In India, Panchayati Raj has existed for a very long period as the local government. However, the 73rd Amendment Act, which was passed in 1992, was the first to formally recognize it as the third level of India’s federal democracy.
When the panchayat raj is established, public opinion will do what violence can never do. — Mahatma Gandhi
Panchayati Raj System
Panchayati Raj System is a system of rural local self-government in India. One of the key goals of the Panchayati Raj System is rural development. It comprises the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), which enable villages to exercise self-government. “Economic growth, enhancing social justice, and implementation of Central and State Government Schemes, including those 29 subjects included in the Eleventh Schedule,” are their assigned tasks.
The Panchayati Raj System consists of three levels:
- Gram Panchayat at the village level
- Block Panchayat or Panchayat Samiti at the intermediate level
- Zila Panchayat at the district level
Features of the Panchayati Raj System
- All voters who are listed on the electoral records and are residents of a village that is included in the Panchayat at the village level make up the Gram Sabha. The Panchayati Raj system’s smallest and only permanent unit is the Gram Sabha. According to the relevant statute, the state legislature establishes the Gram Sabha’s authority and duties.
- Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) have seats designated for them as well as Panchayat chairpersons at all levels in proportion to their numbers.
- One-third of the total number of seats are to be reserved for women. One-third of the seats reserved for SCs and STs are also reserved for women. This rule also applies to the chairperson’s position at all levels (Article 243D). The Panchayat’s reserved seats may be assigned to different constituencies by rotation.
- There is a consistent policy, with each term lasting five years. Before the term expires, new elections must be held. Elections must be held within six months of dissolution (Article 243E).
- Panchayats are responsible for developing plans for economic development and social justice in accordance with the law, which also extends to the various levels of Panchayat, including the subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule (Article 243G)
Panchayati Raj Day
The Panchayati Raj Day, observed annually on April 24 by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, honors the Constitution’s 73rd Amendment Act of 1992, which went into effect in 1993. This day honors democratic decentralization and local self-governance at the national level.
Panchayati Raj Article
The Panchayati Raj Act adds the Eleventh Schedule, which contains the 29 functional items of the panchayats, as well as Part IX, “The Panchayats,” to the Constitution. Panchayati Raj articles can be seen from Article 243 to Article 243 O included in Part IX of the Constitution. Article 40 of the Constitution directs the state to organize the village panchayats and give them powers and authority so that they can operate as self-government. The Amendment Act gives this directive a physical form.
Panchayati Raj Act
The Parliament approved two amendments to the Constitution, the 73rd Constitution Amendment for rural local bodies (panchayats) and the 74th Constitution Amendment for urban local bodies (municipalities), calling them “institutions of self-government”.
With the passage of the Panchayati Raj Act, the Panchayati Raj systems are now governed by the Constitution’s justiciable provisions, and each state is required to implement it. Additionally, elections for Panchayati Raj institutions will take place without interference from the state government.
Salient Features of the Act
- Gram Sabha
- Three-tier system: establishment of the three-tier system of Panchayati Raj in the states at the village, intermediate, and district levels.
- Election of members and chairperson: The members of all levels of the Panchayati Raj are elected directly. The chairpersons at the intermediate and the district level are elected indirectly by the elected members and at the village level, the Chairperson is elected as determined by the state government. The minimum age for contesting elections to the Panchayati Raj is 21 years.
- Reservation of seats-
- For SC and ST: Reservation is provided at all three tiers by their population percentage.
- For women: Not less than one-third of the total number of seats to be reserved for women, further not less than one-third of the total number of offices for chairpersons at all levels of the panchayat to be reserved for women.
- The state legislatures are also given the provision to decide on the reservation of seats in any level of panchayat or office of chairperson in favor of backward classes.
- Duration of Panchayat: The Act provides for a five-year term of office to all the levels of the panchayat.
- State election commission: It is set up in each State to conduct elections to Panchayati Raj institutions.
- Powers and Functions: The state legislature may endow the Panchayats with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government.
- Finance Commission: The state finance commission is set up in each State after every five years. It reviews the financial position of the panchayats and provides recommendations.
- Exempted states and areas: The Act does not apply to the states of Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and certain other areas. These areas include:
- The scheduled areas and the tribal areas in the states
- The hill area of Manipur for which a district council exists
- Darjeeling district of West Bengal for which Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council exists.
However, Parliament can extend this part to these areas subject to the exception and modification it specifies. Thus, the PESA Act was enacted.
Panchayati Raj in India
The Panchayati Raj in India was first launched on October 2, 1959, in Rajasthan, by then-Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The second state to implement the Panchayati Raj system in India was Andhra Pradesh. Most of the conditions established this Panchayati Raj system in their states. However, there were wide-ranging differences between them. Some states chose a two-tier structure, while others used a three or four-tier system. Additionally, there were regional variations in the way that power was transferred.
The Indian government has formed several committees to give recommendations on Panchayati Raj. Balwant Rai Mehta Committee (1957) was the first committee that recommended the establishment of the scheme of ‘democratic decentralization’ which ultimately came to be known as Panchayati Raj in India. Ashok Mehta Committee (1977), Hanumantha Rao Committee (1983), G.V.K. Rao Committee (1985), L.M. Singhvi Committee (1986), and P.K. Thungan Committee (1989) are some of the most significant committees formed by the government.
Panchayati Raj System in India: Functions
The key functions of the Panchayati Raj System in India are as follows:
- Spreading Awareness: Panchayati Raj is responsible for spreading awareness and educating people about various issue, their rights, government schemes, and more.
- Local Governance: The primary objective of the Panchayati Raj system is to facilitate local self-governance at various levels, including villages, intermediate (block), and districts. It empowers villagers by involving them in decision-making processes and allowing them to assume responsibility for managing local affairs.
- Dispute Resolution: Panchayati Raj is responsible for sorting disputes at a local level. They handle matters related to land disputes, property rights, village-level conflicts, and other civil disputes.
- Planning and Development: Panchayat is responsible to formulate and implement plans that promote development at a local level. This includes agricultural development, rural industrial development, infrastructure development, and more.
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