Review of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment: Issues and Challenges

Published date01 March 2018
Date01 March 2018
AuthorT. Brahmanandam
Subject MatterArticles
Indian Journal of Public
64(1) 103–121
© 2018 IIPA
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0019556117735461
1 Centre for Multi-Disciplinary Development Research (CMDR), Dharwad, Karnataka.
Corresponding author:
T. Brahmanandam, Associate Professor, CMDR, Dr. B.R. Ambedkarnagar, Near Yalakki Shettar
Colony, Dharwad 580004, Karnataka.
Review of the
73rd Constitutional
Issues and Challenges
T. Brahmanandam1
The article makes a modest attempt in ascertaining the functional aspects of
Panchayati Raj Institutions, especially in the aftermath of the 73rd Constitutional
Amendment. After a brief review of the history of local self-government in the
pre- and post-Independence India, an attempt is made to figure out the present
system of the panchayat governance in India. The operational aspects of the
three-tier structure of panchayats are brought out along with the impediments
that hamper their effective functioning. Feedbacks from across the state of
Karnataka have been taken into consideration while suggesting the corrective
measures. Mere identification of the functions of panchayats does not imply
anything substantial without the effective back-up of financial decentralisation.
The dominance of upper castes still hovers over and is a threat to the inclusive
participation of deprived sections of the society.
Local self-government, 73rd Constitutional Amendment, functional devolution,
Gram Sabha, weaker sections, decentralisation, women representation, people’s
Democracy as a form of political institution may be viewed as an opportunity to
accommodate people’s participation not only in the sovereign power of the state
but also in the day-to-day functioning of the government. J.S. Mill argues that the
104 Indian Journal of Public Administration 64(1)
only government which can fully satisfy all the exigencies of the state is one in
which all the people participate (Datta, 2003).
The formal, that is, legitimate system of local self-government was intro-
duced by the British in the later part of the 19th-century British India. However,
panchayats are believed to be ancient, especially in places where the villages
were not closely covered by state administration. The residents gathered under the
leadership of village elders or religious leaders to discuss and sort out their
In multi-layered governance, the Panchayati Raj comes closest to the people
and hence there is prima facie little scope for negligence to the needy villagers as
there is little social space between the electorate and the elected. Every individual
can get opportunity to participate in the decision-making and functioning of
the panchayat concerned. The true spirit of participatory democracy gets reflected
in the working of the panchayat system. That is why this system is also known as
‘self-governance, self-management, mutual co-operation, sharing equality, freedom
and brotherhood to all’, more practicable is a ‘where man lived in small commu-
nities’.1 In the backdrop of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA), the
article critically examines the following objectives:
• Toapprise whetherthe objectives ofthe 73rd ConstitutionalAmendment
have been fulfilled and
• Toexplorethefeasibility,andtotheextent,ofthesubjectsmentionedinthe
XIth Schedule of the Constitution in letter and spirit.
The article has been divided into two parts. The first part deals with the Panchayati
Raj system in India before the 73rd Constitutional Amendment 1993, and the
second part deals with after the 73rd Constitutional Amendment. The article is
mostly based on secondary data consisting of the research literature on the subject
including the government reports and also field-based studies.
A Brief Literature Review
Sir Charles Metcalfe, the then governor general of India (1835–1836), called the
villages ‘the little republics’. The Mayo Resolution of 1870, no doubt, added
strength to the local self-government. Thereafter, the Lord Rippon Resolution
emerged as a landmark in the history and evolution of the local governments.
This resolution is still considered to be the ‘Magna Carta’ of local democracy in
India (Mathew, 2013). The 73rd Constitutional Amendment 1993 gave the local
self-government a constitutional status, although it remains a state subject as the
status of the XIth Schedule is similar to the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Even before the proverbial 73rd CAA, the Jyoti Basu’s Communist government
in West Bengal in 1977 and Ramakrishna Hegde’s Janata government in Karnataka
in 1987 had given greater importance to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in
their respective states. Gandhian socialists like Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) also
advocated ‘direct democracy’ at the village level and stated that the Gram Sabha
signifies democracy at village level. He argued that let us have direct democracy

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