THE country took a big step towards giving more power to the people with the Panchayati Raj Act becoming operational on April 23 following all states and Union territories amending their respective legislations in conformity with the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act. Said minister for rural development Rameshwar Thakur, "This will place more powers in the hands of the rural people so that they can determine their own destiny."
Thakur noted that under the act, the 22 lakh people who will be elected within 6 months as panchayat members at the village, block and district levels, would work for the uplift of rural people. Adequate representation would be given to weaker sections and women.
The elected panchayats will have freedom to plan and disburse funds in about 30 areas of development, including land reforms, agriculture, fertiliser disbursement, animal husbandry, education upto the secondary level, and health care.
However, the act is under attack from some quarters. The Tamil Nadu government has condemned the new act as regressive because the state's own time-tested system of panchayati raj based on direct elections is now being changed to comply with the new amendment. The new act, claim some opposition leaders, has actually curtailed the powers of the panchayati raj institutions by making elections indirect. They contend that it has subverted the institutions by giving officials the power to remove the elected members and by empowering the state governments to dissolve the panchayats.
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