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Subjects /Indian Polity / Local Government- The Panchayat

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History of PRI
07 Aug 2020

The village is considered as the basic unit of administration since the vedic times.

Even during the British days, the village Panchayat was a unit of local administration.

When Indian leaders demanded local autonomy, the British government gave concessions at the lowest level first i.e. self-government at the village level. For example, the Bengal Local Self-Government Act. 1885, the Bengal Village Self-Government Act, 1919 were passed.

The Government of India Act 1935, gave power to enact legislation by the Provincial Legislature. However, the powers were not satisfactory.

Therefore, the makers of the Indian Constitution included the provision for Panchayat Raj in Article 40 of Indian Constitution under DPSP.

Before creation of Panchayat Raj system, the Rural Development Works were implemented through Community Development Programs.

Community Development Programs

The important points of the Community Development Program 1952 are:

  • It provided an administrative framework through which the government may reach the village level through the district and tehsil level.
  • All the districts were divided into the ‘Development Blocks’. And each development block was assigned a ‘Block Development Officer’.
  • ‘Village Level Workers’ were appointed below the BDO. These workers were assigned 10-12 villages.
  • ‘Community Development Research Centre’ was created with best academic brains of the country at that time.
  • A sharp emphasis on the growth of agriculture was kept for the first five years. However, later on this program became over-burdened and therefore was not continued.

The Evolution of Panchayati Raj Institution

List of Committees that recommended Panchayat Raj Institution:


Balwant Rai Mehta



V.T. Krishnammachari



Takhatmal Jain Study Group



Ashok Mehta Committee



G.V.K. Rao Committee



Dr. L.M. Singhvi Committee



P.K. Thungon Committee



S. Mohinder Singh


Balwant Rai Mehta Committee

In 1956, Balwant Rai Mehta Committee was constituted by the provident to suggest the model and means for implementation of Panchayat Raj system in India.

Balwant Rai Mehta Committee submitted its report in 1957 and in 1958 it was approved by National Development Council.

On 2nd October, 1959 the birthday of Gandhiji, Panchayati Raj system was implemented for the first time in India at Nagaur District of Rajasthan.

Rajasthan was followed by Andhra Pradesh to implement Panchayat Raj system.

Balwant Rai Mehta committee suggested a three-tier model of Panchayat Raj System i.e.,

  • Gram Panchayat at village level,
  • Jila Parishad at District Level and
  • Panchayat Samiti at Block Level (Intermediate Level)

Subsequently, Panchayat Raj system was implemented in the country, but it was not uniform throughout the country. Some states adopted three-tier, some have only 2-tier. Few have had no Panchayat Raj System.

To review Panchayat Raj System in Rajasthan. Sadiq Ali Committee was Constituted in 1964.

This committee highlighted several loop holes in existing Panchayat Raj System such as its failure to impart awareness among the rural masses towards self- government, shortage of funds, dominance of rural elite in Panchayat Raj institutions etc.

Ashok Mehta Committee

In 1978, Janta Party Government constituted Ashok Mehta Committee to identify the short comings of Panchayat Raj and suggest reforms in it.

Ashok Mehta Committee on its report suggested replacement of three tier system with two-tier system i.e.,

  • Taluka Panchayat and
  • Zilla Prishad.

The Financial Institution of Panchayat Raj institution party-based Panchayat elections at regular interval and participations of people from deprived section of society into Panchayats etc.

The states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka even switched over to 2-Tier model.

Contribution of Rajiv Gandhi

The credit to revolutionize Panchayat Raj system goes to Rajiv Gandhi once he admitted that if center sends one rupee only 17 paisa reaches to the targeted beneficiary at grass root level. Rest 83 paisa are pocketed by corrupt breaucrats and ministers.

He sincerely wanted to revamp Panchayat Raj system in order to integrate the youth with it and to abolish corruption from this Constitution and also to make democracy available at Grass Root Level.

He was instrumental in organizing seminars, conferences, symposium on Panchayat Raj and finally a new draft was also prepared to revamp Panchayat Raj institution by amending the Constitution.

The dreams of Rajiv Gandhi was translated into reality by Narsimha Rao Government led by passing 73rd, 74th Constitutional Amendment Act in 1992.

73rd Amendment Act is related to Panchayat Raj where as 74th Constitutional Amendment Act is related to Nagar Palika/Municipality.

73rd Amendment Act

The broad provisions of 73rd Amendment Act for Panchayat Raj are:

  • Panchayat Raj is included in 11th schedule.
  • A Uniform Three-tier Panchayat Raj Institution for all states having a population of more than 20 Lakhs
  • Regular Panchayat Raj election in every 5 years.
  • Reservation of seats for SCs, STs and other sections.
  • 33% reservation for women in Panchayat Raj Election (Now in most of the states, it has been increased to 50%).
  • Establishment of State Finance Commission in every state to look into the financial needs of the local bodies and suggest its share in the total income of the state.
  • Creation of District Planning Board for preparation and implementation of developmental plans for entire district.
  • Provisions of making plans at the level of Panchayati Raj institutions and implementation of three plans at that level.
  • (Bihar, under Nitish Kumar Government become first state to reserve 50% seats for women).

3-tier System

The Act envisages:

  • The Village Level
  • The District Panchayat
  • The Intermediate Panchayat

Gram Sabha and Gram Panchayat

All the seats in a Panchayat are filled nu persons chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies in the Panchayat area.

The members of the Gram Panchayat are elected for the period of five years by the members of the Gram Sabha.

Sarpanch is the head of the Gram Panchayat. He is also called the Chairperson of the Gram Panchayat. The Chairperson of each Panchayat shall be elected according to the law passed by a State Legislature.

Gram Sabha

The members of the Panchayat Area who are registered in electoral rolls (that are eligible to vote) constitute the Gram Sabha.

Qualification for Gram Panchayat

  • A person who has attained the age of 21 years.
  • All persons who are qualified to be chosen to State Legislature are qualified to be chosen as a member of the Panchayat.

Powers and Authorities of Panchayats

The State Legislature has power to confer on the Panchayats its powers, authorities and responsibility (Article 243G-243H). Some of the responsibilities of the Panchayats are:

  • Preparing plans for economic development and social justice
  • Implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice
  • In regard to matters listed in the Eleventh Schedule.
  • The Eleventh Schedule has 29 items. Some of them are:
    • Land improvement
    • minor irrigation
    • Animal husbandry
    • Fisheries
    • Education
    • Women
    • Child Development etc.
  • Impose Taxes: A Panchayat can impose levy, collect and appropr4iate taxes, duties, tolls etc.
  • Grand-in-aid: A State Government may give grant-in-aid to the Panchayats from the Consolidated Fund of the State.

State Finance Commission

After every five years, the State government shall appoint a Finance Commission to review the financial position of the Panchayats and to make recommendations as to:

  • Distribution between the State and the Panchayats of the net proceeds of taxes, duties, tolls, fees leviable by the State which may be divided between them.
  • What taxes, duties, tolls and fees may be assigned to the Panchayats, grant-in-aid to the Panchayats.
  • The report of the Commission shall be laid before the State Legislature.

State Election Commission

Under Article 243K, free and fair elections to the Panchayats are ensured. According to this Article:

  • A State Election Commission must be constituted consitsting of a State Election Commissioner to be appointed by the Governor.
  • He has the power to:
    • Power of superintendence
    • Direction and control of elections to Panchayats
    • Preparation of the electoral rolls.
  • He can be removed only in the same manner and on the same grounds as a Judge of the High Court.
  • The State Legislature has the power to legislate on all matters relating to elections to Panchayats.

Did You Know

  • National Panchayati Raj Day (National Local Self-Government day) is the national day of Panchayati Raj System in India celebrated by Ministry of Panchayati Raj on 24 April annually.