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The significance of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments in Indian democracy


The significance of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments in Indian democracy

Local government in India refers to governmental jurisdictions below the level of the state. India is a federal republic with three spheres of government: central, state and local. The 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments give recognition and protection to local governments and in addition each state has its own local government legislation. Since 1992, local government in India takes place in two very distinct forms.

Urban localities, covered in the 74th amendment to the Constitution, have Nagar Palika but derive their powers from the individual state governments, while the powers of rural localities have been formalized under the panchayati raj system, under the 73rd amendment to the Constitution. Within the Administrative setup of India, the democratically elected Local self-governance bodies are called the "municipalities" (abbreviated as the "MC") in urban areas and the "Panchayati Raj Institutes (PRI)" (simply called the "panchayats") in rural areas. There are 3 types of municipalities based on the population, Municipal Corporation (Nagar Nigam) with more than 1 million population, Municipal Councils (Nagar Palika) with more than 25,000 and less than 1 million population, and Municipal Committee (Nagar Panchayat) with more than 10,000 and less than 25,000 population. PRIs in rural areas have 3 hierarchies of panchayats, Gram panchayats at village level, Mandal or block panchayats at block level, and Zilla panchayats at district level.

Panchayats cover about 96% of India's more than 5.8 lakh (580,000) villages and nearly 99.6% of the rural population. As of 2020, there were about 3 million elected representatives at all levels of the panchayat, nearly 1.3 million are women. These members represent more than 2.4 lakh (240,000) gram panchayats, about over 6,672 were intermediate level panchayat samitis at the block level and more than 500 zila parishads at district level. Following the 2013 local election, 37.1% of councillors were women, and in 2015/16 local government expenditure was 16.3% of total government expenditure.

The significance of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments in Indian democracy

The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (1992)

The idea which produced the 73rd and Amendment was not a response to pressure from the grassroots, but to an increasing recognition that the institutional initiatives of the preceding decade had not delivered, that the extent of rural poverty was still much too large and thus the existing structure of government needed to be reformed. This idea evolved from the Centre and the state governments. It was a political drive to see PRIs as a solution to the governmental crises that India was experiencing.

The Constitutional (73rd Amendment) Act, passed in 1992 by the Narasimha Rao government, came into force on April 24, 1993. It was meant to provide constitutional sanction to establish "democracy at the grassroots level as it is at the state level or national level". Its main features are as follows: The Gram Sabha or village assembly as a deliberative body to decentralised governance has been envisaged as the foundation of the Panchayati Raj System.73rd Amendment of the Constitution empowered the Gram Sabhas to conduct social audits in addition to its other functions. A uniform three-tier structure of panchayats at village (Gram Panchayat — GP), intermediate or block (Panchayat Samiti — PS) and district (Zilla Parishad — ZP) levels. All the seats in a panchayat at every level are to be filled by elections from respective territorial constituencies. Not less than one-third of the total seats for membership as well as office of chairpersons of each tier have to be reserved for women.

Reservation for weaker castes and tribes (SCs and STs) have to be provided at all levels in proportion to their population in the panchayats. To supervise, direct and control the regular and smooth elections to panchayats, a State Election Commission has The Act has ensured constitution of a State Finance Commission in every State/UT, for every five years, to suggest measures to strengthen finances of panchayati raj institutions. To promote bottom-up-planning, the District Planning Committee (DPC) in every district has been accorded to constitutional status. An indicative list of 29 items has been given in Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution. Panchayats are expected to play an effective role in planning and implementation of works related to these 29 items.

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