Streamlining autonomy

Panchayati raj ministry suggests amendments to local governance in north-eastern states
Streamlining autonomy

THE Union ministry of panchayati raj has suggested amendments to streamline local governance in the tribal areas of north-eastern states.

The draft amendments to existing laws governing local bodies in the Sixth Schedule areas would help fight insurgency prevailing in the region and effectively implement Central government programmes, such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, at the grassroots level, ministry officials said.

In recent years, several government panels and civil society groups had suggested amending the Constitution to dissolve the autonomy of local bodies in Sixth Schedule areas, following reports of dysfunctional local governance, corruption, siphoning money from state schemes to fund insurgency, exclusion of women and ethnic divides, rendering local governance ineffective.

Instead of amending the Constitution the ministry has now suggested amending laws to make local bodies more powerful and independent. “An amendment to the Constitution would be an external imposition,” said Hrushikesh Panda, additional secretary in the ministry. “These amendments are an attempt to make the process of decentralisation inclusive rather than imposing laws,” Panda said. The amendment is also to avoid opposition from tribals who have so far enjoyed certain autonomous powers, he added. But dissent seems inevitable.

Broad recommendations
  • Constitute village councils uniformly across the region, especially where there are none
  • Make village council accountable to people
  • Reduce state government control over village and district councils
  • Hold elections under the supervision of state election commission every five years
  • Set up municipalities as required
  • Set up state finance commissions. ADC should have the representation of the finance commission for effective penetration of government schemes like NREGS
  • Ensure women’s participation and reservation in village and district councils

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