The term Panchayats implies the assembly of five wise people. In India, the Panchayat has been an age-old institution for governance at the village level. As per the 73rd Constitutional Amendment, PRI also known as the Panchayati Raj Institutions were strengthened with more areas of jurisdiction and authority and funds.
These PRIs had also been assigned the task of several development activities like health and population stabilization in the rural areas. The Panchayat is one of the most vital authorities that are responsible for the health and sanitation areas of the villages.
These Panchayats also have the Gram Sabha, which acts as a community-level accountability mechanism. This also ensures that the functions of the PRI respond to people’s needs and that their needs are taken care of.
But over the years it had been seen that the progress of the PRI had been uneven across states and various vital issues like fiscal devolution and the lack of institutional modalities were at stake. Also, there were no clear guidelines on PRI participation and variable capacity among PRI.
As per the National Rural Health Mission, the constitution of Village Health and Sanitation Committees was provided with major interventions, which also included the responsibilities of the Village Health and Sanitation Committees.
These committees had been assigned the task of conducting household surveys, health camps, sanitation drives, etc. so that the current scenario in these areas could be analyzed. Also, the Government of India indicates that at least 50% of women members should be there in the Village Health and Sanitation Committees.
These would include members from the SC/ST groups, Gram Panchayat women members, vulnerable groups, self-help groups, Mahila samakhya representatives and other members also.
The government has been taking a lot of initiatives and measures to improvise the health and sanitation facilities in the rural villages and the Panchayat has played a significant role in improving these facilities in the village areas.
All the Village Health and Sanitation Committee are provided with an untied grant per year, for conducting household surveys, sanitation drives, chlorination of drinking water sources, regular cleaning, preparing village health plans, organizing health camps and internal painting of the protected water overhead reservoirs.
The government has also suggested that the population under each Village Health and Sanitation Committee should be restricted to 1250 to 1500 so that the implementation of these resources can be the best. Along with regular health and sanitation care, women’s health has also been a major concern.