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Mains Answer Writing

One of the key components of these exams is the written test, which consists of a number of essay and comprehension questions. Candidates are expected to write clear and well-structured answers that demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the topics being tested.

7-September-2023

Q1. With reference to the Indian constitution, what is the significance of the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment acts in democratic decentralization?

Answer:

Democratic decentralization can be defined as the transfer of powers and resources to lower-level authorities who are somewhat independent of higher authorities and who are at least somewhat democratic. Overall, it is devolution of power to basic grassroot level so as to expand the chain of development to the lowest level of the nation.

The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments were passed by Parliament in December, 1992, and added two new parts to the Constitution, namely, Part IX-“The Panchayats,” and Part IXA-“The Municipalities.” . Through this, local self-governance was introduced in rural and urban India.

Significance of the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments in democratic decentralization:

  • Necessary mandatory steps: State governments are under constitutional obligation to adopt a new and uniform system of PRIs, and municipalities in accordance with the act.
  • Open up new democratic space: These two acts have in many ways created the democratic spaces by putting new voices and issues to the fore by the creation of a three-tier structure of Panchayati Raj Institutions, three types of municipalities.
  • Regular election: Establishment of a State Election Commission to conduct elections to PRIs, municipalities and ensure their free and fair conduct.
  • Empowerment of local bodies: The local bodies were empowered to take decisions on local issues and implement development programs at the grassroots level.

o Seats reserved for various sections at local level and for various positions at hierarchical level. Ex: Article 243D, one-third for women.

  • Transfer of power and functions: The outlining of powers and functions under 11th schedule and 12th schedule to be devolved to local bodies have enabled local bodies to plan, implement and monitor programs and policies in their respective areas.
  • Accountability and transparency: The PRIs and ULBs were required to conduct their business in an open and transparent manner, and were made accountable to the people they served.
  • Social and economic empowerment: The local bodies were mandated to reserve seats for women, scheduled castes and tribes, and other backward classes, thereby ensuring their representation in the decision-making process.

o Currently, India has 260,512 Panchayats with 3.1 million elected representatives, of which a record 1.3 million are women.

  • Competitive federalism: The passage of the twin acts has also created healthy competition among various states regarding devolution of 3Fs: funds, functions, and functionaries.

o For instance, while Kerala has devolved all 29 functions to Panchayats, Rajasthan took the inspiration from Kerala to devolve many key departments such as health, education, women, and agriculture to PRIs.

  • Financial devolution: Article 243I provides for the establishment of a Finance Commission in each State to determine the principles on the basis of which adequate financial resources would be ensured for panchayats and municipalities.

Measures needed for better implementation

The Standing Committee on Rural Development recommended the following aspects to ensure better implementation of the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments.

  • Devolution of funds: State governments should make adequate efforts to devolve funds, functions, and functionaries to local bodies for them to effectively plan economic development and social justice schemes. •
  • Empowerment of Women: The 73rd and 74th Amendments provide for the reservation of one-third of seats for women in local bodies. This provision should be implemented effectively to ensure the empowerment of women in rural and urban areas.

o The concept of pradhan pati should be eradicated at the earliest.

  • Strengthening Planning and Governance: The Urban local bodies should also be involved in the implementation of various urban development schemes and programs.
  • Auditing process: The CAG of India provides ‘Technical Guidance and Support’ by way of setting auditing standards, these standards should be implemented in letter and spirit.

Conclusion:

The march of decentralization, largely led by two landmark acts, has come a long way. Despite many pitfalls and structural challenges, the mandatory quota for women, STs and SCs has created a critical democratic space for these hitherto underrepresented groups to assert their political rights and emerge as leaders.

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