Harish Jharia

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28 January 2012

Anna Hazare’s Struggle for Lokpal: Should the Gram Sabhas Be Made More Powerful than the Lok Sabha?



© Harish Jharia

I am an ardent supporter of Anna Hazare’s struggle against corruption and black money. I also support wholeheartedly the countrywide movement for establishing the Lokpal authority for keeping vigilant eye on the people in the legislature, bureaucracy and the judiciary in order to control corruption in all the levels of governance. I am also of the opinion that the voters should have rights to recall the elected representative if he / she do not discharge duties allotted to him / her or earns disproportionate wealth out of corrupt practices and bribes. I support Anna Hazare’s proposal of including an additional option on the ballot papers for the voters to ‘vote for none’ amongst the candidates enlisted on the ballot papers.  

In spite of my unconditional support to Anna Hazare’s movements I have certain doubts about his demands in respect of the ‘Gram Sabha’. These doubts have become even more complicated when I came to know that he has declared to go for an equally strong movement for seeking substantially more powers for the gram sabha as compared to the ‘Lok Sabha’. 

He has also demanded a ‘Referendum Commission’ on the lines of the election commission. 

Let us discuss about the constitutional powers proposed by Anna Hazare for the gram sabha vis-à-vis the Lok Sabha.  We all know about the Lok Sabha; its position and powers in order to run the governments in the country. Nevertheless, we do not know much about the gram sabha that has been proposed to be made much more powerful than the Lok Sabha. 

The general body meeting of gram sabha in progress

Gram Sabha:

I did not know anything about this body called ‘Gram Sabha’ until Anna Hazare mentioned its name repeatedly during his Lokpal Bill movement. I would like to share the information that I could extract from various sites and what all I could understand about the Gram Sabha. Let me enlist the information point wise as follows:
  1. There are Gram Panchayats constituted out of elected representatives of any village. These are the ‘Governing Bodies’ of the villages’ self-governing bodies that look after implementation of plans and other policies of the state government and the central government. 
  2. The Gram Sabha is constituted out of the voters of that village who elect the Panchayat representatives for forming the Gram Panchayat body. 
  3. Gram Sabha can be termed as the ‘General Body’ of the village panchayat. Meetings of the gram sabha general body are assembled at regular intervals and the jobs done by the gram panchayat and money spent by them are reviewed and evaluated. 
  4. There might be some special powers privileges of the gram sabha for sanctioning of funds, approval of budget and other administrative decisions that are disposed-off in these general body meetings.
In view of the above it is evident that gram sabhas are exclusively meant for the affairs of the specific villages and they have no jurisdiction beyond the territories of the village panchayats. As such how the powers of the gram sabhas can be compared with that of the Lok Sabha. This comparison is just irrelevant and I do not believe that Anna Hazare might have said like that. 

Land Acquisition: 

Anna Hazare might have mentioned about implemented of land acquisition drives conducted by the state governments or the union government without the consent of the relevant gram panchayat or the owners of the agricultural land. 

He might have demanded the right of consent for the gram sabha in case of any land acquisition is implemented in their villages by the governments. He might have said that in case of acquisition of the rural land of the villages the gram sabhas should have the right and powers of accepting or rejecting the proposal for acquisition of village land, either private or public, for the implementation of development projects launched by the state governments or the union government. 

He might have said that for land acquisition the gram sabha should have the powers to release the village land for implementation of the projects sanctioned by the central government. That does not mean that Anna Hazare is demanding more powers for Gram Sabha than that of the Lok Sabha. 

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