By ARUN PRATAP SINGH
DEHRADUN 30 May: The government’s decision to grant power of approval expenditure from Gram Panchayat and District Panchayats to the District Magistrates and on the recommendations of the minister in charge of the particular district goes against the spirit of the three tier system of governance. Under the constitutional provisions, district planning committees are constituted at the district level while block level planning committees are formed at the block level while the gram panchayats decide at the village level for the planning and approval of expenditure from the panchayat funds. The District Planning Committee is actually headed by the Chairperson of the District Panchayat who is also an elected person. But the state government has not yet constituted planning committees at district and block levels in many places. Now it is using its failure as a shield and an excuse to hand over the right of approval of the expenditure from the panchayat funds to the district collectors and the minister in-charge of the district.
The decision was today rightly criticised by PCC Chief and former Panchayati Raj Minister Pritam Singh, who termed it as impractical as well as undemocratic.
It may be recalled that in India there is a three tier system of governance as per the relevant provisions of the constitution. In fact it was under the 73rd amendments to the constitution that constitutional status was granted to the panchayats while under 74th Amendment, autonomy was granted to urban local bodies.
Therefore as a matter of principle, the constitutional authority of the panchayats to decide on the use of the funds and approval of the same should not be denied to the Panchayats. But it has been a common practice among the state governments in many states including Uttarakhand irrespective of the party in power to usurp their powers from time to time and instead grant authority of approval of expenses from the Panchayat funds to either the district collectors or to the ministers in charge of the particular district. This habit of the state government goes against the spirit of democracy and leaves the elected district, block and gram panchayat heads and members frustrated while the ministers manage to have their say directly or through the district collectors. Even when this right of approval remains with the panchayats, very often the ministers in charge of the district manage to have their ways in the meeting leaving the elected panchayat office bearers and members frustrated. Such a practice needs to be discouraged and must be used only in very unusual or special circumstances where there is no elected body. A natural disaster or a crisis like the Corona crisis should not be allowed to be used as an excuse or pretext to usurp the powers of the panchayats for any government!