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Centre for curtailing state govts' powers to empower panchayats

delhi Updated: Apr 09, 2010 21:07 IST

To give more powers to local bodies and protect them against political interference, the Centre has proposed cutting down the discretionary powers of state governments by bringing in an amendment in the Constitution.

The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has, in a proposal sent to all the state governments, said that an amendment be brought in Constitution to make devolution of power from the states to the local bodies mandatory and repeal provisions that give discretion to state governments for making MPs, MLAs and MLCs as members of Panchayats.

At present, Article 243G of the Constitution gives discretion to the state legislatures that it "may" by law endow the Panchayats with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self governance.

Article 243W has provisions similar to Article 243G with respect to Municipalities, the Ministry noted.

"The change in word from shall (Article 40) to may (Article 243G), gives discretion to the states in devolving powers and authority to the local bodies. As a result, the actual devolution to the Local Bodies has been uneven across States, and far from satisfactory in most of the States. Thus the intent of the 73rd Amendment remains largely unrealized," the proposal read.

"It is, therefore, proposed to make devolution of power and authority to Local Bodies mandatory with a suitable formulation," it said.

Article 243 C (3) (c) and (d) provides that State Legislatures may by law provide for the representation of MPs, MLAs and MLCs in the intermediate and district level Panchayats, Ministry noted.

"The presence of MPs, MLAs & MLCs inhibits elected Panchayat representatives from effective participation, affects the decision making process and hampers the emergence of grassroots leadership," the proposal read.

"It is accordingly proposed that the provisions that give discretion to the State Governments to make MPs, MLAs and MLCs members of Panchayats be repealed," it said.

The Ministry underlined that Constitution provides a clear mandate for democratic decentralization through the institutional framework of self-governing local elected bodies--Panchayats and the Municipalities.

The local bodies are critical to the inclusive governance as they facilitate direct participation of people, particularly the marginalised, in governance, it said.

But in spite of the Constitutional mandate, powers and functions have not been devolved to the local bodies appropriately, it noted.

"To address these issues, it is necessary to bring about Constitution Amendments and take other legal measures," it added.