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PSIR 1B-5 Grassroot Democracy – Previous Year Questions – Solved

Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)

1] Discuss the major provisions of the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act. Do you think that the Act remains an ‘unfulfilled dream’? Argue your case. [2023/20m/250w/6a]

The 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992, was a landmark legislation in India aimed at strengthening local self-government and municipal governance in urban areas.

The Act provided constitutional status to urban local bodies (ULBs) by adding Part IXA to the Indian Constitution. This constitutional recognition aimed to ensure the independence and stability of municipal institutions.

The Act classified ULBs into three categories:

  1. Municipal Corporations: For larger urban areas.
  2. Municipalities: For smaller urban areas.
  3. Nagar Panchayats: For transitional areas.

Each category has different powers and functions.

The Amendment mandated the reservation of seats for women in ULBs, including the office of the Mayor/Chairperson. This provision aimed to promote gender equality and women’s participation in local governance. The Act also made provisions for the establishment of ward committees within municipal areas. These committees are meant to facilitate greater citizen participation and decentralized decision-making.

While the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act brought about significant reforms and changes in the structure and functioning of urban local bodies, it does face several challenges, and its full implementation remains a work in progress.

Many states have been slow in devolving adequate powers and functions to ULBs. In many cases, ULBs remain dependent on state governments for funding and decision-making. The financial autonomy of ULBs remains a concern, with many municipalities struggling to generate adequate revenue for their operations and development activities.

Municipal bodies often lack the capacity, resources, and expertise needed to effectively carry out their functions, particularly in smaller towns and cities. The coordination between different tiers of government, including municipal bodies, Panchayats, and state governments, can be complex and sometimes leads to overlapping functions.

While there has been progress in terms of women’s representation in local bodies, there are still challenges related to their meaningful participation and empowerment.

To realize the Act’s objectives, there is a need for continued efforts to empower ULBs, enhance their financial autonomy, and strengthen their capacity to address the growing complexities of urbanization in India. While progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to fully realize the potential of the 74th Amendment Act. [350 words]

2] Examine the unique features of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment. Do you think this Amendment would contribute in achieving the goal of empowerment of marginalised sections of the society? [2022/20m/250w/7a]

The 73rd Amendment elevated the significance of Panchayats and ensured their institutionalization as a democratic structure. It introduced several unique features aimed at decentralizing power, promoting grassroots democracy, and empowering marginalized sections of society.

One of the crucial features of the Amendment is the reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and women in Panchayat elections. This provision ensures the representation and political participation of marginalized sections, empowering them to engage in decision-making processes and address their specific concerns.

In practice, this reservation of seats for SCs, STs, and women has also increased their political representation and participation in decision-making. It has provided a platform for marginalized sections to voice their concerns, advocate for their rights, and influence policies that affect their communities.

The Amendment also assigns several powers and functions to Panchayats, such as planning and implementation of development programs, resource mobilization, social justice initiatives, and delivery of basic services at the local level. This decentralization of powers aims to bring governance closer to the people, particularly those in marginalized communities.

While the 73rd Amendment has made significant strides towards empowerment, challenges and implementation gaps remain. Issues such as lack of financial resources, capacity constraints, bureaucratic interference, and social barriers continue to hinder the effective functioning of Panchayats and the realization of their objectives.

By providing constitutional status to Panchayats, ensuring reservations, decentralizing power, and promoting grassroots democracy, the 73rd amendment has created opportunities for the political participation and representation of marginalized communities, and it has definitely contributed to the political education and empowerment of these sections. [261 words]

3] Do you think that despite having significant limitations, the Panchayati Raj institutions have strengthened the process of democratic decentralization? Give your views. [2021/15m/200w/6c]

Decentralization and development of the local administration is widely recognised as an effective political instrument and denote the realisation of balanced and equitable development in Indian states.

The 73rd Amendment gives village, block and district-level bodies a constitutional status under Indian Law and hence provides for the decentralization of power.

In practice, the Village Panchayats have been delegated functions without proper administrative and financial support. Panchayats lack discretionary powers overspending and staff. States reserve the right to assign or withdraw functions to and from the Panchayats by Executive Fiat. Panchayats lack autonomous budgeting powers, and still much work needs to be done to make the decentralization initiative more effective.

In general, states have not matched the functions devolved to local government institutions with the necessary administrative reforms, or by devolving financial powers. As a result, local governments have neither the capacity to implement assigned functions – which remain de facto under the control of state administration – nor do they have the control over resources to make relevant decisions.

However, even with all the hurdles, the local governance has brought in a huge difference. The Panchayati Raj system with the provision of Gram Sabha has helped to induce direct democracy. The act also provides for the reservation of seats to SC and ST populations, changing the power dynamic and the local political culture. Moreover, one-third of the seats at each level are reserved for women. Thus, in short, this constitutional move guaranteed the overall transformation of these disadvantaged sections.

After the 73rd amendment to Panchayati Raj, it is observed that women have shown keen interest in occupying panchayat offices and executing functions for the people. Moreover, women’s representation in every panchayat election has increased beyond the 33 per cent reservation laid in the constitution.

Thus, the Panchayati Raj Institution have effectively given the power to rural people to manage themselves and contributed to the overall process of democratization of the Indian population. [320 words]

4] To what extent has 73rd and 74th amendments of the Indian Constitution enhanced women’s empowerment? [2020/15m/200w/6c]

The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments, passed in 1992, introduced provisions to empower local self-government institutions in rural and urban areas of India, respectively. While both amendments have had a significant impact on decentralization and local governance, they specifically contributed to women empowerment by mandating that one-third of the seats be reserved for women, ensuring their representation in local governance bodies.

The reservation of seats has led to a substantial increase in women’s political participation. Women have been able to contest and win elections in significant numbers, serving as elected representatives in Panchayats and Municipalities. This has provided them with a platform to voice their concerns, influence decision-making, and contribute to the development of their communities.

The presence of women in local governance bodies has empowered them and provided them with a sense of agency. They have been able to actively engage in decision-making processes, address issues affecting women and marginalized sections, and advocate for policies that promote gender equality and women’s rights.

The reservation policy has also led to the emergence of women leaders at the grassroots level. Women who have served as elected representatives have gained valuable experience, developed leadership skills, and become role models for other women in their communities. This has contributed to the overall empowerment of women and inspired more women to participate in politics and governance.

In conclusion, the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments have helped address gender-specific issues, fostered awareness and leadership development among women, and empowered them to actively contribute to decision-making processes. While challenges persist, these amendments have undoubtedly contributed to the progress of women empowerment in India. [267 words]

5] Political decentralisation has not been matched by administrative decentralisation at the grass roots level. Explain. [2019/10m/150w/5d]

In many cases, decentralisation of authority is not accompanied by decentralisation of resources, resulting in weak devolution due to the lack of political legitimacy at the grassroots.

In the case of India, the constraint lies in the design of funding streams that transfer money to local governments. While the amount of money set apart for local institutions is inadequate, much of the money given is inflexible. Further, there is little investment in enabling and strengthening local governments to raise their own taxes and user charges.

The local governments also suffer from a shortage of staff to perform even the basic tasks. Even govt. appointed secretaries share two-three village portfolios together as seen in most cases.

For effective devolution to take place and true local self-governance to materialise in the long run, there has to be a drastic reorganisation and redesigning of the political and administrative system at the local level. As Gandhi said, “India lives in villages”, and unless we cater to this part of our nation, true development will remain elusive. [172 words]

6] New Panchayat Raj is an effective instrument for women empowerment. Discuss. [2018/10m/150w/5c]

The constitutionally mandated reservations in Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRI) brought in through the 73rd amendment have enabled the participation of women and other marginalised groups in the political process and have increased their visibility in the public realm.

However, reservation is not the only way through which PRIs empower women. With gram sabha, women are given a voice and to raise their issues at a local level – like lack of access to water, health, and electricity. In many places, it has become an occasion for a large number of women to participate and raise their concerns.

In many states, it is found that if women who had been elected to panchayat bodies for the first time mainly due to the reserved constituencies, and were being represented by their husbands, the ‘Pradhan Pati’, they displayed stronger willpower when faced with the election for the second time.

The participation of women representatives including members from weaker sections appears to have increased substantially over the years mainly on account of affirmative action. However, the political journey is not smooth for women in a patriarchal and caste-ridden society on account of which they face a lot of problems in the village panchayat. [199 words]

7] Examine the provisions of Panchayat Extension Services Act (PESA) 1996. [2018/20m/250w/7a]

PESA Act 1996 was passed with the intention of introducing Panchayati Raj in tribal areas lister under schedule 5. The Act was enacted to respond to the demands of tribal communities for greater autonomy and self-governance.

The act also provides that state legislation to be in conformity with customary law, social and religious practices and customary modes of dispute resolution.

Under the PESA Act, Hamlet-level villages and gram sabhas shall be constituted. The Gram Sabha is the apex body of self-government for these scheduled areas and is composed of all adult members of the village or group of villages.

Every gram sabha is vested with the right to safeguard and preserve the customs of the people, their cultural identity, community resources and the customary mode of dispute resolution.

The law also provides for the ownership of gramsabha over minor forest produce and that approval of plants and projects in the area to be on the selection of beneficiaries by the gram sabha.

Certainly, the law evokes very high ideals. But the actual practice has been dismal. In most of the tribal areas, people are not aware of their own rights. In such a case, it becomes easy to exploit them.

The illiteracy of tribals is also taken undue advantage of. In some parts of Odisha, it was alleged that the permission of gram sabha was not taken for land acquisition, however, the documents showed as such.

The tribal population constitute around 9% of the total India, which is more than 10 crores. Their protection and progress are integral to India’s development. [261 words]

The post contains answers to the last 6-year papers i.e. (2023-2018). Answers to the previous year questions from 2013-2017 are a part of our book PSIR Optional Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2022)

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