MSF is a Public Trust, set up in 1995 in the memory of Shri Mayaram Surjan

Panchayati Raj Training Workshops

Purpose :

MSF has chosen to work in rural areas as one of the five missions. A truly democratic society can emerge only when the majority of the people value the meaning of democracy and aspire for it. In India more than 70% of population still live in villages. One finds many laudable examples of village level democracy in the history of India. One also can not fail to admire the grit and determination shown by the masses of India against colonialism and feudalism during India's freedom struggle. There have been many efforts in the post-independance era for universalisation and formalisation of Panchayati Raj System in 7 lacs villages accross the country. However, this could be significantly achieved only in 1992, when 73rd & 74th constitutional amendment bills were passed and regular elections for Panchayati Raj institutes became a statutory responsibility. In undivided Madhya Pradesh, elections for PRIs were duly held in 1994, 1999 and 2004. Yet there is a wide spread concern that the three-tier Panchayati Raj system in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh has neither been able to explore its full potential, nor has it been able to put in place an effective delivery system.

Against this background and towards working for its cherished mission, MSF decided to launch a programme to sensitise and train Panchayati Raj representatives in selected villages. In the year 2004-2005, MSF in partnership with (NFI) National Foundation for India organised 6 workshops. The details are as follows -:

S.No Place Date Villages Registered Trainee/ Panch/ Sarpanch/ Former Panch etc. Gram Sabha members (approx.) School Students (approx.) Teachers
01 Sarkhi Dist. Raipur 27, 28 & 29 Sept. 2004 5 46 100 150 20
02 Kathiya Dist. Durg 17, 18 & 19th Oct. 2004 6 38 400 135 15
03 Pathri Dist. Raipur 20,21 & 22nd Nov. 2004 9 58 220 250 24
04 Bhimbhouri Dist. Durg 28,29 & 30th March 2005 4 39 150 225 20
05 Piparia Dist. Kawardha 15,16 & 17th April 2005 15 111 300 240 20
06 Kumardha Dist. Rajnandgaon 29,30 & 31st May 2005 10 48 350 160 12
Total 49 340 1520 1160 111

Each workshop was for a three - day duration spread over 9 working sessions. The subjects discussed were.

  • Basics of Democracy
  • Constitution of India
  • History of Panchayati Raj
  • The 73rd Amendment
  • Representative v/s Participatory democracy.
  • Women's reservation.
  • Reservation for SC/ST and other marginalised society.
  • Powers of PRIs
  • Effective engagement with Govt. agencies and rural beurocracy.
  • Budget and Finances of PRIs.
  • Concept of Gram Sabha.
  • Staging of Gram Sabha.
  • Interaction with the village youth.

Each workshop was originally planned for 20 elected representatives. However, number of effective participants were always much more in each workshop. This was perhaps due to the fact that the workshops were always held at an easily accessable Public place and entry was never restricted.

We feel that this open door policy was helpful in sensitising the village people in a better way.

Outcome :
  • It is common knowledge that Gram Sabhas are held only on papers. In our workshops in each village , each mock Gram Sabha was attended by more than 10% of the total membership, i.e. the quorum required for a regular meeting.
  • It is also common knowledge that village women generally do not participate in Panchayat activities. Even the elected women representatives enjoy their status only in letters. In our workshops we took all efforts to encourage them to come forward and they obliged us by participating in large numbers.
  • In one village named Sarkhi, where we had our first workshop, a Dalit Sarpanch was returned from an unreserved seat in the 2005 elections.
  • In village Kathia, village people have started organising real Gram Sabhas.
Follow-up :
  • MSF is committed to maintain active contact with these six villages. In order to do so, we propose to take up the following steps :-
    • Annual/ occasional public lectures in association with Gram Panchayat.
    • Send observers to attend future Gram Sabhas on mandatory dates.
    • Open book clubs in the villages and supply them with good readable books.