Panchayati Raj System
One of the primary goals of Panchayati Raj is rural development, which has been implemented in all Indian states with the exception of Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, as well as all Union Territories with the exception of Delhi. These territories consist of:
- The states’ tribal areas and designated locations
- Manipur’s hill region, for which a district council is in place; and
- The West Bengali district of Darjeeling, home of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council
Panchayati Raj Evolution
The Panchayati Raj System in India stretches back before the country gained its freedom. In rural India, the village panchayat has long served as the main political institution. Panchayats were typically elected bodies with both executive and judicial authority in ancient India. The influence of foreign powers, particularly the Mughals and the British, as well as spontaneous and imposed socioeconomic development had diminished the significance of village panchayats. However, during the pre-independence era, the panchayats served as tools for the upper castes’ supremacy over the rest of the village, which widened the gap based on either socioeconomic status or caste hierarchy.
However, following gaining independence and the framing of the Constitution, the Panchayati Raj System experienced a boost. According to Article 40 of the Indian Constitution, “The state shall take steps to organize village panchayats and vest in them such powers and authority as may be necessary to allow them to function as units of self-government.”
A number of committees were established by the Indian government to investigate the implementation of rural self-governance and to make recommendations for how to do so.
The committees appointed are as follows:
- Balwant Rai Mehta Committee
- Ashok Mehta Committee
- G V K Rao Committee
- L M Singhvi Committee
Panchayati Raj Balwant Rai Mehta Committee
It was established in 1957 with the mandate to review and recommend improvements to the National Extension Service and Community Development Programme. Committee’s recommendations were:
- There should be a three-tier Panchayati Raj system, with Zila Parishad at the district level, Panchayat Samiti at the block level, and Gram Panchayat at the village level. These bodies should be in charge of all planning and development tasks.
- The panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad would be made up of members who were elected indirectly, whilst the village panchayat will be made up of directly elected delegates.
- The Zila Parishad, whose chairman is the District Collector, should serve as the advising, coordinating, and supervisory body while the Panchayat Samiti serves as the executive body.
Panchayati Raj Ashok Mehta Committee
The Ashok Mehta Committee was established by the Indian government in 1977 to recommend ways to strengthen and resuscitate the nation’s ailing Panchayati Raj system. The main suggestions were:
- A two-tier structure, with the Zila Parishad at the district level and the Mandal panchayat below it, made up of a collection of villages with a combined population of 15,000 to 20,000, will replace the current three-tier Panchayati Raj system.
- The district needs to be the starting point for decentralisation beneath the state level under public supervision.
- Zila Parishad, the executive body, will oversee planning at the district level.
- In order to raise money, the Panchayati Raj institutions should be required to levy taxes, and a district-level organisation should conduct frequent social audits.
Panchayati Raj G V K Rao Committee
The planning commission appointed the committee in 1985. It acknowledged that bureaucratization had prevented growth from reaching the grassroots level, leading people to refer to Panchayat Raj institutions as “grass without roots.” Therefore, it made the following important suggestions:
- The Zila Parishad was deemed to be the most significant organization in the plan for democratic decentralization. The primary organization in charge of overseeing the district-level development programs was Zila Parishad.
- Specific planning, implementation, and monitoring responsibilities for the rural development programs will be delegated to the district and the lower tiers of the Panchayati Raj system.
- The creation of the position of District Development Commissioner. He will lead the Zila Parishad as its president and CEO.
- Panchayati Raj systems should hold elections on a regular basis.
Panchayati Raj L M Singhvi Committee
The committee was established in 1986 by the Indian government with the primary goal of making recommendations for revitalizing the Panchayati Raj systems for democracy and development. The committee recommended the following things:
- The Panchayati Raj systems should be recognised by the constitution, the committee recommended. Additionally, it advocated adding clauses to the constitution that would recognize free and fair elections for Panchayati Raj institutions.
- The committee suggested reorganizing villages to increase the viability of the gram panchayat.
- It was suggested that local panchayats receive additional funding for their operations.
- Each state would establish judicial tribunals to handle cases involving the Panchayati Raj institutions’ elections and other issues related to their operation.
All of these things support the claim that panchayats are very effective at locating and resolving local issues, involving village residents in development efforts, enhancing communication between various political levels, fostering leadership qualities, and generally assisting with basic state development without undergoing significant structural changes. In 1959, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh became the first two states to implement Panchayati raj; other states soon followed.
Although there are differences between states, there are some characteristics that are universal. For instance, a three-tiered structure with panchayats at the village level, panchayat samitis at the block level, and zila parishads at the district level has been established in the majority of the states. 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), renaming them as “institutions of self-government” as a result of the persistent efforts of civil society organizations, intellectuals, and progressive political leaders. All of the states passed their own laws adhering to the modified constitutional provisions within a year.
73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992
Significance of the Act
- The Eleventh Schedule, which includes the 29 functional items of the panchayats, and Part IX, “The Panchayats,” to the Constitution were both added by the Act.
- The Constitution’s Article 243 to Article 243 O are found in Part IX.
- The Amendment Act gives shape to Article 40 of the Constitution, which directs the state to organize the village panchayats and provide them rights and authority so they can act as self-government.
- The Act requires states to adopt the Panchayati Raj system and brings it within the scope of the Constitution’s justifiable provisions. Additionally, the Panchayati Raj institutions’ elections will be held without regard to the wishes of the state administration.
- The Act is divided into two sections: mandatory and optional. State legislation, including those governing the implementation of the new Panchayati Raj systems, must include mandatory measures. On the other hand, the state government has discretion on voluntary provisions.
- The Act is a very important step in developing democratic institutions across the nation. Through the Act, participatory democracy has replaced representative democracy.
PESA Act of 1996
The Fifth Schedule locations are exempt from the provisions of Part IX. With the modifications and exclusions that it may designate, the Parliament may extend this Part to such places. The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, often known as the PESA Act or the extension act, was passed by Parliament in accordance with these principles.
Objectives of the PESA Act:
- To include the scheduled areas in the application of Part IX’s provisions.
- To provide the indigenous populace self-government.
- To establish democratic participation in village governance.
- To develop participatory governance in accordance with established procedures.
- To protect and preserve indigenous populations’ traditions and customs.
- Giving panchayats authority in accordance with tribal needs.
- To stop panchayats at higher levels from absorbing the authority and powers of panchayats at lower levels.
India has progressed toward what has been referred to as “multi-level federalism” as a result of these constitutional changes made by the union and state governments, but more importantly, they have broadened the democratic foundation of the Indian polity. Prior to the modifications, only the two houses of Parliament, state assemblies, and a few union territories could be considered part of the Indian democratic system. Although the system has taken government and problem solving to the country’s grassroots levels, there are still some problems. If these problems are resolved, it will greatly contribute to the environment’s ability to respect some of the most fundamental human rights.
After the new generation of panchayats began operating, a number of issues that affect human rights have come to light. The nature of Indian society, which naturally affects the form of the state, is a significant aspect that has affected the position of human rights in relation to the panchayat system. Inequality, social hierarchy, and the gap between the rich and the poor are hallmarks of Indian society. The caste system, which is specific to India, has resulted in the social hierarchy.
Panchayati Raj FAQs
Q Who is the father of Panchayati Raj?
Ans. Balwant Rai Mehta, a politician, is referred to as the “Father of Panchayati Raj” and is credited with developing the idea of the Panchayati Raj in India.
Q What is the importance of Panchayati Raj?
Ans. Village local government is established through Panchayati Raj, which significantly contributes to the development of villages, particularly in areas like primary education, health, agricultural advancements, women and child development, and women’s participation in local government, among other things.
Q Which state in India has no Panchayati Raj institution?
Ans. All Indian states, with the exception of Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, as well as all Union Territories, with the exception of Delhi, have panchayati raj systems.
Q What are the features of Panchayati Raj?
Ans. The features of Panchayati Raj are:
- Gram Sabha: The Panchayati Raj system’s central body is the Gram Sabha. It is a village assembly made up of all the registered voters in the panchayat’s jurisdiction.
- Village, intermediate, and district levels of the three-tier system.
- Election of members and chairperson: All Panchayati Raj levels have directly elected members, whereas the intermediate and district level chairs have indirectly elected members.
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