The Panchayati Raj in India generally refers to the system introduced by constitutional amendment in 1992, although it is based upon the traditional panchayat system of South Asia. The modern Panchayati Raj and its gram panchayats are not to be confused with the extra-constitutional khap panchayats (or caste panchayats) found in northern India. The panchayati raj system was formalized in 1992, following a study conducted by a number of Indian committees of various ways of implementing more decentralized administration.

Mahatma Gandhi advocated panchayati raj as the foundation of India’s political system, as a decentralized form of government in which each village would be responsible for its own affairs. The term for such a vision was Gram Swaraj (“village self-governance”). Instead of it India developed a highly centralized form of government. However, this has been moderated by the delegation of several administrative functions to the local level, empowering elected gram panchayats. There are significant differences between (1) the traditional panchayati raj system, (2) that envisioned by Gandhi, and (3) the system formalized in India in 1992.

In India, the Panchayati Raj now functions as a system of governance in which gram panchayats are the basic units of local administration. The system has three levels: gram panchayat (village level), mandal parishad or block samiti or panchayat samiti (block level) and zila parishad (district level). It was formalized in 1992 by the 73rd amendment to the Indian Constitution.

Various Committees on Panchayati Raj :

1. Balwant Rai Mehta : Estd 1957

2. V.T.Krishnamachari : 1960

3. Takhatmal Jain Study Group: 1966

4. Ashok Mehta Committee : 1977

5. G.V.K Rao committee  :1985

6. Dr.L.M.Singhvi Committee:1986

The Panchayat Raj system was first adopted by the state of Rajasthan in Nagaur district on 2nd Oct 1959. The second state was Andhra Pradesh, while Maharashtra was the Ninth state. State governments during the 1950s and 60s adopted this system as laws were passed to establish panchayats in various states. It also founded backing in the Indian Constitution, with the 73rd amendment in 1992 to accommodate the idea. The Amendment Act of 1992 contains provision for devolution of powers and responsibilities to the panchayats, both for the preparation of economic development plans and social justice, as well as for implementation in relation to 29 subjects listed in the eleventh schedule of the constitution.

The panchayats receive funds from three sources:

  1. Local body grants, as recommended by the Central Finance Commission
  2. Funds for implementation of centrally sponsored schemes
  3. Funds released by the state governments on the recommendations of the State Finance Commissions

In the history of Panchayati Raj, in India, on 24 April 1993, the Constitutional (73rd Amendment) Act 1992 came into force to provide constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj institutions. This act was extended to Panchayats in the tribal areas of eight states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan starting 24 December 1996. Currently, the Panchayati Raj system exists in all the states except Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram, and in all Union Territories except Delhi. The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee was a committee appointed by the Government of India in January 1957 to examine the working of the Community Development Programme (1952). The Act aims to provide a 3-tier system of Panchayati Raj for all States having a population of over 2 million, to hold Panchayat elections regularly every 5 years, to provide seats reservations for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women; to appoint a State Finance Commission to make recommendations regarding the financial powers of the Panchayats and to constitute a District Planning Committee, to prepare a development plan draft for the district. The 3-tier system of Panchayati Raj consists of:

  1. Village-level Panchayats
  2. Block-level Panchayats
  3. District-level Panchayats.

Powers and responsibilities are delegated to panchayats at the appropriate level:

  • Preparation of the economic development plan and social justice plan.
  • Implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice in relation to 29 subjects given in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution.
  • To levy and collect appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees.

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