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Odisha Review February-March - 2012

Panchayati Raj in Odisha : An Overview

Rabindra Kumar Behuria

Odisha became a Separate Province in 1936. The The fate of Gram Panchayat during 1950s
only significant step in the decentralization process and early 1960's several was under the mercy of
came after Independence in 1948 when the Orissa Departments. Till 1956 it was under the Board of
Gram Panchayats Act was passed. During the Revenue and the Revenue Department. There was
Chief Ministership of Sri Naba Krushna a post of Superintendent of Panchayat which was
Choudhury a new innovative attempt was made abolished to facilitate an I.A.S cadre officer to
through the Constitution of Anchal Sasan and become Director of Panchayats in the rank of Joint
Secretary and later revealed to the rank of
creation of Anchal Fund under the Orissa Estates
Additional Secretary. The auditing power was
Abolition Act of 1951. The Anchal Sasan Act
snatched away from Registrar and it was given to
(1955) intended to accord full powers to Anchal,
the Board of Revenue. The Panchayats came
a local authority which was at a higher level than under the Department of Agriculture and
the Gram Panchayat so that representatives of Community Development in 1956 and then moved
villagers could have played visible role in the to the Political and Services Department which
working of system related to Public Health, was under the Chief Minister. In December, 1959
Education, Agriculture, Cottage Industries etc. it was placed under the Department of Planning
The Anchal Sasan was designed to be a and Coordination with a Secretary to head the
body corporate having fund raising out of land Department.
revenue, Fees, tolls, Cesses and taxes. Besides The Scheme of Panchayatiraj which was
provision for education fund was made to finance first adopted in Rajasthan on the 2nd October,
educational programmes of Sasan. The institutions 1959 was the result of the recommendations of
of Anchal Sabha and Anchal Adhikari were made the Balavantrai Mehta Committee. In 1956, the
and it had its own cadre of officers to be paid out Committee was formed to study the working of
of Anchal Fund. the Community Development programmes and
suggest remedies for removal of defects therein.
The Anchal Sasan Act was not This Committee is sometimes known as the
implemented which prevented Odisha a committee on the Democratic Decentralization.
pioneering role in the democratic decentralization The Mehta Committee submitted its report in 1957
process much earlier to the Balwantrai Mehta and came to a conclusion that We will never be
Committee Report. able to evoke local interest and excite local

February - March - 2012 Odisha Review

initiative in the field of development unless we system introduced in Odisha took few years to
create representative and democratic institutions get stabilised.
and invest them with adequate power and Methas Three-Tier System:
appropriate finances. The Committee arrived at
the concept of democratic decentralization The Panchayat is an executive body of
through the broadening of the concept of peoples the village ward members headed by the
participation in community development. It Sarapanch. It mainly consists of the
representatives elected by the people of the
recommended to take away more powers from
Villages. There is also a provision of two women
the Centre and States and to vest them with the
and one Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe,
local units of administration.
if they do not get adequate representation in the
It also recommended for three-tier normal course. The Panchayat is a body
system of rural administration, namely, the Gram accountable to the general body of the villages
Panchayats at the base (i.e. at the village level), known as Gram Sabha. As regards the main
the Zilla Parishad at the top (i.e. in the district function performed by the Village Panchayat, they
level), and the Panchayat Samiti in the middle (i.e. include maintenance of roads, wells, schools,
at the Block level). The system is popularly known burning and burial grounds, sanitation, public
as Panchayati Raj. As written earlier, Rajasthan health, street lighting, libraries, reading rooms,
was the first State in India which adopted this community centres. The Panchayat also keeps
new scheme on 2nd October, 1959. Odisha records of birth and deaths. It takes necessary
worked out this scheme on the 26th January, measures for promotion of Agriculture and Animal
1961. Almost all the States in India adopted this Husbandry, Cottage Industries and Cooperative
system. Thus, the recommendation of the Metha Societies etc. Sometimes minor disputes among
Committee brought about a political and social the citizens of villages are also settled by the village
revolution in rural India. Panchayat.
Panchayat Samiti or Block Level Bodies:
The B. R. Mehta recommendations were
given effect in the State. Both Panchayat Samiti The block is the intermediary in the three-
and Zilla Parishad Acts were enacted. In July, tier system and is the centre of developmental
1962 under the new, young and dynamic Chief work. The Panchayat Samiti consists of by
Minister Shri Bijayananda Patnaik, a new taking -
Department of Community Development and (a) about 20 members elected by all the
Panchayati Raj was created. The Panchayats, Panchayats in the Block;
Samitis, Parishads and former District Boards
(b) two women members and one member
came under its purview. The Panchayat wing was
from S.C and one from S.T, if they do not possess
separated and it was kept under Commissioner, adequate representation otherwise by the process.
Panchayati Raj who also looked in to functioning Panchayat Samiti is headed by a Chairman elected
of the Community Development. Two posts of by the members of the Samiti. The B.D.O shall
Directors from IAS cadre were also created. be Executive Officers in the Samiti and shall
Afterwards the Commissioner post was abolished function under the control of Chairman of Samiti.
and the Departments were kept under the The Executive authority of the Samiti shall be
Secretary. Thus the three-tier Panchayati Raj vested in the Chairman and it shall be his duty to

Odisha Review February-March - 2012

have the resolution of the Samiti implemented District Collectors, officer of agriculture,
through the Executive Officer of the Samiti. The veterinary, education, engineering, public works,
Chairman of the Samiti shall convene and conduct public health etc. Being a developmental body,
the meeting of the Samiti and have the power to its main function is supervisory within its areas. It
inspect and supervise all works undertaken by approves budgets of the Panchayat Samitis in
the Samiti. The Vice-Chairman of the Samiti shall certain states and also gives necessary advice to
be elected by the non-official members of the the Government regarding the implementation of
Samiti. He will exercise such power as delegated programmes and developmental works. Besides
to him from time to time and when the office of this, it deals in maintenance of education,
the Chairman is vacant, he shall act as the dispensaries, hospital, minor education etc.
Panchayati Raj and Biju Babu:
Functions :
Biju in his second spell as Chief Minister
(i) Planning, execution and supervision of the of Odisha was more determined and exhibited
development programmes, schemes and works sheer self confidence and unremitting zeal to
in the Block relating to the community streamline Panchayati Raj. For him let the people
development. rule themselves, let them check out plans/schemes
(ii) Management control and spread of for the improvement of their respective areas and
primary education in the Block. let them execute their plans was the hallmarks of
Panchayati Raj administration. According to Biju
(iii) Supervisory powers over the Gram Babu the goals of Panchayati Raj can not be
Panchayats within the Block to the exercised in fructified unless there is proper devolution of
such manner and to such extent as may be Financial Powers to Panchayats. His Government
prescribed. made concerted effort for appointment to a
(iv) Management of such trusts and Special Finance Commission to look after the
endowments and other institutions as may be domain of devolution of Financial Powers.
entrusted to them under any law for time being in Biju was most emphatic about the
force or under the Government. participation of women in the Panchayati Raj
(v) Supervision of enforcement of laws System. He announced that for the first time in
relating to vacation and registration of births and the history of Independent India, women will be
deaths. given 33% reservation in the three-tier Panchayati
(vi) The budgets of Gram Panchayats are to -Raj Institutions. And true to his word, he saw to
be submitted to the Samiti and the Samiti will it that the Orissa Zilla Parishad Act of 1991 and
approve the budgets. the Gram Panchayat Samiti Amendment Act of
1992 were passed by the Odisha Assembly that
Zilla Parishad : provided for 33% of reservation for women
Zilla Parishad is at the apex of three-tier including SC & ST women. So for the first time,
systems and treated as the higher developmental more than 28 thousand women were elected to
agency in the State. The organization of Zilla various Gram Panchayats and Panchayat Samitis
Parishad differs from State to State. Still it consists and Zilla Parishads. It was further provided that
of the elected members of the State Legislature one-third of Zilla Parishads would have exclusively
and Parliament, Medical Officers of the district, women Chairpersons. In case of the Panchayat

February - March - 2012 Odisha Review

Samitis and the Gram Panchayats, one of the two (ii) Provision has been made to reserve the
office-bearers, i.e. Chairpersons or Vice- office of the Vice-Chairman for a woman in case
Chairpersons must be woman. It must be pointed the Chairman is male.
out that Biju Pattnaiks policies on reservation for After the enforcement of the Constitution
women were followed by many other State Amendment Act, 1992, it became necessary to
Governments in India that culminated in the 73rd amend the Orissa Zilla Parishad Act, 1991. The
and 74th Amendment Acts to the Constitution of following important necessary changes were
India, which provided for similar provisions for made:
rural and urban local bodies respectively. Under
his leadership, the Orissa Gram Panchayat Act, (i) Reservation of seats for S.C and S.T
1964 and the Orissa Panchayat Samiti Act, 1959 members has to be done on the basis of their ratio
were amended in 1991, 1992 and 1993. The to the total population of the district.
Orissa Zilla Parishad Act was also enacted in (ii) One-third of the seats are to be reserved
1991 to constitute Zilla Parishads at the district for women members including S.T and S.C
level. This Act was extensively amended to bring women.
in conformity with the provision of the Constitution (iii) The post of Vice-President should be
Amendment Act, 1992. It also adds to the credit reserved for women if the President is not a
of Mr. Patnaik that after a lapse of eight years, it woman.
conducted elections to Gram Panchayats in the
year 1992 for 5264 Gram Panchayats in the State. The State law has provided that no person
Some salient features of Gram Panchayats Samitis having more than two children will be eligible to
and Zilla Parishad deserve mention as there were contest in the election to the Zilla Parishad.
Similarly persons having more than one spouse
the outcome of the Amendment made during Bijus
Chief Ministership. In case of Gram Panchayat have been disqualified from contesting the
election. The Government headed by the Biju
three mentionable points are:
Patnaik also set up quite a few Commissions of
(i) The post of Naib Sarpanch is reserved finance for the Panchayati Raj Institutions in order
for the women members, if the Sarpanch is a male. of offer methods and mechanisms for resources
(ii) One-third of the total wards are reserved funding thus unleashing some genuine purpose to
for women candidate including S.C and S.T the decentralization of power.
candidates. Problems:
(iii) Gram Panchayats have been vested with Diverse and huge problems in the
the power of supervision of women and child functions and the working patterns of the
welfare programme, social forestry, rural housing, Panchayati Raj System which we are facing in
Small Scale Industries and public distribution the day to day activities can be broadly described
system to other normal functions. as mentioned below:
As regards Panchayat Samitis the Initially there was domination of the
following features deserve mention: bureaucracy over PRIs. The agent of
implementation of all major programmes (CDP
(i) One-third of the total seats are reserved
or IRDP) has always been the State
for women members including women members Administration, various parallel bodies that have
of S.C and S.T category. grossly undermined the importance of the PRIs.

Odisha Review February-March - 2012

Secondly, inadequate financial resources system of free Government, but without local
to carry out the administration is a serious institutions, it cannot have the spirit of liberty.
problem. The grant-in-aid is the major component Conclusion:
of the PRI revenue. The Government should
realise the difficulty and try to solve it permanently. The whole exercise of decentralization of
powers is equivalent to that of transfer of power
Besides, other major problems are also from the British to the Indians. The Panchayati
affecting the structure. These are - Raj set-up is still in experimental stage. Every
(a) Incompatible relations among the three- experiment has its problems and promises. The
tiers; Panchayati Raj may have weakness today, but it
will be a vital force of tomorrow in shaping and
(b) Undemocratic composition of various
P.R. institutions; developing the richer and prosperous life of
people of India. It requires a movement of the
(c) Political bias; and masses. For mobilizing the masses for the new
(d) Un-cordial relation between officials and task, the leaders are to be trained. It is needless
public. to say that the Panchayati Raj system acts like
the grassroot of democracy and a time may come
Suggestions for removal of these defects: when Jay Prakash Narayans dream of Gram
The Government should take to spread Sabha to Lok Sabha may materialise through it.
education rapidly. The Government should also Besides, the democratic decentralization took its
change its former attitude towards the local shape for better administration and developmental
bodies. The local bodies need better personnel perspectives for quick rural developmental and
as well as a better office organization and cooperation of local people. State Government
methods. The local bodies should have adequate does not possess adequate wisdom of local affairs
finance at their disposal to take up manifold and problems. In this sense, it constitutes a
developmental activities. Local bodies should be significant constitution to the theory and practice
away as far as possible, from the arena of nasty of nation-building activities in the developing
party politics. Last but not the least, the success areas.
of the Panchayati Raj and other Local Self
Selected Bibliography:
Governing Institutions, public life should be free
from corruption. People and the leaders should 1. Rout, B.C and Mohapatra, M. K. New Rudiments
possess a high moral standard. They should be of Political Science p-II, Cuttack, Nalanda,
honest, truth binding, vigilant and well-informed.
The establishment of the Panchayati Raj has led 2. Orissa Review. Feb-March 2010.
to the quest of new leadership. The new 3. Palanithurai, G., New Panchayati Raj System: Status
leadership should be development-oriented and and Prospects. New Delhi, Kaniska, 1996.p.21.
not power-motivated. The success of 4. Pal, M. Panchayat Raj and Development. Yojana,
Panchayati Raj much depends on this pattern of August 2004 p.51.
emerging leadership. If it is successful, it will bring
a new era of prosperity. We may quote De
Jocqueville, local institutions constitute the Rabindra Kumar Behuria, retired Lecturer, Chandbali,
strength of free nations. A nation may establish a Bhadrak-756133.