Former Union Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar has said that despite the Cabinet Secretary’s clear directive to all the Union Ministries to provide a role to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in the implementation of Centrally-sponsored schemes (CSS), only two among the 150-odd CSS had provided a role to the PRIs.
Aiyar was speaking at the launch of the report of the ‘Expert Committee on leveraging Panchayat Raj Institutions for the more efficient delivery of public goods and services’ on Tuesday.
The career diplomat-turned-politico, who headed the expert panel, said it was found that except for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) and the Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF), none of over 150 CSS had provided a role for the PRIs despite the Cabinet Secretary’s explicit directions through a circular dated November 8, 2004 and the Planning Commission guidelines.
“The Panchayati Raj has been seriously suborned by establishing parallel bodies under CSS that are neither embedded in the Panchayat system not have organic links to PRIs.”
“As a consequence, all responsibility in these parallel bodies is upwards to officers of the line departments and not downwards to the people in the Gram and the Ward Sabhas,” he said. According to Aiyar, “instead of being integrally involved in programmes that affect their very livelihoods, the people at large, the ‘aam aadmi’, is alienated from the machinery of governance”. The report also underscores the fact that the Constitution recognises the PRIs as “institutions of self-government and they are the instruments of grassroots democracy.