BY KULDIP NAYAR
“HAVE you forgotten the punishment we gave you in 1962 after you had violated our borders?” This is what a retired top Army general asked me at Beijing nearly a decade ago.
BY KULDIP NAYAR
Entrepreneurship has been lacking in Goan society, and the Parrikar government will have to do much more than previous governments to promote it among youth of all classes. The credit deposit ratio in Goa is low, which suggests poor intake by various sectors of the economy.
Army Still Holds Sway over Pakistan
PAKISTAN like India and other adjoining countries is a democratic nation: the newly held elections in Pakistan at least justify this status. Mr Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party has emerged as the single largest party and he is all set to take oath as the Prime Minister of Pakistan for a record third term.
BY SUBHASHIS MITTRA
THE transition from over half a century of military rule in Myanmar to the system of democracy appears to be an uphill task. Ever since Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government took power in early 2011 after the military dictatorship relinquished a stranglehold on erstwhile Burma, it has embarked on a democratisation programme. But, some recent unfortunate incidents have cast a pall on the political reforms underway.
They all first thought it was only Sreesanth. Then they found two other players of Rajasthan Royals. Then they got other cricketers, then bookies. On Tuesday, they picked up Vindoo Randhawa, son of the late wrestler-actor Dara Singh, and a failed actor.
Collegium Needed for Key Appointments
THE Union government has appointed the defence secretary, Mr Shashikant Sharma as new Comptroller and Auditor General of India ignoring suggestions from not only leaders of opposition parties but also a number of retired chief election commissioners: they have pitched for a collegium comprising Prime Minister, Opposition leader and Chief Justice of India so as make an appointment of a senior officer who is known for impartiality.
By SUDHANSHU RANJAN
WikiLeaks has created nothing short of tremor by publishing on its website around 25 lakh secret American diplomatic documents. It is an international online organisation which launched its website in 2006 in Iceland and uploads secret information, news leaks and classified media from anonymous sources.
India and China have assured each other to work to resolve pending issues and take the relationship forward in new spheres, such as civil nuclear energy, and bilateral trade.
Change Required in People’s Attitude
Reference correctly surmised editorial ‘Speeding out of Rau Re Culture’ regarding transport, the same speedy change in attitude is required with regard to Gram Sabhas (21MAY).
By PRABHAKAR TIMBLE
The Indian constitutional framework of parliamentary democracy envisages power “from” the people as opposed to the romanticism of power “to” the people. Accepting that the power resides in the people of India, we should also respect and appreciate the corollary that ours is a representative and not a direct democracy. The Constituent Assembly rejected even an informal concession to direct democracy at any level of governance in the three-tier central structure. As a result, there is no recognition to referendum to decide on major issues of public importance or the right of recall of elected representatives. Earlier, Gandhi and later Jayaprakash Narayan (1977) and Mr Anna Hazare led India Against Corruption (2011) have been advocating the extra-constitutional tools of referendum, recall, reject and compulsory approvals from Gram Sabha as methods to stay closer to direct democracy.
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar expressed a very negative opinion of village communities and had strong apprehensions to the idea of “Gram Swaraj” in a society where caste, gender discrimination and inequity in land ownership were an inseparable part of village life. It was evident that direct democracy would not work to the advantage of the disadvantaged sections such as lower castes, depressed classes including women and the landless. As opposed to Gandhian idealism, Dr Ambedkar looked at the village as a sink of localism, den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness, and communalism. As a result, ‘village panchayats’ did not form the basis of the Constitution. They were not accorded any independent status in the Constitution as institutions of self-governance.
After heated debates, the panchayats ended up as article 40 under the chapter on directive principles. It was left to the State to take steps to organise village panchayats and endow them with powers. At the commencement of the Constitution, looking at the power and social structure in the villages, power to panchayat and Gram Sabha could have blocked welfare schemes and primary facilities in the area of health, education and housing to the poor.
It is the 73rd Constitutional Amendment of 1992 which provided the constitutional status to the village panchayats with provisions for devolution of powers and responsibilities for the preparation of economic development plans and social justice and implementation of around 29 subjects listed in the eleventh schedule to the Constitution.
PESA stands apart
“Gram Sabha” means a body consisting of persons registered in the electoral rolls relating to a village comprised within the area of Panchayat at the village level. Article 243-A of the Indian Constitution does not specify the functions and powers of it except to say that “A Gram sabha may exercise such powers and perform such functions at the village level as the legislature of a state may, by law, provide.” This enabling provision has largely resulted in giving innocent functions such as to endorse, to recommend, to suggest, to consider annual accounts and administrative reports and audit notes. The recommendations of the Gram Sabha are not binding on the Panchayat that is they do not have the force of law. This does not mean that the Panchayat would disregard the endorsements of the gram sabha.
The Panchayat Extension of Scheduled Areas Act, 1996 (PESA) sets a different target to Gram Sabha. The enactment applies to Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa. Consultation with the Gram Sabha is required in Scheduled Areas before land acquisition or any developmental projects which would involve effect on ‘Jal’ (water), ‘Jungal’ (forests) and ‘Jamin’ (land) as the control of these resources should remain in the hands of tribals.
The verdict of the Supreme Court in Orissa Mining Corporation against MoEF asking the gram sabhas of affected villages in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts to decide on the religious rights of tribals living in Niyamgiri hills is upholding the powers of the gram sabha under PESA, 1996. The court has directed that the proceedings of the gram sabha be recorded in the presence of a judicial officer of the rank of district judge. In this verdict, the Court has treated the gram sabha as almost a statutory authority. However, it would not be proper to read form this verdict that the gram sabha has power to approve or reject. Consultation and ascertaining of views of gram sabha would be a non-negotiable requirement in the case of acquisition or projects in scheduled areas covered by PESA.
Gram Sabha does not have the power to reject schemes and proposals. Last week, the Allahabad High Court has said that a gram sabha does not have the power to cancel or approve the licence for running a fair price shop (FPS) within its jurisdiction. “The resolution of the gram sabha for taking action against the fair price shop dealer at best can be termed as an information or complaint by the gram sabha against the fair price shop dealer, which may form a basis for initiating any action.
“However, nothing prevents the competent authority from taking action against the dealer if the complaints are genuine. Further, a gram sabha cannot ban or accord permission. It is absurd to read media reports of gram sabha meetings withdrawing construction licences or project permissions granted by panchayat. Gram sabha can show its opposition or agreement but it cannot be construed as rejection or acceptance.
Looking at the present situation in which the gram sabha is placed, such powers would make panchayat and village development unworkable. We have to also understand that we cannot move towards multiple village republics under the mistaken notion of strengthening democracy and governance.
GS not an opposition party
Gram Sabha should not be harboured and nursed as the opposition party in the village panchayat. If we have to achieve the goal of participative governance and planning from the grassroots, the gram sabha should position itself as the eyes, ears, hands and legs of the Panchayat. The gram sabha can enable people to participate in the development processes of the village only if there is capacity building of the people and quality administrative human power is available at the village level. There are instances of effective hold and positive contribution of Gram Sabha on Panchayat. However, these are more as exceptions due to the initiative of private individuals and spirited public officers. Largely, gram sabha is plagued by prejudice, caste and class divisions and works as a platform for the candidates defeated at the panchayat elections to act as interrupters of village development.
The meetings of the Gram Sabha are thinly attended, the participation of women is nominal, and most people who attend are silent listeners except a vocal interest group. Gram Sabha meeting is for information, participation and consultation. It cannot be stretched to approval and disapproval or for acceptance and rejection of projects unless specifically provided in the statute. If the power to approve or disapprove is provided to gram sabha, then the parameters should be laid down. Though gram sabha is the fulcrum of the panchayat, there could be abuse or miscarriage of the power.
Under the present limitations, gram sabha could be the watchdog and provider of inputs to panchayat. We have not yet created an atmosphere for representative democracy to work at the local self-government level through fiscal and administrative decentralisation. We cannot plunge ourselves into a direct democracy by giving overriding powers to the gram sabha.