The Ministry of Panchayati Raj is a branch of the Government of India looking after the ongoing process of decentralisation and local governance in the States.
In a federation the powers and functions of the government are divided among two governments. In India it is the Union Government and the various State Governments. However, with the passage of 73rd and 74th amendment act of the Constitution of India, in 1993 the division of powers and functions have been further trickled down to Local Self Governments (Panchayat at Village levels and Municipalities and Municipal Corporations in towns and large cities). As such India now has not two but three tier of Governments in its federal setup.
Ministry of Panchayati Raj looks into all matters relating of Panchayati Raj and Panchayati Raj Institutions. It was created in May 2004. The ministry is headed by a minister of cabinet rank. The ministry is now headed by Narendra Singh Tomar.
Ministry of Panchayati Raj is responsible for the work of advocacy for and monitoring of the implementation of Constitution 73rd Amendment Act the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996. A New Ministry of Panchayati Raj has been created w.e.f. 27 May 2004. As per the amended allocation of Business Rules, "all matters relating of Panchayati Raj and Panchayati Raj Institutions" will be looked after by the newly created Ministry. The State governments/Union Territory Administrations, at present, are at varying degrees of the implementation of 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts. The Ministry, inter-alia, would ensure that they hold timely elections, set up State Finance Commissions and implement their recommendations, constitute District Planning Committees and empower them suitably to ensure grass-root level planning to feed into State and Central level Planning effectively. One major task of the Ministry will be to ensure that the State Governments/UT Administrations devolve funds, functions and functionaries on the Panchayati Raj Institutions in the spirit of the Constitutional provisions.
The Ministry of Panchayati Raj will also be responsible for formulation and implementation of an Action Plan for seeing PRIs to emerge as "Institutions of Local-Self Government" securing economic development and social justice in their respective areas.
Empowerment of Gram Sabhas by holding regular Meetings and social audit through Gram Sabhas so as to enable them to emerge as foundation of Panchayati Raj will be pursued vigorously with States/UT Administrations. Depending upon the local situation, States/UT Administrations will be encouraged to institute Ward Sabhas and Mahila Sabhas and make them functional.
The Ministry attaches great importance to the capacity building of elected representatives and officials of PRIs as well as functionaries involved in the Rural Development Programmes. It is estimated that about 3 million elected Members and the Staff assigned to the Elected Bodies needs training to enable them to discharge their functions effectively. The Ministry will also be funding research studies, workshops and seminars for development of Panchayats. The Ministry will implement the scheme of "National Awards for Best Panchayats" to encourage PR Institutions in discharging their role of "Institutions of Self-government" to be able to enforce economic development and social justice at the local level.
As per the World Bank, "E-Government refers to the use by government agencies of information technologies (such as Wide Area Networks, the Internet, and mobile computing) that have the ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government." Government of India (GoI), with an intention to transform the governance landscape by ensuring participation of citizens in policy making and providing ease of access to information to the citizens, introduced the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) in 2006. The vision of the NeGP was to "Make all Government services accessible to the common man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets and ensure efficiency, transparency & reliability of such services at affordable costs to realise the basic needs of the common man." e- Panchayat is one of the Mission Mode Project (MMP), currently being implemented with a vision to empower and transform rural India.
As a first step towards formulating the project, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj constituted an Expert Group in June, 2007 under the Chairmanship of Dr. B.K. Gairola, Director General, NIC, Government of India. The Expert Group was entrusted with the task of assessing the IT Programmes of Ministry of Panchayati Raj and recommending cost effective solutions along with the cost implications. Adopting a consultative approach, the Committee interacted with the States/UTs to assess the existing status of computerisation up to the Gram Panchayat level, including the initiatives undertaken by the State Governments. In order to understand the ground realities, the Committee conducted field visits to some of the Gram Panchayats in the selected rural areas where some IT initiatives had been undertaken. Inputs from eminent experts in the public and private sector were also taken into account as part of the consultative process. In essence, it found that while some computerisation efforts had already been made at Panchayat level by States like Gujarat, West Bengal, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Goa, these attempts were limited as they were driven by short term goals and were unable to completely transform Panchayats due to lack of a holistic perspective. It was felt that a more comprehensive approach was required to make a cognisable impact on the functioning of the Panchayats for the benefit of the citizens. These recommendations formed the basis for the conceptualisation of ePanchayat MMP.
The e-Panchayat project holds great promise for the rural masses as it aims to transform the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) into symbols of modernity, transparency and efficiency. This is one of its kind nationwide IT initiative introduced by Ministry of Panchayati Raj that endeavours to ensure people's participation in programme decision making, implementation and delivery. The project aims to automate the functioning of the 2.45 lakh Panchayats in the country. The project addresses all aspects of Panchayats' functioning including Planning, Monitoring, Implementation, Budgeting, Accounting, Social Audit and delivery of citizen services like issue of certificates, licenses etc.
The Ministry was created on May 27, 2004, with Mani Shankar Aiyar being the first minister.