A single appointment of Gram Pradhan enough to take care of three generations

The Panchayati Raj system has been a total failure and retrograde. Mere expense-audit won’t be enough; the need is for a total revamping of the system by ensuring the answerability of the pradhans

Dr SB MisraDr SB Misra   9 Sep 2019 10:12 AM GMT

A single appointment of Gram Pradhan enough to take care of three generations

A pradhan functions very much like a chief minister or a prime minister in his gram panchayat. He has the Parliament of five panch though only for namesake. The village chief of the olden times used to perform far more welfare activities than its modern avatar. Even today, if all the gram pradhans work towards establishing an ideal order in their panchayats, the entire nation can become an ideal state.

When the Panchayati Raj Regulation was enforced in the 1950s, the pradhans didn't have funds, but moral force by virtue of their altruism. This alone was used to resolve all mutual conflicts and to accomplish community works by shramdaan -- voluntary physical contribution. In due course of time, the governments began providing funds through the pradhans, and so started the commission business.

A pradhan's functioning is never subjected to an audit while funds audit may be accomplished by a government official. In the 1980s, the erstwhile prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had hit the bull's eye when he quipped that we send a rupee but only 15 paise reach the farmer. The gram pradhans consider their panchayats their personal estates and making all the so-called committees redundant whether the matter is of recruitment of the teaching aides or marking up of a pavage land, the functioning of a pradhan limits itself to the money-making purpose.

The Modi government may have diagnosed and looked for the remedy by now, but the system shall function the same way it always has. With the current proposal to keep a check on pradhans' properties and assets, there is some hope of corruption abatement.

With its money-making capacity, the elections for the pradhan have turned very expensive. With no one knowing the exact limit on the election expenditure that the Election Commission has fixed for the pradhan-elections it is a fact that liquor, clothes, blankets and cash worth lakhs of rupees, flow freely in these elections. Due to this, only that candidate wins who has the most amount of money to spend or the power of muscle or caste support. With the help of reservation, the dalits do get the opportunity to earn a post and money, but nothing beyond.

The state of panchayat is such that when the DM clearing up an unclaimed land attached it to the gram society for the purpose of a playground, the pradhan failed to develop it as the playground for the village children. Panchayats have neither the open pastures nor the playgrounds. Even the rural villages lack playgrounds, how can the children then participate in sports?

The pradhan doesn't bother himself with the issues like teachers' attendance in the primary schools, ensuring treatment facilities at the primary health centers, mounds of dirt due to cleaner's absence, tree plantation, vaccination or people participation in keeping the village clean. He is simply concerned with land allotments, PM housing, compensation, widow or old-age pension, compiling BPL lists and ensuing the commissions—if no commission these jobs are dropped as well.

The Modi government thinks that directing money to the banks directly would solve the issue, but even then, the beneficiaries will be selected by none other than the gram pradhan after getting his dues in advance. A government aid may come to its beneficiary's account in its own sweet time.

The provision of women reservation in gram pradhan elections may have been given with the objective of woman empowerment, but instead helped propagate patriarchy further. Woman pradhan's husband remains the de facto pradhan and decorated with the title 'pradhan-pati' (pradhan's-husband) smugly attends all BDC meetings.

Similarly, the provision for the caste-based reservation may have had the rationale of social equality and harmony, but so far rarely it would have happened that a Pradhan from the scheduled caste had the opportunity to dine at the house of privileged caste person. The caste resentment caused during the elections doesn't wear away easily. Matters related to privileged caste people will neither be accorded to nor be executed by the Pradhan from scheduled caste, ongoing court visits notwithstanding.

A gram pradhan, even without the consent of the villagers, can construct a temple on gram society's land and capture it by inscribing his name on it. He constructs parapets and disbanding the gram society's land even provides land to farmers without any lease. He covers up ponds for fields or hands it to the land-mafia.

A gram pradhan cannot effectively assume his responsibilities towards the panchayat albeit is responsible for communal ill will, discord and bloodshed. In a nutshell, we may say that the Panchayati Raj system has been a total failure and retrograde. Mere expense-audit won't be enough, the need is for a total revamping of the system by ensuring the answerability of the pradhans.

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