The Panchayats are among the oldest institutions for local governance in rural Karnataka. This long standing system of local governance is also known as Panchayat Raj (which means rule of village committee). Panchayat Raj ensures proper execution of rural development programmes. It encourages participation of general people in the development programmes.
Structural Constitution of Karnataka Panchayat Raj
Panchayat Raj in Karnataka follows a three tier structural constitution. It has elected bodies at each level. Panchayat Raj constitutes of:
- The Gram Panchayats at the village level
- The Taluk Panchayats at the sub-district (taluk) level
- The Zilla Panchayats at the district level
Karnataka has 30 Zilla Panchayats, 176 Taluk Panchayats, and 5,659 Grama Panchayats. All the three units of the Panchayat Raj have members directly elected by the people. The government does not have any provision to nominate representatives to any of these institutions.
Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, 1993
The Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, 1993 aims to achieve democratic decentralization especially for the rural areas. Karnataka enacted the new Panchayat Raj Act incorporating all the mandatory provisions of 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution.
The objectives of the Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, 1993 are:
- Establish a three-tier structure for panchayat system at village, sub-district and district levels
- Elect members to the three tiers through direct election at all levels
- Elect Chairpersons and Vice Chairpersons through indirect elections
- Reserve seats for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women at all the three levels
- Conduct elections to all the three levels under the State Election Commission
- Empower State Finance Commission to determine the sharing of funds between the State Government and the Panchayat Raj bodies
- Maintain accounts and conduct audits at all the three tiers of the panchayat system
There has been several amendments to the Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, 1993 since its inception.
The Gram Panchayat is the basic or lowest level of Panchayat Raj in Karnataka. It has jurisdiction over a group of villages. Gram panchayat represents an assembly of the village elders who are directly elected by the citizens of the village. This panchayat unit is headed by a chairperson who is known as Sarpanch.
The representatives of the Gram Panchayats are elected for five years. While the members are directly elected from wards, the Sarpanch is elected by the members. There are seats reserved for women, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in Gram Panchayats.
Functions of Gram Panchayat
The Gram Panchayat has to perform the following functions:
- Provide sanitary latrines to at least one-tenth of the households every year
- Construct and maintain sufficient community latrines for use by men and women
- Maintain water supply works on its own or through annual contract
- Revise and collect taxes, rates and fees at fixed periods
- Ensure enrolment of children in primary school
- Ensure immunisation of children
- Confirm swift registration and report of births and deaths
- Provide sanction for proper drainage
- Construct, repair and maintain public streets
- Remove encroachments on public streets or public places
- Provide sufficient number of street lights
- Make payments for electricity charges on a regular basis
- Fill up sanitary depressions and reclaim unhealthy localities
- Capture and destroy rabid and ownerless dogs
- Maintain all community properties vested in it
- Maintain records related to population census, cattle census, crop census, census of unemployed people and people below poverty line
- Assign places away from the village dwelling areas for dumping manure and refuse
The Taluk Panchayat is the intermediate level of Panchayat Raj in Karnataka. The Taluk Panchayat is constituted for each taluk. The representatives of the Taluk Panchayat Samiti are directly elected by the residents of the non-urban areas of the taluk. The president and the vice-president of the Taluk Panchayat Samiti are elected from among members.
The tenure of Taluk Panchayat members is five years. The Taluk Panchayat has provision for reservation of seats for scheduled castes on the basis of their population. Two seats are reserved for women in the Taluk Panchayat Samiti.
Functions of Taluk Panchayat
The Taluk Panchayat has to perform the following functions:
- Construct and expand water supply works to get at least forty litres per capita per day
- File reports of Gram Panchayat activities within the taluk regarding :
- Meeting of Gram Sabha
- Progress of water supply works
- Construction of community latrines
- Collection and revision of rates, taxes and fees
- Payment of electricity bills
- Enrolment of children in schools
- Progress of immunisation
- Maintain primary school buildings and provide sanction for sufficient class rooms and water supply in schools
- Obtain land to create manure pits away from the village dwelling area
The Zilla Panchayat is the apex level of Panchayat Raj in Karnataka. The Zilla Panchayat is constituted for each district of the state. It has jurisdiction over the entire district except those portions that are included in smaller urban areas or are under the authority of Municipal Corporations, Town Panchayat or Industrial Township. Members of the Zila Parishad are elected from the district.
The representatives of the Zilla Panchayats are elected for a tenure of five years. Every Zilla Panchayat has seats reserved for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, backward classes and women.
Functions of Zilla Panchayat
The Zilla Panchayat has to perform the following functions:
- Establish health centres and maternity centres as per the government rules
- Construct underground structures for water recharge to make water available in the drinking water wells
- Prevent drilling of irrigation bore wells near drinking water wells to ensure adequate drinking water
- Create a plan for social forestry development in each taluk