Lot needs to be done to empower panchayats: PM

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Pushing for power and responsibilities to panchayati raj institutions (PRIs), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday called for change in the thinking that comes in the way of delegating power to the grassroots democratic organisations.

Addressing a function on National Panchayati Raj Divas here, the prime minister said he often gets complaints that bureaucracy at the centre and states was not keen to see its powers reduced and does not want to share its powers with the local bodies.

“There is need to change this thinking and changing it at the earliest,” the prime minister said.

He said the main objective of panchayati raj was decentralisation in which people get the right to take decisions concerning governance.

“We have to see it (decentralisation) does not remain only a slogan but becomes a reality in our lifetime. For this, we have to give powers and responsibilities in a real sense to the elected representatives,” the prime minister said.

He said there was need to speedily build on the achievements achieved in ushering democracy at the grassroots so that panchayats play an important role in development process.

“I feel that a lot remains to be done to give power and responsibilities in a real sense to panchayati raj institutions,” the prime minister said.

He said states were responsible for giving powers to panchayats.

“How much a state works in this direction depends on how useful it thinks is decentralised rule in public service delivery.”

He said the government was implementing the Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan in the 12th Plan and there had been a 10-fold increase in allocations over the 11th Plan.

Noting that Rs.6,437 crore had been allocated in the 12th Plan to empower panchayats, the prime minister hoped that the states would use the money to strengthen institutions of self-governance.

“This is our promise that central government will provide all possible help to state government so that development process can be made more inclusive and sustainable,” he said.

Manmohan Singh said researchers all over the world had found that efforts to include social and economically backward sections in development process had yielded good results.

“There has been increase in participation of people in works of panchayats, decisions have been taken according to expectations of people and they have become more politically aware but it is a long journey. A lot needs to be done,” the prime minister said.

He said two decades had passed since the enactment of 73rd amendment that gave an identity to PRIs as a unit of self-governance.

There had been emphasis on local self-governance even during the struggle for freedom, he added. Efforts were made to empower panchayats after Independence but real progress in the matter came about due to moral courage and thinking of formal prime minister Rajiv Gandhi which resulted in enactment of 73rd amendment.

He said Rajiv Gandhi wanted to take democracy to every house in the country through PRIs and the effect of the 73rd amendment was visible in several areas.

In Manmohan Singh’s view, the panchayati raj ministry was taking steps to improve capacities of PRIs so that they understand local needs and make efforts to fulfill them.

The prime minister, who honoured 193 panchayats for their initiatives in development works, said 15 states had passed law to provide 50 percent reservation to women in panchayats.

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