A brief dissection of PRIs in AP

Robin Hissang

The President of India, as per powers conferred under Article 240 promulgated the then North-East Frontier Agency Panchayati Raj Regulation 1967 with effect from 2nd October 1968 which was inaugurated in the then NEFA on 3rd December 1969 by the Governor of Assam based on Daying Ering Committee recommendations. The Ering Committee was constituted on 11th April, 1964 by the Governor of Assam to study the appropriateness of development of local self-government in NEFA. The Committee was headed by Daying Ering, the then Parliamentary Secretary (mea) with B D Pandey, the then Additional Secretary, Minister of Finance, Brigadier D M Sen and L Thanga, the then Development Commissioner of NEFA as members. The first four-tier democratic political structure introduced in NEFA was Gram Panchayat in the village level, Anchal Samiti in intermediary or block level, Zilla Parishad in district level and Agency Council in territorial level in NEFA.

The Governor on the advised of the Govt of AP promulgated the Arunachal Pradesh Panchayati Raj Ordinances 1994 on 18th April, 1994 by replacing the NEFA Panchayati Raj Regulation 1967 to compliance the 73rd Amendment Act, 1992. The ordinance was passed in September 1994. It contained the same provisions as in the Panchayati Raj Ordinance 1967 particularly three tiers provision but the Bill could not become an Act as the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh reserved it for the assent of the President of India. The President of India did not give assent to the Bill, remitted it to the Legislative Assembly with the observation that it does not provide for Gram Sabha and reservation for Scheduled Caste. The State Legislative Assembly reconsidered the Bill in March 1997 and modified it to provide for a Gram Sabha at the lowest level of Panchayat but it did not agree to make a provision for reservation for Scheduled Castes on the plea that Arunachal Pradesh does not have any Scheduled Caste population in the state except floating SC population that too concentrated in urban areas. The Bill was sent again to the President of India in April 1997, on account of that, on 14th September 1997, the State Govt ordered their dissolution. The Arunachal Panchayati Raj Bill 1997 received the assent of the President of India on 3rd April, 2001 (Act No.5 of 2001), after passing 83rd Constitutional Amendments Act, 2000 by affecting Article 243D in which declared that no reservation in Panchayats need be made in favour of the Scheduled Castes in Arunachal Pradesh which are wholly inhabited by indigenous tribal population (w.e.f. 08.09.2000). The Act is known as the Arunachal Pradesh Panchayat Act, 1997.

Henceforth, the Arunachal Pradesh Panchayat Act, 1997 came into effect from November 14, 2001 and working till today with three-tier system i.e. Gram Panchayat at village level, Anchal Samiti at circle/block level and Zilla Parishad at district level with five years term. The first Panchayat elections in Arunachal Pradesh as per the new system were conducted in April 2003 and now existing tenure 2013-2017 consists of 7416 GPMs, 1779 ASMs and 177 ZPMs with 17 ZPCs. Though, it is working in the state and certain positivity is also visible but it needs to re-look, retrospect and re-debate through constitutional prism so that stakeholders and policy makers can ponder for re-formulation of appropriate policies in regards to working of Panchayati Raj institutions in Arunachal Pradesh. As per 2011 Census, the total population of Arunachal Pradesh is 13,83,727 with density of 17 persons per sq km but under Part-IX of Indian Constitution enshrined in Article 243(B) sub-clause (2), “Panchayat at the intermediate level may not be constituted in a state having a population not exceeding twenty lakhs” means state having less than population of 20 lakhs may not have Anchal Samiti at block or circle/intermediate level. Therefore, it had the option of constituting only two tiers under Article 243(B) sub-clause (2) of Constitution of India after 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992. The Anchal Samiti in block/intermediate level relevancy need to re-scrutiny, the intermediate level seems delusion for the villagers due to creation of misunderstanding with the parallel effective roles of Gram Panchayat members and its Chairperson in the village level.

Though PRI election is held on political party line but in reality, the election is contested on clan, relative, area and communal lines without considering the leadership qualities of the candidates; even campaign and vote is also cast on clans and communal lines. So, Dr B R Ambedkar, who was chairman of drafting committee of the Constituent Assembly and Father of Indian Constitution was critical on village Panchayat as, “a sink of localism and a den of ignorance and narrow mindedness and communalism”. He opined that the village republics spelled ruination for the country and played no part in the affairs and destiny of the country.

In Arunachal Pradesh, it is futile to expect Panchayat to impose taxes and raise funds in a tax-free state where even the state government is not able to impose any tax and raise revenue. So, for funding, it has to completely depend on concern MLAs and State Govt and even full power has not been devolved to Panchayats till today. But in July 2003, acting on the Article 243G of 73rd Amendment Act, 1992, the State Govt proposed to devolve some items out of 29 items under 11th Schedule of Indian Constitution. The proposed five items are agriculture, horticulture, education, power and social welfare, but the devolution of these items is yet to become effective. Thus, the basic purpose of Panchayati Raj seems perverted in Arunachal Pradesh.

The Panchayat Raj body is state subject. Hence, the stakeholders and policy makers of Arunachal Pradesh need to re-overview with proper re-scrutiny on the existing structure and its actual functioning outputs, if necessary, certain provisions has to revulsion so that compatible laws can be re-inserted with amendment by looking state’s overall socio-economic and political condition.

(The contributor is a research scholar, RGU, and he can be reached at robinhissang@gmail.com)

 

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