EVOLUTION OF PANCHAYATI RAJ IN SIKKIM
Dimension 1: Effective Devolution of Functions
Section 34 of the Sikkim Panchayat Act, 1993, lists following obligatory duties of the Gram Panchayat:-
- Sanitation, conservancy and drainage and the prevention of public nuisance;
- Curative and preventive measures in respect of any infectious disease;
- Supply of drinking water and the cleaning and disinfecting of the sources of supply and storage water;
- Maintenance, repair and construction of village roads and protection thereof;
- Removal of encroachments of village roads and public places;
- Management of common grazing grounds, burning places and public graveyards;
- Supply of any local information which the District Collector or District Development Officer-cum-Panchayat Officer or the Zilla Panchayat may require, within the limits of the jurisdiction of the Gram Panchayat;
- Organising voluntary labour for community work and works for the upliftment of its areas.
As per Section 35 of the Act a Gram Panchayat shall also perform such other functions as the State Government may assign to it in respect of
- Primary, social, technical or vocational education;
- Rural dispensaries, health centres, maternity and child welfare centres;
- Minor irrigation;
- Grow more food campaign; and
- Care of the infirm and destitute.
Powers of the Zilla Panchayat (ZP) as per Section 69 and 70 of the Act, are as follows:
- Regulating melas or haats within its local limits;
- Construction and maintenance of Panchayat Ghars, Dharamsalas and rest houses;
- Construction, repair and maintenance of such small irrigation projects as may be specified by the State Government, and regulating of supply of water therefrom for irrigation purposes;
- Regulating supply of water for irrigation or drinking water supply schemes constructed by the Government and entrusted to it for maintenance and repairs;
- Establishing and maintaining primary schools and organising adult education centres;
- Establishing health centres and maternity and child welfare centres; and
- Managing or maintaining any works of public utility and adopting measures for the relief of distress.
Other duties of Zilla Panchayat are
- the promotion of opportunity of employment through community farming by organising model agriculture or dairy farms and small scale village industries;
- the organisation and maintenance of clubs and other places for recreation or games;
- establishment and maintenance of library or reading rooms and public radio listening centres; and
- construction and maintenance of destitute homes, slaughter houses and encamping grounds.
Activity Mapping and Functional Devolution:
A Joint Statement of Conclusion was signed by the Union Minister of Panchayati Raj with the Chief Minister after the Union Minister’s visit to the State in April, 2006. As per the Statement, Sikkim will complete activity mapping within three months, and separate the State Budget into State sector and Panchayat sector by October. Accordingly, a Task Force was constituted to make recommendations on the subjects listed hereunder:
- Activities which may be transferred to the PRIs on the principle of subsidiarity;
- Funds which shall be transferred to the PRIs to discharge the activities transferred and the procedure of transfer thereof; and
- The functionaries who shall be transferred to the PRIs with clarity of their roles and matters related to control of such functionaries.
The Committee is headed by the Secretary, Land Revenue & Disaster Management Department and comprises representatives of 19 departments. The final report of the Committee has been submitted to the Government and has been jointly released by the Chief Minister and the Union Minister of Panchayati Raj and Youth Affairs and Sports on 25th October, 2006, in Gangtok.
The Report of the Committee is very comprehensive and has recommended transfer of functions relating to 15 Sectors/Departments to the Zilla Panchayats and the Gram Panchayats. These include Agriculture and Food Security, Horticulture and Cash Crops, Animal Husbandry, Livestock and Veterinary Services, Education, Health & Family Welfare, Forests, Environment & Wild Life, Commerce & Industries, Disaster Management, Irrigation, Culture, Art & Heritage, Rural Water Supply, Rural Bridges, Rural Sanitation and Co-operatives.
The Report has also recommended that a separate Panchayat Sector may be provided in the State Budget wherein the grants to the Panchayats deducted at source shall be reflected.
The Report has also recommended posting of officers of the line departments, designation- wise, to specific Zilla Panchayats/Gram Panchayats. A comprehensive list has been prepared for each and every Gram Panchayat and appended to the Report as Schedule-II. The Gram level functionaries are to be placed under the administrative control of the Gram Panchayats. Block Development Officer (BDO) as Administrative Officer will be directly answerable to Panchayat and other officials will function under administrative control of BDO. The available manpower in the District under the line departments is also to be placed under the administrative control of the Zilla Panchayats, as per the recommendations.
Activity Mapping Report has been completed and approved by the State Government of Sikkim. It shall be enforced from the next financial year.
Dimension 2: Effective Devolution of Functionaries
The devolved functions are administered by elected Panchayat representatives assisted by State Government employees posted to the Panchayats. One Panchayat Assistant and Office helper has been posted to each of the 166 GPs. An interesting aspect of GP level arrangements is that the Panchayat ‘Secretary’ is elected from amongst the elected Panchayat representative. Progressively, line department functionaries of a few departments are being posted to the Gram Panchayats, For example, DFO has now been posted with the ZP.
However, these staff continue to draw their salaries from the parent department.
However, all district level officers are enjoined through executive orders to attend all Gram Sabha meetings compulsorily. A system of “guardian” officers who are senior level district officer, has been instituted, under which officers are assigned to individual GPs for the purpose of guiding them in their functioning.
It has notified appointment of guardian officers for each Gram Panchayat, not below the rank of Deputy Secretary. These guardian officers are to guide the Gram Panchayats in convening, conducting Gram Sabhas and preparation of Village Plans. Offices have been established in every Gram Panchayat Unit under the name of Gram Prasashan Kendras. This is the administrative centre of the Gram Panchayats where all line department officials and Panchayat members have their office for local administration.
A Draft Sikkim Panchayati Raj Service Rules have been prepared and are under the examination by the State Government
The Zilla Panchayat is supported by the District Development cum Panchayat Officer (DDO), Assistant DDO and a Panchayat Inspector. Each Zilla Panchayat has been provided with an Engineering cell and administrative and accounts staff. All heads of the different departments of the districts are under the Zilla Panchayat.
The District Collector is the Ex-officio Secretary of Zilla Panchayat. Each district is well provided with sufficient office facilities through the Zilla Panchayat Bhawan. It is reported that the funds that are sanctioned for different works are placed at the disposal of the District Collector.
Dimension 3: Effective Devolution of Finances
Delegation of financial powers to Panchayats in the State:
The State does not have a district sector/ Panchayat window in its budget. However, a Panchayat Sector has been in existence in the Budgets of line departments although, the quantum of funds provided is inadequate. In the current year Rs. 89 lakhs has been allocated to the Panchayats by six departments in their Budget. Funds are released to Panchayats through banks on a broadly quarterly basis. Funds are sent directly by State departments to ZPs through cheques for undertaking activities. Therefore there is some modicum of separation of the budget into what ought to go to Panchayats, even though it doesn’t find place in the budget as a separate line item. However, most of the funding received by Panchayats is from the Rural Management and Development (RMD) Department.
Every year untied block grants of Rs. 10 lakhs are being provided to each Gram Panchayat and Rs. 50 lakhs to each District Panchayat. Panchayats are free to plan and implement programmes using these funds, subject to broad conditionalities aimed at human development, infra-structural development, health, welfare, skill development, small scale industries, village tourism, afforestation and conservation of the environment, economic upliftment of the dis-advantaged and the vulnerable sections of the rural society and promotion of sports.
Through heads of own resources are assigned to Panchayats under the Law collection is low. The main source of own revenues is house taxes. No restrictions are put on Panchayats on expenditure of their own funds. There are no incentives for Panchayats to raise their own revenues.
Funds are transferred to the GPs through banks. The State has agreed to adopt the system suggested by Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) for the transfer of 12th FC Funds through banks. The track record of the State in sending funds down to Panchayats, particularly of Second Finance Commission (SFC) and Third Finance Commission (TFC) grants and other untied funds is good. Details are given below
Financial Powers to Panchayats:
Funds are routed to the Panchayats only through Rural Development Department and not directly to Panchayats. It was been decided in 2002, by the Government that 10% of the total fund of each department will be given to the Panchayats. Further devolution were made in July 2003, when 10% of land revenue and house tax collected within Panchayat units was transferred to Rural Development Department for disbursement. The Panchayats have also been authorized to collect taxes on certain items. Despite this income of Panchayats is inadequate.
Each Gram Panchayat gets Rs. 10 lakhs as a largely untied fund, with broad dos and don’ts on what it can be spent. The latest sectoral allocation is as follows:
|Creation of assets
|Maintenance of existing assets
|Entrepreneurship Development Programme
|Skill Upgradation Programme
|Marketing and Operation of products of rural enterprises
Sources: Government of Sikkim
Each ZP is given Rs. 50 lakhs per annum as untied funds, over and above funds given for general administration, again with broad dos and don’ts.
Sikkim has a consistent policy of giving partly untied block grants to Panchayats. On a per-capita level, this is quite substantial as compared to other States.
Establishment of State Finance Commissions (SFCs) and their reports:
The First State Finance Commission was constituted in 1998 and a majority of its recommendations have been accepted by the State Government and are being implemented.
The Second State Finance Commission was constituted in 2003 and submitted its report in 2004.The recommendations contained in the report have received assent of the State Legislative Assembly in February, 2006. The report recommends the introduction of certain taxes , rates and charges to augment the revenue of Panchayats. The main recommendation include
- Introduction of taxes on property.
- Introduction of user charges for drinking water.
- Introduction of user charges for use of irrigation water.
- Introduction of fees for construction of houses in panchayat areas.
- Introduction of fees for occupation of rural produce marketing centres.
- Assignment of taxes on fairs, melas and other entertainment in panchayat areas.
- Introduction of service charge for registration of birth and death.
In addition, the second Finance Commission has recommended for strengthening the administrative and planning machinery of the Panchayats.
Twelfth Finance Commission Grants:
The State has been allocated a sum of Rs. 13 crore for the period 2005-2010 as grants recommended by the Twelfth Finance Commission for the Panchayati Raj Institutions. The High Level Committee constituted as per the guidelines of the Finance Commission has approved the utilization of these grants in the following manner:
- Creation of Data base of the Panchayats- Rs. 20 lakhs
- Maintenance of Accounts of Panchayats- Rs. 10 lakhs.
- Operation and Maintenance of Civic Services- Rs. 1270 lakhs
The inter-see allocation of the grants between the Zilla Panchayats and the Gram Panchayats has been approved in the ratio of 3:7. For maintenance of accounts a Charted Accountant has been engaged to ensure that all accounts of the Gram Panchayats are maintained in the prescribed formats and hands-on training is also provided to the Sachiva of the Gram Panchayats and the Rural Development Assistant who assists the Sachiva. It is also proposed to prepare a balance sheet of each Gram Panchayat for 2005-06.
The State has so far secured only the first Instalment of 2005-06 of Rs. 130 lakhs. This amount has been fully transferred to the PRIs within the stipulated period. Request for release of next instalment has already been made.
Dimension 4: Gram Sabhas
Gram Sabha, powers and functions:
The Gram Sabhas has been vested with the Following Powers:
- Mobilizing voluntary labour and contributions in kind and cash for the community welfare programmes
- Identification of beneficiaries for implementation of developmental schemes pertaining to the village
- Rendering assistance in the implementation of developmental schemes
- Approval of annual statement of accounts of the Gram Panchayat (GP)
- Report in respect of development programmes proposed to be undertaken during the current year
- Promotion of unity and harmony among all sections of society in the village
- Promotion of programme on adult education within the village; and
- Other matters as the State Government may specify.
Meetings of Gram Sabha
As per the PR Act, the Gram Sabha shall meet at least twice in a year and where the Gram Panchayats fails to convene Gram Sabha, the prescribed authority shall with the approval of the State Government and after giving notice to the Gram Panchayat concerned, convene it.
Quorum for the Meeting and Resolution
As per the Section 7 of Sikkim Panchayat (Amendment) Act, 2005 quorum for the meeting of a Gram Sabha and Ward Sabha shall be one- fifth and one-fourth of the total members of the Gram Sabha or Ward Sabha. Respectively One-third of the quorum shall comprise of Women.
Under sub-section (2) of 7 of the Sikkim Panchayat Act, 1993, any resolution relating to matters entrusted to the Gram Sabha shall be passed by a majority of members present and voting in the meeting of the Gram Sabha. Rules have also been notified for convening and conducting Gram Sabhas.
Status of Ward Sabha
The Sikkim Panchayat Act has been amended to allow convening of Ward Sabhas (5-9 wards comprise a Gram Panchayat Unit).
Dimension 5: Planning
Sikkim has established District Planning Committees in accordance with Article 243-ZD of the Constitution. During the visit of the Union Minister PR to Sikkim in March-April, 2006, Sikkim had undertaken to put in place detailed operational guidelines to ensure that DPCs function in accordance with Article 243 ZD of the Constitution. District plans will be prepared on the basis of village/block level plans. DPC is chaired by the elected chairperson of the Zilla Panchayat. All ZP members are members of DPC (around 25 per district) and about 10 –12 stakeholders are nominated as Members. To facilitate the planning work, in each of the four districts of Sikkim there is a District Planning Committee. It consists of the following members:
- The Adhyaksha of the Zilla Panchayat (Chairman)
- The District Development officer-cum-Panchayat officer (Member Secretary)
- District Collector
- Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Assembly constituencies comprised in the district.
- 3 members of Zilla Panchayat besides the Adhyaksha
- An economist/senior administrator appointed by the State Government.
It is reported that the District Planning Committee consolidates the plans prepared by the Gram Panchayats and the Zilla Panchayat based on which a draft development plan for the entire district is prepared. The chairman of District Planning Committee forwards this development plan, as recommended by the committee to the State Government for further action.
There is some degree of village planning going on with the involvement of the Gram Sabha, as untied funds are placed with the Panchayats for the same. Gram Sabhas are conducted at least twice a year.
A small bilaterally aided project, the Indo Swiss Project for Sikkim has been facilitating local planning. Through the project, a Task Force constituted supported by and chaired by Secretary Revenue, Shri K.N. Sharma was constituted to recommend a planning methodology. The Task Force report has received the approval of the Cabinet. Thereafter, detailed operational guidelines have been issued. In pursuance of the guidelines, notifications have also been issued for constituting Gram Planning Forums in each Gram Panchayat and Technical Support Committee in each Zilla Panchayat to assist the DPC. The District Technical Support Committee comprising of the senior most line department officials of the District shall be under the Administrative Control of the DPC. The Gram Planning Forum constituted in each Gram Panchayat comprises of all the elected members of the Gram Panchayats, all village level line department officials and five experts from the Gram Panchayats nominated by the Gram Sabha. The members of the Forums were provided training during the first half of September and simple guidelines have been issued in English and Nepali. These Forums have prepared their plans and passed in the Gram Sabhas. It is expected that the preparation of Plans as per its recommendations would be initiated from the next financial year i.e, 2007-08.
Status of Standing Committee
There is no provision in the Panchayat Act for Standing Committees at the Gram Panchayat level. Although provision has been made for Standing Committees at the ZP level, they have not been constituted in every district.
Dimension 6: Implementation
Election of Gram Panchayat Chairperson.
As per (section 17(1) of The Sikkim Panchayat Act, 1993) Every Gram Panchayat in its first meeting at which quorum is present elects one of its members to be the Sabhapati and another member to be the Up-Sabhapati of the Gram Panchayat. Thus the Chairperson is not directly elected.
The Gram Panchayat elects its own Panchayat Secretary, from amongst its members, which is a unique feature.
Citizen Charter is under preparation. Since Panchayat function encompasses all line department activities, all line departments have been requested to provide its departmental charter vis-a-vis the PRIs so that a comprehensive Panchayat Charter can be prepared.