ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Enhancing PESA

The Unfi nished Agenda

Amendments proposed by the previous Congress-led union government to the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 had the potential of improving upon this progressive legislation. Unfortunately, with its successor pursuing different priorities, the possibility of the amendments being passed remains rather low.

A bill for an amendment to the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) 1996 was released for public discussion by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) on 2 December 2013. This bill, titled the “Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Bill, 2013,” was formulated on the basis of exhaustive recommendations by the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) in December 2012. However, for many months, the government did not initiate any concrete measure to implement these recommendations and only six months before elections the MoPR released the bill for public discussion. The crucial point is that after the formation of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the centre, the bill is still available on the MoPR website seeking public comments and opinion. It is pertinent to ask that whether the provisions of the new bill would be able to rectify the shortcomings of the PESA? What might be the future of the bill during the term of the BJP government?

The PESA has been recognised by many activists and scholars as a “progressive” law, because it gives some crucial rights to village-level communities to manage their lives and resources. The PESA, enacted by Parliament in 1996, extends Panchayat Raj institutions to Schedule V (of the Constitution) areas. In many parts of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, the Bharat Jan Andolan and some other organisations mobilised people and created public pressure for the enactment of the PESA. It is crucial to note that the Dileep Singh Bhuria Committee, constituted in 1995 to prepare reports for the extension of panchayati raj in Schedule V areas, presented two reports. One was for rural areas and the other one was related to urban areas. However, only recommendations related to rural areas were accepted and the PESA was passed by Parliament. There is still no separate law for the urban areas corresponding to Schedule V.

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