Polity Notes

Panchayati Raj System in India

After attaining Independence on 15th August, 1947 the prime objective of our government was welfare of masses. To achieve this objective Community Development Programme was the first major rural development programme launched after Independence on 2nd October, 1952 to provide for a substantial increase in country agriculture produce, for improvement in system of communication, rural health and hygiene, education and also to initiate and direct a process of integrated culture change aimed at transforming the social and economic life of the villagers.

Unfortunately, this programme could not achieve the desired results and Union government formed a Parliamentary committee in 1957 under the Chairmanship of Sh. Balwant Rai Mehta to review the working of community development programme and recommend ways to improve this programme. This committee submitted its report in November, 1957 and recommended for establishment of Democratic Decentralisation i.e. Panchayati Raj. Panchayati Raj means system of rural self government to built democracy at the grass root level.

This word Panchayat literally means assembly of 5 wise and respected elders chosen and accepted by local community. Panchayats have been in existence since centuries in India and used to resolve the local issues by mutual persuasion without involving any Police or Legal Authority.

After attaining Independence it was the dream of Mahatma Gandhi to establish Panchayati Raj in India.

We get inspiration to start Panchayati Raj under (Article 40) of the Constitution under Directive Principles of State Policy (D.P.S.P.).

Union government accepted the recommendations of Balwant Raj Mehta committee and started Panchayati Raj System in India on 2nd October, 1959. Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru inaugurated this system by lighting a lamp at Mehal Village, Nagaur District of Rajasthan. Andhra Pradesh was the Second State to implement this programme on 11th October, 1959. Now, our 25 States and 7 Union Territories have implemented the programme (Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Delhi do not have Panchayati Raj system).

The subject Panchayati Raj comes under state list. So different states have variation in the system of Panchayati Raj. Basically Panchayati Raj is a three tier system as follows:

Gram Panchayat

The first tier is Gram Panchayat also known as or Village Panchayat. Members of village Panchayat (Panch & Sarpanch) are directly elected by Gram Sabha. Gram Sabha consist of all adult members of the village. Village Panchayat performs functions for the welfare of the villagers like supply of drinking water, sanitation, food grains, seeds, fertilisers, primary health care, primary education, registration of deaths and births, implementation of various welfare schemes of the government, etc. The no. of members in the Village Panchayat is decided by state government on the basis of area and population of the villages. Panch elect their head (Sarpanch).

Block Smiti

Block Smiti is middle tier of the system. Block Smiti consists of a group of villages in a particular block. Block Smiti is headed by Block Development Officer (B.D.O.). Block Smiti do take care of the welfare of the whole block. Block Smiti members are indirectly elected. Block Smiti have elected Surpanch as well as members from other agencies of the government. e.g., water supply, health, education, irrigation, agriculture, etc.

Zila Parishad

Zila Parishad is headed by District Magistrate. Zila Parishad do take care of welfare of the whole district. Zila Parishad members are indirectly elected. Zila Parishad have members from Block Smitis and representatives from various government departments. e.g., water supply, health, education, irrigation, agriculture, etc.

Unfortunately Panchayati Raj too could not achieve the desired results and Janta Party Government in December, 1977 constituted a Parliamentary committee under the Chairmanship of Sh. Ashok Mehta to review the working of Panchayati Raj system and suggest ways to improve the system. Sh. Ashok Mehta committee submitted its report in 1978 and made the following recommendations:

(i) There should be uniform tenure of 5 years of Panchayati Raj institution.

(ii) Political parties should be allowed to take part in Panchayati Raj institutions elections.

(iii) The middle tier – Block Smiti should be abolished and system should be of two tiers only.

(iv) Constitutional status should be awarded to Panchayati Raj System.

Panchayati Raj (Rural Local Government) was awarded Constitutional status by 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act 1992, w.e.f. 24-04-1993 and placed under 9th schedule (Article 243). 33% reservation for woman has been made in Pachayati Raj institutions.

Rajasthan is the first State to introduce minimum education qualification to take part in Panchayati Raj institution elections. Haryana is second.

Funding of Panchayati Raj institutions:-

Panchayati Raj System is funded by:

(i) State Finance Commission recommends distribution of taxes collected by state government to Panchayati Raj institutions.

(ii) State finance commissions recommends determination of taxes to be imposed by Panchayati Raj institutions.

(iii) Grant-in-Aid by State Government and Union Government.

Elections of Panchayati Raj Institutions. Panchayati Raj Institution elections are conducted by state Election Commission and not by Election Commission of India.

Inspiration of starting Panchayati Raj in India is from Article 40 of the Constitution under DPSP. As now Panchayati Raj has been awarded Constitutional status by 73rd CAA 1992 w.e.f. 24-04-1993, now Panchayati Raj Comes under Article 243 and placed in IX – schedule of the Constitution.