Panchayati Raj Institution: Evolution, Features, Composition, Powers and Functions -

The Constitution of India has laid down the goal to create a socialist, secular and democratic society. So as to bring democracy to the grass roots level and involve people in decision-making an experiment was made with the devolution of power to the elected representatives and allocation of responsibility and financial resources because it was felt that this is able to be a serious institutional device for the event of rural areas. 

This experiment was called as Panchayat. 

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On 2nd October 1959, for the first time in India the Panchayati Raj System was introduced by the state of Rajasthan.

The Panchayati Raj functions as a system of governance where Gram Panchayats are the basic units of local administration.

Later it has been established in all the states of India by the act of the state legislature to build democracy at the village level. 

The system was become a law through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 (simply called as the Panchayati Raj Act) which came into force with immediate effect from April 24, 1993. 

Every year on April 24th is celebrated as the National Panchayati Raj Diwas in India.

Evolution of Panchayati Raj in India --

The evolution and the history of Panchayati Raj (PR) System in India -

Gandhiji who held the opinion of empowerment of Panchayats for the development of Rural areas. Recognizing the importance of it our Constitution makers included a provision for Panchayats in Part IV of our Constitution as Directive Principles of State Policy. 

Thus, its formal structure was firstly recommended by Balwant Rai Mehta committee,in 1957. In November 1957 the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee, recommended the establishment of the scheme of ‘Democratic Decentralisation’, all over India which is ultimately came to be known as the "Panchayati Raj". 

Therefor Balwant Rai Mehta known as the Father of Panchayati Raj System in India. It recommended for a three tier system at village level, block level and district level and also recommended for direct election of village level panchayat. 

 In India Rajasthan become the first state who established Panchayati Raj at Nagaur district on October 2, 1959.

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 Main Features of  the 73rd Amendment Act --

• It is an organization of Gram Sabhas

• Creation of a three-tier Panchayati Raj in India

• Formation of the structure at the District (Zila), Block and Village levels for Panchayats

•  All the posts of Panchayats, at all levels to be filled up by the direct elections;

• The Chairman of District and Block levels should be elected by an indirect election

• A State Finance Commission has to be set up in each State for every five years.

* Must Read : Welfare State: Features, Functions & Criticisms

Composition of Panchayati Raj System in India --

The 73r Amendment Act of 1992, aims to provide the Three-Tier System of Panchayati Raj Institution in India, which consists of:

(1) Village-Level Panchayats (Gram Panchayats) 

(2) Block-Level Panchayats ( Panchayat Samiti) 

(3) Zilla Parishad (District-Level Panchayats) 

In addition presently, a Nyaya Panchayat has been provided for every three or four village Panchayats of India. 

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(1) Village-Level Panchayats:-

This is at the lowest level. It consists of:

(a) One president – directly elected by people.

(b) One vice president – to be elected from the members of Gaon Panchayat.

(c) Ten members – directly elected by people.

(2) Block-Level Panchayats:-

This is at the middle level. It consists of:

(a) One president – to be elected by the elected members of the Panchayat Samiti.

(b) One vice president – to be elected by the elected members of the Panchayat Samiti.

(c) Members:

(i) One member from each Gaon Panchayat area to be directly elected by people.

(ii) President of the Gaon Panchayats falling within the jurisdiction of the Panchayat Samiti.

(iii) Members of Parliament and Legislative Assembly.

(3) District-Level Panchayats:-

It is at the top level. It consists of:

(a) One president –  will be elected from directly elected members of Zilla Parishad.

(b) One vice president – elected from among the directly elected members of Zilla Parishad.

(c) Members:

(i) Members directly elected from the Zilla Parishad constituencies of the district,

(ii) Presidents of the Panchayat Samiti.

(iii) The members of House of People and the members of Legislative Assembly of state. 

 Number of Panchayats and Number of Elected Panchayat Representatives in India under 73rd Amendment Act--

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Powers and Functions of Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) in India:-

1) Power and Functions of Village/Gram Panchayat:-

* Preparing annual plan and annual budget for Gram Panchayat, organising the relief operation during natural calamities.

* It has to identify and implement the schemes of below Rs.50,000/- in collaboration with agriculture, irrigation and other allied departments.

* Village Panchayats has to improve the local breed of live stocks and to develop the fodder land etc.

* Development of village’s fisheries.

* Planting of roadside trees, social forestry etc.

2) Powers and Functions of Block Level Panchayat:-

* It has to prepare annual plan for all its activities and then has to submit to the Zilla Parishad for incorporating in its district plan.

* Helping in relief operations during natural calamities.

* For land development and land conservation programmes it helped the government as well as Zilla Parishad. 

* Planning for implementing poverty eradication programmes.

* Development of village and cottage industries.

3) Powers and Functions of District Level Panchayats/Zilla Parishad:-

* Implementing agriculture related programmes for its development.

* Implementing various schemes for development of irrigation, ground water and watershed.

* Development of horticulture.

* Maintaining of statistic of panchayats, their activities etc.

* Implementing and maintenance of rural electrification schemes.

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Difference Between Gram Sabha & Gram Panchayat

Challenges Faced by Panchayats in India:-

1. Unscientific Distribution of Functions:-

The Panchayati Raj scheme is flawed in thus far because the distribution of functions between the structures at different levels has not been made along scientific lines. The blending of development and native self- government functions has significantly curtailed the autonomy of the local self government institutions. 

2. Inadequate Finance:-

The inadequacy of funds faced by the panchayats has created problem for the successful working of the Panchayati Raj. 

The Panchayats have limited powers in respect of imposing the taxes. they need little or no funds apportioned to them by the government . Further, they're generally reluctant to boost necessary funds thanks to the fear of losing popularity with the masses.

3. Lack of Cordial Relation Between Officials and People:-

Generally there is a lack of proper cooperation  between the people of panchayats like the Block Development Officers, the District Officers etc. Infact the officers failed to operate the event duties more efficiently and sincerely.

4. Lack of Conceptual Clarity:-

There is lack of clarity in reference to the concept of Panchayati Raj itself and therefore the objectives that it stands. Some would treat it even as an administrative agency while some others think of it as an extension of democracy at the grass roots level, and a couple of others consider it a charter of rural government .

5. Undemocratic Compositions:-

The Panchayati Raj Institutions are constituted on the basis of democratic norms and principles. The indirect election of most of the members to Panchayat Samiti only increases the likelihood of corruption and bribery for which the institution become a place of corruption. 

6. Administrative Problem:-

The Panchayati Raj bodies experience several administrative problems. Infact lack of co-ordination between the panchayat members with the bureaucrates, lack of proper incentives and promotional opportunities for administrative personnel and apathetic attitude of the govt servants towards development programmes, the institution is totally failed to achieve its goal. 

7. Politics is An Inevitable a part of a Democratic Frame Work:-

The manipulative nature of rural politics is manifested in the techniques which is used at the time of elections. The fact-finding research teams observe that the class structure in rural India has made a mockery of the concept of rural development. 

Even the Panchayat elections are fought on caste basis and therefore the traditional dominant castes occupied the system in such a way that they still occupy the positions of power within the changed set-up. 

Relevance of Panchayati System:-

Panchayati Raj System in India has created a third level of Governance system in the country which will be liable for the administration at the bottom level. 

Therefore this system has its relevance as well as importants for Indian society.

1. Ground Level Implementation:-

The program and schemes taken at highest level of state need to be properly implemented so as to form it successful. Panchayats will act because the body which will take up this job thanks to its proximity to ground reality also as accessibility to people.

2. Self Governance Principle:-

India’s constitution writers envisioned for a self governance model where people have the facility to control themselves. 

Gandhian ideology has given stressed upon the importance of village level administration. The panchayats are the soul source of self governance model.

3. Decentralisation of Powers:-

In a diverse democracy like India, concentrating on the facility to a single authority which will create imbalances, so by creating various sorts of hierarchy like panchayats, Zilla parishad etc, the facility gone through to the various sections of society.

Thus, the role of Panchayats is vital not just for completing governance locally but it ensures that welfare measures reach the beneficiaries effectively. This improves standard of living of citizens upto great extent. 

Improvement in the functioning of Panchayats--

The Standing Committee on Rural Development under the Chairmanship of Dr. P. Venugopal submitted its report which was on ‘Improvement in the functioning of Panchayats on July 19, 2018.

 The participation of local people for the development of rural areas through the Panchayati Raj System was provided in the Indian Constitution through the 73rd amendmentAct of 1992. The main proposals of the Committee with reference to the functioning of panchayats include -

  * Devolution of Powers: 

Governments including the panchayats, is a state subject in the Constitution and consequently the devolution of power and authority to panchayats has been left to the discretionary subjects of states. The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has issued a comprehensive guidelines for the effective functioning of panchayats in India.  

However, the Committee noted that the mandatory meetings of panchayats weren't happening and had poor attendance, especially from women representatives. 

The Standing Committee recommended that the state governments should form a quorum in gram sabha meetings for the active participation of all the panchayat representatives, including  the women of that panchayat. 

 * Funding of Panchayats: 

Grants from Finance Commission plays a crucial role in the implementation of schemes by panchayats. These grants are intended to be wont to support and strengthen the delivery of basic services including water system , sanitation, sewerage and solid waste management and the other basic services in the functioning assigned to the panchayats which comes under relevant legislations. 

The Committee noted that some state governments knowingly delayed the releasing funds to the panchayats. They subsequently had to pay interest to panchayats and wherever panchayat accounts weren't audited, the grants weren't released.

 * Capacity Building: 

On 2012-13 to 2015-16 the Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan implemented to deal with the issues faced by the panchayats like inadequate infrastructure, manpower training, and advocacy of devolution of power. 

 * Support Staff: 

The Standing Committee observed for the failure of the institution that there is severe lack of support staff and personnel in panchayats, like secretary, junior engineers, computer operators, and data entry operators.

So for that the Committee recommended that the Ministry should make some serious efforts towards the recruitment and appointment of support and technical staff to the panchayats to make sure the graceful functioning of panchayats. 

      Well this is all about India’s Panchayati Raj System. 

Short Note -- 

Main Features of 74th Amendment Act -- 

1. There shall be constituted in every State, 

(a) a Nagar Panchayat 

(b) a Municipal Council for a smaller urban area; 

(c) a Municipal Corporation for a larger urban area.

2. All the seats in a Municipality shall be filled by persons chosen by direct election from the territorial constituencies in the Municipal area known as wards.

3. Constitution of ward committee

4. Seats shall be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in every Municipality

5. Not less than one-third of the total number of seats reserved shall be reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Balwant Rai Mehta Committee & Panchayati Raj --

=> The Balwant Rai Mehta committee was appointed in 1957, to look at and suggest measures for better working of the Community Development Programme and therefore the National extension . 

The committee suggested the establishment of democratic decentralised government which came to be referred to as the Panchayati Raj. 

• Three-tier Panchayati Raj system: Gram panchayat, Panchayati Samiti and Zila Parishad.

• Directly elected representatives to constitute the gram panchayat and indirectly elected representatives to constitute the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad.

• Planning and development are the first objectives of the Panchayati Raj system.

• Panchayat Samiti should be the chief body and Zila Parishad will act because the advisory and supervisory body.

• District col lector to be made because the chairman of the Zila Parishad.

• It also requested for provisioning resources so on help them discharge their duties and responsibilities. 

 * Two most important Questions from UPSC Exam related to Panchayati Raj -

Who is the father of Panchayati Raj?

Balwant Rai Mehta was credited for pioneering the concept Panchayati Raj in India and known as the Father of Panchayati Raj in India. 

Which state in India has no Panchayati Raj institution?

Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram and in all Union Territories except Delhi as well as certain other areas. 

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