- GS-2: Federalism and challenges
- GS-3: Disaster Management
PRIs and Disaster Management
Context: The Panchayati Raj, first adopted by Nagaur in Rajasthan on October 2, 1959, has expanded vastly. There are now 2,60,512 Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) represented by about 31 lakh elected members across India.
The People’s Plan Campaign and Vibrant Gram Sabha Dashboard, rolled out this year, aspire to strengthen the Panchayati Raj system by making gram sabhas more vibrant.
- People Plan campaign or “Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas” aims to draw up Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs) in the country and place them on a website where anyone can see the status of the various government’s flagship schemes.
- Vibrant Gram Sabha Dashboard will help in increasing maximum participation from Panchayats through the meeting of Gram Sabha, the Standing Committee meeting of Gram Panchayat, meeting of elected Panchayat public representatives throughout the year.
Crucial Panchayat Raj Institutions(PRI) during Pandemic
- When the traditional top-down disaster response system was compromised during the bad months of the pandemic, it was PRIs that played a remarkable role.
- They helped reduce risks, responded swiftly and thus helped people recover quickly. The PRIs provided essential leadership at the local level.
- They performed both regulatory and welfare functions.
- For instance, during the nationwide lockdown, PRIs set up containment zones, arranged transport, identified buildings for quarantining people and provisioned food for the incoming migrants.
- Moreover, effective implementation of welfare schemes like MGNREGA quickened the pace of recovery while ensuring support to the vulnerable population.
- Regular engagement with frontline workers like ASHA workers and Anganwadi workers through committees bridged the trust gap between the community and the officials.
- More recently, PRI’s role in mobilising citizens for COVID-19 vaccination is exemplary helping India move towards universal vaccination by end of the year.
What measures can be taken to further improve PRIs role during disasters (like Pandemic)?
The Yokohama strategy,1994 emphasised that it is important to focus on disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness rather than disaster response alone, to reduce vulnerability. In this respect, certain initiatives can be taken to build the capacity of PRIs.
- Legal Recognition: It is crucial to include disaster management chapters in Panchayat Raj Acts and make disaster planning and spending part of Panchayati Raj development plans and local-level committees. This will ensure citizen-centric mapping and planning of resources.
- Strengthening Capacities: Conducting regular location-specific training programmes for the community will strengthen individual and institutional capacities. Sharing of best practices, assigning roles to individual members and providing them with the necessary skills can make such programmes more meaningful.
- Disaster Management Plans: Since the community is usually the first responder in case of a disaster, community-based disaster management plans would help.
- These would provide a strategy for resource utilisation and maintenance during a disaster.
- Such plans should tap the traditional wisdom of local communities which will complement modern practices.
- Mobilising Funds: Financial contributions from the community should be encouraged through the establishment of community disaster funds in all gram panchayats.
It is imperative to make disaster resilience an inherent part of the community culture now more than ever.
Connecting the dots:
- 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act
- Hanumantha Rao Committee (1983), G.V.K. Rao Committee (1985), L.M.Singhvi Committee (1986) and the Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State relations (1988), P.K. Thungan Committee (1989) and Harlal Singh Kharra Committee (1990).