Orissa Grama Panchayat Act enumerates the Obligatory and Discretionary Functions of a Grama Panchayat.
(A) Obligatory Functions of Gram a Panchayati:
It includes: Construction repair and maintenance of streets, lighting, cleaning of public streets and places, removal of unauthorised constructions; laying and maintenance of drains and public urinals & latrines.
Water supply, scavenging and waste removal; checking epidemics, removal of harmful vegetation; checking of dangerous and offensive trade, registration of births & deaths and marriages; protection and maintenance of panchayat property, maintenance of common grazing grounds; maintenance of cattle census records, registration of animals sold and destruction of stray dogs; helping the Panchayat Samiti in establishing & maintaining primary schools; regulation of meets, fairs and festivals; implementation of socio-economic development schemes; fulfillment of all legal obligations under this Act; regulation of minor forest produce, small scale industries, food processing industries, rural housing; implementation of poverty eradication, women and children welfare, social welfare programmes and regulation of public distribution system.
Under the supervision and control of Grama Sasan, the Grama Panchayat exercises some functions in respect of the Scheduled Areas within its limits, in particular it exercises control over money-lending to the Scheduled Tribes.
(B) Discretionary Functions of Grama Panchayat:
These functions are performed when these are duly authorise by a resolution passed by a majority of the members of Grama Panchayat, and with the prior approval of the Orissa Government. These include planting and caring of trees; maintenance of declared village forests; cattle improvement projects; construction, maintenance and regulation of staughter houses ; helping and guiding the agriculturists, development of cooperation; famine relief and calamity relief work; establishment and maintenance of libraries, organisation of fire services, maternity and child welfare projects, establishment of rural sport facilities, establishment and maintenance of ferries, fair-weather roads and cattle ponds ; undertaking of employment generation works; organisation maintenance of cottage industries; organisation of Agro-industry exhibitions, maintenance of unemployment records; control over food adulteration; organisation of adult education schemes; organisation of Grama Swechha Sewaks; prevention of gambling, checking drinking; maintenance of village agricultural bunds; doing of anything the expenditure on which is declared by the Government of Orissa to be an appropriate charge on the Grama Fund; and any other work/measure not specifically mentioned but which is likely to promote public safety, health, convenience or general welfare.
In addition to these obligatory and discretionary functions, the Orissa government can delegate any other function to the Grama Panchayat. The Panchayat Samiti can also authorise it to execute certain works.
Sources of Income and Power to Tax:
The Grams Panchayats in all the States are empowered to levy certain taxes, though there are considerable variations from State to State. The main sources of income of the Panchayats are a tax on property, cess on land revenue, or rent, a tax on animals, vehicles and profession tax. These taxes are generally compulsory. Panchayats are also empowered to levy some other taxes and fees like octroi, tax on shops, fees for the use of rest houses, drainage fee, light rate, water rate, etc. where such services are provided by the Gram Panchayats.
Control over Gram Panchayats:
The State Government has the power of control over Gram Panchayats. In some states the Panchayat Samitis have been given the power to approve the Panchayat budget, distribute certain funds to it, approve its borrowing, obtain administrative and accounts reports from it and supervise its activities in general. The State Government has the power to remove the Sarpanch on charges of abuse of power or misconduct.
It has the power to suspend or cancel any resolution of the Panchayat or its functional committees. It has the power to supersede or dissolve the Panchayat for abuse of power or gross failure. It exercises its control over the Panchayats through its departmental officials and the Deputy Commissioner. The accounts of the Panchayat are to be audited by such officers as the government may appoint.
Position of Gram Panchayat:
The above account of the functions and powers of the Gram Panchayat leads us to conclude that it enjoys a strong and respectful positions in its area. However, in reality, the Gram Panchayats in almost all the States, have not been successful in performing these functions. Their performance to this date has not been quite satisfactory.