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Special Content


Issue no 4, 23 - 29 APRIL 2022

Panchayati Raj : Building the Nation from Grassroots

Decentralization is the process whereby authority is restructured between institutions of governance at the central, regional and local levels with power and functions transferred to the lowest institutional or social level. It is an important apparatus through which democracy becomes truly representative and real. Decentralization ensures people at the grassrootlevel participate in the decisionmaking process.

 Decentralization of power to the local authorities is the most effective way to empower people. It not only helps in increasing efficiency but is a sure method to promote equitable growth. In India, Panchayati Raj system is identified as the prime instrument of decentralization through which democracy becomes truly representative and responsive. The Panchayati Raj Institutions are considered as local self-government meant for providing basic infrastructure facilities, empowering weaker sections of the society and initiating the development process in the rural parts of the country.

What is National Panchayati Raj Day?

 The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 that came into force with effect from April 24, 1993 has vested constitutional status on Panchayati Raj Institutions. This date thus marks a defining moment in the history of decentralization of political power to the grassroots level. The impact of the 73rd Amendment in rural India is very visible as it has changed power equations irreversibly. Accordingly, the Government of India decided in 2010, in consultation with the States, to celebrate April 24 as National Panchayati Raj Day. The commemoration is anchored and celebrated by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.

On the occasion, awards are given to the best performing Panchayats. These are namely, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Panchayat Sashaktikaran Puraskar (DDUPSP) in General and Thematic categories for all three levels of Panchayats, Nanaji Deshmukh Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Puraskar (NDRGGSP) to Gram Panchayats for outstanding performance of Gram Sabha, Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) Award to be conferred upon three best performing Gram Panchayats across the country, and Childfriendly Gram Panchayat Award.

Ever since the 73rd Amendment came into force, the process of political empowerment of the Panchayats has largely been achieved. While Panchayat elections have been regularly held in all the States and Union Territories, reservations have been provided to women, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes in proportion to their share of the population in each panchayat area. There are several other landmark initiatives that the government has undertaken to empower the Panchayati Raj Institutions.

SVAMITVA

SVAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) was launched by the Hon'ble Prime Minister on National Panchayati Raj Day in 2020, with a resolve to enable economic progress of rural India by providing "Record of Rights" to every rural household owner. The scheme aims to demarcate inhabited (Abadi) land in rural areas through the latest surveying drone-technology. It is a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, State Revenue Departments, State Panchayati Raj Departments and Survey of India. The scheme covers multifarious aspects viz. facilitating monetisation of properties and enabling bank loan, reducing property related disputes, and comprehensive village level planning that would be the stepping-stone towards achieving Gram Swaraj in true sense and making rural India Atmanirbhar.

 Apart from demarcation of individual rural property, other Gram Panchayat and community assets like village roads, ponds, canals, open spaces, school, Anganwadi, Health sub-centres, etc. would also be surveyed and GIS maps would be created. Further, these GIS maps and spatial databases would also help in preparation of accurate work estimates for various works undertaken by Gram Panchayats and other Departments of State Government. These can also be used to prepare better-quality Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP).

The main activities under the Scheme are:

i.Establishment of Continuous Operating Reference System: It is a network of reference stations that provide a virtual base station that allows access to long-range high accuracy network Real Time Kinematic (RTK) corrections with centimetre-level horizontal positioning. CORS network supports in accurate Geo-referencing, ground truthing and demarcation of lands.

ii.Large Scale mapping using Drones: Rural inhabited area would be mapped by Survey of India using drone Survey. It would generate high resolution and accurate maps to confer ownership property rights. Based on these maps or data, property cards would be issued to the rural household owners

iii.Awareness program to sensitize the rural population about the surveying methodology and its benefits

iv.Setting of Programme management unit at National and State level

v.Development/Maintenance of Scheme Dashboard and integration of drone survey Spatial data/maps with Ministry's Spatial planning application to support in planning at local level

vi.Documentation of best practices/conducting National and Regional workshops

The objective of the Scheme is to provide right of the property to the household. It opens avenues for applying for loans from Financial Institutes by Property Owners. It will help reduce disputes related to property. With clear titles, accurate size determination and transparent land titles, SVAMITVA will provide the States with an unprecedented prospect of empowering the Gram Panchayats to levy and collect Property Tax, which would be available to the Panchayat for local use/ development work. This would provide financial wherewithal to the Gram Panchayats. The scheme will also enhance the socioeconomic profile of the Panchayats, making them selfsustainable.

e-Gram Swaraj e-Financial Management System

In order to strengthen eGovernance in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), eGramSwaraj, a Simplified Work Based Accounting Application for Panchayati Raj, was launched on the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day on April 24, 2020.

e-GramSwaraj will assist in enhancing the credibility of Panchayat through inducing greater devolution of funds to PRIs. It aims to bring better transparency through decentralized planning, progress reporting and work-based accounting. Furthermore, the application provides a platform for effective monitoring by higher authorities. It has been developed amalgamating the functionalities of all the applications under e-panchayat Mission Mode Project (MMP). eGramSwaraj subsumes the eFMS applications and comprises of following modules: 

·GP Profile: To maintain Panchayat profile with Election Details, Elected Members, Committee information etc. 

·Panchayat Planning: To facilitate the planning of activities and action plan creation 

·Physical Progress: To record the physical and financial progress of approved activities 

·Financial Progress: To facilitate the work-based accounting and monitoring of funds 

·Asset Directory: To store the details of all the immovable and movable assets of the Panchayats.

·Strong Authentication Mechanism based on open source technologies is also included

 In order to enhance transparency and empower panchayats, the Ministry is integrating beneficiary details of various Union Ministries/ Departments with e-Gram SWARAJ Application. The information shall be available to Gram Panchayats, to read out in the course of the Gram Sabhas for public verification. This verification would be a landmark in ensuring accountability through digitalization and public participation. Further, the Ministry has enabled data sharing between eGramSwaraj, PFMS and Core Banking System (CBS) through PFMS integration. The process of Reverse Integration with respective State treasuries and eGramSwaraj Interface (eGSPI) has been envisaged to obviate the need to book the receipt vouchers manually in the application.

Rural Technology Advancements - Smart Vending Cart

In its efforts towards leveraging technology for rural development, MoPR has collaborated with Principal Scientific Advisor to Government of India, Department of Science and Technology and six IITs in developing Smart Vending Cart to be used by Vendors in the rural areas. The Smart Vending E-Cart, designed by IIT Bombay, has been demonstrated and found to be quite appropriate for use by the vendors/small businesses in rural, peri-urban and farm sectors.

The Smart Vending E-Cart has multifaceted user-friendly enabling technologies and features which provides proper storage and temperature for enhanced shelf life of perishable foods/items like vegetable & fruits etc. It has enhanced features for modularity, ergonomics, foldability, customer attraction, solar power LED lighting, mist cooling, weighing machine, mobile charging, radio, sitting facility, water, cash box, waste disposal bin, sanitizers, digital payment facility etc. IIT Bombay is collaborating with fabricators for mass production of the Smart Vending Carts through PPP model.

This Smart Vending Cart has been designed with a view to minimize loss to Vendors due to wastage of perishable food items, enhance their income from fresh & good quality items, beneficial employment to new vendors, delivering comfort and convenience to them in vending as well as in mobility of Cart and availability of fresh vegetable and fruits etc. at affordable price to the people near their surrounding throughout the year. The product has also been developed in various types, namely, retrofit, manual and smart 'e versions'.

MoPR's efforts to promote such ventures of technology adaptation will lead to development of rural entrepreneurship as well as effective and efficient provision of basic services to the rural citizens.

Vibrant Gram Sabha

Article 243 of the Constitution defines Gram Sabha as comprising of persons registered in the electoral rolls relating to the village. The Gram Sabhas have been envisaged in the Constitution as the unique institution to play stellar role in self-governance of the rural citizens, being the grass root level democratic platform and the authority for overseeing implementation of various development programmes of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). MoPR has initiated efforts to revitalize the institution of Gram Sabhas, namely, 'Making Gram Sabhas Vibrant', in an effort towards strengthening the rural local self- governance by adopting a radical approach for augmenting rural economy through intensive implementation of development schemes for saturation.

Vibrant Gram Sabha portal is an integrated real time online monitoring system, where all the major performance parameters of the key focus areas at the GP/ Village levels are tracked and displayed in the public domain. It facilitates a completely automated online workflow configurable Gram Sabha management system, substituting paper-based manual processes. The primary objective of the "Vibrant Gram Sabha" portal is to make the Gram Sabha meetings more participatory, transparent and vibrant.

 Compiled by Annesha Banerjee and Anuja Bhardwajan Source : PIB, MoPR, Kurukshetra