Peoples rule

Print edition : September 07, 2007

Karnataka has carried forward the tradition of local governance prevalent in the princely state of Mysore.

KARNATAKA has a long history of decentralisation of governance and planning. In the erstwhile princely state of Mysore, the idea of local self-governance emerged as early as in 1874 with the establishment of local fund committees. Though they were not too popular, thanks to the dominance of the official members, they set the tone for grassroots administration. There are 27 zilla panchayats, 175 taluk panchayats and 5,652 gram panchayats in Karnataka.

A number of laws passed in the princely state, and later in the modern State, sought to loosen the hold of the bureaucracy and make governance more representative. The Mysore Local Boards Act of 1902 provided a three-tier local self-government structure consisting of the village panchayat with a nominated chairman, a taluk board with the subdivision officer as president, and a district board with the deputy commissioner as president. Then there was the Mysore Local Boards and Village Panchayat Act, 1918, and the Mysore District and Mysore Village Panchayats Act, 1926.

The Mysore Village Panchayats and Local Boards Act, 1959, was enacted within the broad framework of the Balwanthrai Mehta Committee Report. The Panchayat Raj Institutions Act, 1959, and the Karnataka Zilla Parishads, Taluk Panchayat Samithis, Mandal Panchayats and Nyaya Panchayats Act, 1983, also sought to make local governance more representative.

The 1983 Act established a new Panchayati Raj system that consisted of mandal or gram panchayats at the village level and taluk panchayat samitis and zilla (district) parishads. The Act also provided for gram sabhas, or village assemblies, which comprised all eligible voters of a given mandal panchayat, panchayat members and government officers. The sabha members would use the forum to discuss and review development problems and programmes of the village, select beneficiaries for welfare-oriented programmes and plan for the development of the villages economy and its people.

Karnataka has 56,682 rural habitations, including 27,017 revenue villages. Most people living in these rural habitations depend on agriculture. It is the responsibility of the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department (RDPRD) to implement the provisions of the Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, 1993. The Department is implementing a number of schemes to improve the living conditions of the people.

Services such as the provision of drinking water, sanitation, roads and street lights are outlined in the Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, 1993. The gram panchayats execute the schemes formulated by the State and Central governments for rural development. Thus, the gram panchayats have evolved over the last decade to take on more strategic responsibilities for the development of the community.

Highlighting some of the programmes being implemented by the RDPRD, its secretary, G.V. Kongawad, said that under the Suvarna Gramodyoga1, launched in 2006, 195 backward villages had been identified for construction of houses for schools and anganwadis. Young people would be trained in vocations other than agriculture, roads and drains would be built, and drinking water would be provided. One thousand villages will be selected every year and the Karnataka government will spend Rs.1,000 crore on this programme annually, he said.

Karnatakas total rural road length is 47 lakh km. Some rural roads are improved and maintained with grants from the Centre under the Prime Ministers Pradhan Manthri Gram Sadak Yojana. In an attempt to improve transparency in the road maintenance work, the Karnataka government has decided to employ a package system, involving a tender process.

The Karnataka Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme seeks to provide livelihood and security to households in the rural areas by providing not less than one hundred days of guaranteed employment in every financial year; the promotion of rural sanitation through the States Nirmala Grama Yojana and the Central Rural Sanitation Programme; and the novel habitat development programme Swachcha Grama Scheme, which has been launched at a cost of Rs.200 crore for implementation in 1,000 villages in batches of 250 with assistance from Housing Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO).

The Department, which is responsible for coordinating the provision of water supply for domestic purposes in over 56,682 rural habitations, is implementing rural water supply schemes, the centrally sponsored Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme, sub-mission projects for rural habitations with water quality problems under the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission, and also schemes aided by the World Bank and the Danish International Development Agency.

Under the Swarna Jayanthi Gram Swarozgar Yojana, the Department assists rural households below the poverty line through credit, subsidy and training facilities.

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