Working with Panchayats

The history of the village-level Panchayat institutions in India goes back hundreds of years. But, after independence, the Panchayat system was neglected. Shell Foundation realised that these institutions need to be vibrant and responsive to the needs of the people to bring about lasting progress, benefiting all. Thus, Shell Foundation launched the programme, ‘Working with Panchayats’, to promote and strengthen the informal functional groups in the village to get involved in the Panchayat affairs. The programme integrates the existing traditional systems with the Panchayats to enhance the participation of the people and achieve synergy.

The components of the programme are:

Promoting functional groups (FGs) and village development forums (VDFs), strengthening and guiding working committees (WCs) to integrate with the Panchayat system.

Facilitating preparation of multi-year micro planning for Panchayat Development by the community and make the working committees responsible for executing those plans.

Advocating for enabling policies for effective decentralization through studies and publications, seminars and workshops.

Promoting network of Panchayat Raj representatives at the Block and District level, and building their capacity in good governance.

Creating awareness among the voters, youths, students on PRI, and ensuring benefits of the development programmes to reach the poor and vulnerable communities.

Strengthening the Gram Sabha and making it a forum for performing social audit for transparent administrative systems.

Enhancing the revenue for Panchayats through building corpus and undertaking income generating activities at village level.

‘Working with Panchayats’ theme is implemented in 25 Panchayats spread over five backward districts of Tamil Nadu, namely Cuddalore, Dindigul, Madurai, Nagapattinam and Theni. In addition to field locations, the programme coordinates a resource center, Center for Panchayat Affairs and Development (C-PAD), for enabling leadership capacities, thematic research, knowledge sharing, policy advocacy and networking.

The programme focuses on strengthening the institutions at Panchayat level during the year. Efforts are taken for ensuring community participation in the Grama sabhas, Panchayat council and working committee meetings. Leadership development in the primary level functional groups was given high emphasis. Panchayats are facilitated to prepare a micro-planning document every year and ensure its subsequent implementation.

As part of leadership development in working Panchayats, the Panchayat leaders were taken to model Gram Panchayats in Kerala for exposure visit.

The programme made efforts to strengthen the relationship initiated already with the institutions working on Panchayat affairs. With Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development (RGNIYD), the Panchayat team is involved in national level research project on ‘Understanding Knowledge, Attitude and Practice of youth in Panchayat Raj Institutions’. In association with District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) of Tamil Nadu, the programme has taken up training program on ‘Role of NGOs in Development’ to ten batches of panchayat presidents.

The Programme also works jointly with the DRDA to demonstrate National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in five selected village Panchayats in Tamil Nadu. Along with National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), the programme has taken up an impact study of NREGS in Tamil Nadu in four districts of Tamil Nadu. The programme has also initiated its works in an urban context. An exclusive project location to work with Madurai Municipal Corporation has been initiated to strengthen and facilitate urban local governance.