority and resisted and constantly struggled to downsize the Panchayati Raj institutions.

Incidentally, 2009 is also the golden jubilee year of Panchayati Raj in the country, as the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had laid its foundation in Nagaur town of Rajasthan on October 2, 1959. Some of the resolutions to be adopted on Devolution Day include taking up activity mapping with respect to each tier of PRIs, setting up milestones to monitor the transfer of the 29 subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution to panchayats and evolving a cadre of functionaries so that the necessary talent and skills are available to the panchayat bodies.

Mr. Siddiqui regretted that panchayats being a State subject had all along been at the mercy of ruling parties in the States and the Centre had a very little stake in it. PRIA has identified this as one of the major reasons for the decentralised democratic set-up not being evolved suitably during the last 16 years.

Mr. Siddiqui said the groups observing Devolution Day would take up advocacy for strengthening the PRIs and hold the new Government taking over in the Centre after the Lok Sabha elections accountable for a sincere action on this front.

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