In India, the Panchayati Raj 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 on 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, 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 the traditional Panchayati Raj system, that envisioned by Gandhi, and 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:Balwant Rai Mehta: established 1957
V.T. Krishnammachari: 1960
Takhatmal Jain Study Group: 1966
Ashok Mehta Committee: 1977
G.V.K. Rao Committee: 1985
Dr. L.M. Singhvi Committee: 1986
The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee, headed by MP Balwantrai Mehta, was a committee appointed by the Government of India in January 1957 to examine the work of the Community Development Programme (1952) and the National Extension Service (1953), to suggest measures to improve their work. The committee's recommendation of the committee by NDC in January 1958, and this set the stage for the launching of Panchayati Raj Institutions throughout the country. The committee recommended the establishment of the scheme of ‘democratic decentralisation’, which finally came to be known as Panchayati Raj.
This led to the establishment of a three-tier Panchayati Raj system: Gram Panchayat at the village level, Panchayat Samiti at the block level, and Zila Parishad at the district level.
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, and the ability to levy and collect appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees.
The Act aims to provide a three-tier systems of Panchayati Raj for all states having a population of over 2 million, to hold Panchayat elections regularly every five years, to provide seats reserved 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 Panchayats receive funds from three sources:Local body grants, as recommended by the Central Finance Commission
Funds for implementation of centrally sponsored schemes
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 beginning on 24 December 1996. Currently, the Panchayati Raj system exists in all states except Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, and in all Union Territories except Delhi.
A Panchayat Samiti (block panchayat) is a local government body at the tehsil level. This body works for the villages of the tehsil that together are called a "development block". The Panchayat Samiti is the link between the Gram Panchayat and the district administration. Just as the tehsil goes by other names in various parts of India, notably mandal and taluka, there are a number of variations in nomenclature for the block panchayat. For example, it is known as Mandal Praja Parishad in Andhra Pradesh, Taluka Panchayat in Gujarat and Karnataka, and Panchayat Samiti in Maharashtra. In general, the block panchayat has the same form as the gram panchayat but at a higher level.
Membership in the block panchayat is mostly ex-official; it is composed of: all of the Sarpanchas (gram panchayat chairmen) in the Panchayat Samiti area, the MPs and MLAs of the area, the sub-district officer (SDO) of the subdivision, co-opt members (representatives of the SC/ST and women), associate members (a farmer from the area, a representative of the cooperative societies and one from marketing services), and some elected members.
The Panchayat Samiti is elected for a term of five years and is headed by a chairman and a deputy chairman.
The common departments in the Samiti are as follows:General Administration
Water Supply Department
Animal Husbandry and others
There is an officer for every department. A government-appointed Block Development Officer (BDO) is the executive officer to the Samiti and the chief of its administration, and is responsible for his work to the CEO of ZP.Implementation of schemes for the development of agriculture and infrastructure
Establishment of primary health centres and primary schools
Supply of drinking water, drainage and construction/repair of roads
Development of a cottage and small-scale industries, and the opening of cooperative societies
Establishment of youth organisations
The governing of the advance system at the district level in Panchayat Raj is also popularly known as Zila Parishad. The chief of administration is an officer of the IAS cadre.Provide essential services and facilities to the rural population
Supply improved seeds to farmers and inform them of new farming techniques
Set up and run schools and libraries in rural areas
Start primary health centers and hospitals in villages; start vaccination drives against epidemics
Execute plans for the development of the scheduled castes and tribes; run ashram shalas for Adivasi children; set up free hostels for them
Encourage entrepreneurs to start small-scale industries and implement rural employment schemes
Construct bridges, roads and other public facilities and their maintenance
Taxes collected locally such as on water, place of pilgrimage, local mandirs (temples), and markets
A fixed grant from the State Government in proportion to the land revenue and money for works and schemes assigned to the Parishad
A gram panchayat is a village level administrative body, with a Sarpanch as its elected head. The members of the gram panchayat are elected for a period of five years by the members of Gram Sabha.
On August 27, 2009, the Union Cabinet of the Government of India approved 50% reservation for women in PRIs (Panchayati Raj Institutions). The Indian states Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tripura and Uttarakhand have implemented 50% reservation for women in PRIs. The majority of candidates in these Panchayats are women. Currently 100% of elected members in Kodassery Panchayat in Kerala are women.