-By Giriraj Singh, Union Minister of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj 

New Delhi: 24th April is a historic day in the annals of history of local self-government system in India as on this day of 1993, the President of India gave assent to the 73rd Constitutional amendment giving constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj  Institutions (PRIs) in the country. Part IX was added to the Constitution as a sequel to this Amendment providing three-tier system of Panchayats; devolution of powers and responsibilities to the Panchayats. The 73rd constitutional amendment completes its 30th year today. 

Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) are the pillars of democracy. To strengthen the PRIs, the Central Government under the leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has made many efforts.  One of the major steps taken is the implementation of the PESA Act. Through this Act, we have established a strong system in which traditional Panchayats working in some parts of the country are recognized according to their rules and regulations. With the continuous efforts of our Government, most of the States have implemented PESA Act and we are constantly encouraging remaining states to implement it.  

Under the visionary leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, we have seen a quantum leap in the allocation of fiscal resources to Panchayati Raj Institutions to support various infrastructure requirements and developmental activities in rural areas. We have been taking many initiatives for strengthening and empowering Panchayati Raj Institutions, increasing the capacity of representatives of PRIs to fulfill their role and responsibilities and improving the efficiency, transparency of functioning and accountability of PRIs to contribute towards inclusive development, economic growth and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Vision of the Hon’ble Prime Minister is that we have to make the Panchayats self-sustainable along with empowering them. It is our endeavor that the PRIs, by self-assessment of their needs, develop their own sources of revenue along with the funds of the government schemes through public participation and implement the schemes according to their needs of the Panchayats from those funds and continue to proceed on the path of progress.  Gram Sabha is central as well as integral to local self-governance and very essential for the transparent and accountable functioning of Gram Panchayats and our Government has been encouraging for conduct of vibrant Gram Sabhas involving all stakeholders.  

It has been the constant endeavor of the Central Government that after 73rd Constitutional amendment, the PRIs should not only be empowered by the States in the field of 29 subjects allotted to them, but should also be made functional. Many States have made better efforts in this course. The Jammu and Kashmir Administration, especially the Lieutenant Governor of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir,  Manoj Sinha deserves appreciation for the serious efforts made in this direction. Similarly, other States/Union Territories should also make concerted efforts for the empowerment of PRIs.
 The Central Government has renewed its focus on the building the governance capability and training of the elected representatives and various functionaries of PRIs to work at local level on Localization of SDGs and realignment of Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDP) to LSDGs. It is noteworthy that by 2022-23, almost all Gram Panchayats and equivalent bodies have been able to prepare their GPDPs. 
For bringing in efficiency, transparency and accountability in local governance, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj has ensured digitalisation of Panchayats providing digital solution like e-GramSwraj application for all activities in digital mode from ‘planning to payment’.  The latest initiative being procurement of goods and services by the Panchayats on GeM which is being launched today by the Hon’ble Prime Minster at Rewa, Madhya Pradesh. AuditOnline Application has been developed for online audit of Panchayat accounts. Thus, the e-governance initiatives with the motto of ‘Minimum Government and Maximum Governance’ has percolated to the local Government which is the sole contribution of our Government as our Hon’ble Prime Minister launched the e-GramSwaraj application in April 2020.      
The scheme of PM SVAMITVA, an innovative idea of our Prime Minister, provides the ‘Record of Rights’ to village household owners through issuance of property cards. The record of right is proving a game changer in asset monetization in the rural areas besides enabling the Panchayats in assessing and collecting property tax in the near future in their endeavor to enhance their own sources of revenue.  
The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has made remarkable progress in the direction of its goal for empowerment and self-sustainability of the PRIs by converging the plans of other Ministries and active public participation under the leadership of the local peoples’ representatives in the States and redoubling its efforts in this direction during the period of Azadi Ka Amrit Kaal.