Team SoOLEGAL 27 Jan 2022


The term Panchayati Raj in India signifies the system of local self-government. It is entrusted with rural development. It was constitutionalized through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992. The Panchayati system is not purely a post-independence concept. The dominant political institution in rural India has been the village panchayat for centuries. In ancient India, panchayats were usually elected councils with executive and judicial powers. Foreign domination, especially Mughal and British, and the natural and forced socio-economic changes had undermined the importance of the village panchayats. In the pre[1]independence period, however, the panchayats were instruments for the dominance of the upper castes over the rest of the village which furthered the divide based on either the socio-economic status or the caste hierarchy. The evolution of the Panchayati Raj System, however, after the attainment of independence after the drafting of the constitution. In Article 40 the Constitution of India it is stated that “The state shall take steps to organize village panchayats that endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.”

 There were number of committees appointed by the government of India to study the implementation of self-government at the rural level and also recommend steps in achieving this goal. The committees appointed are- Balwant Rai Mehta Committee (1957)- Committee was set up for monitoring the work of the community development programme of 1952 and the National Extension Service of 1953 and also suggest steps to improvise their work. The committee recommended the establishment of democratic decentralization, which ultimately came to be known as Panchayati Raj. It also recommended three tier system at village, block and district level, Ashok Mehta Committee (1977)- Committee 2 submitted their recommendations included two tier system of panchayat, regular social audit, representation of political parties, regular elections, reservation to SCs/STs in panchayat, G V K Rao Committee (1985)- Committee first time recommended for the constitutional status of PRIs and L M Singhvi Committee (1986)- Nyay Panchayats should be established for a group of villages, enhancing the financial resources of Panchayats, separate judicial tribunal should be established in each state to adjudicate on the disputes regarding the elections and other aspects of panchayats. And then 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 which is also considered as new system of Panchayati Raj. 73rd Constitution Amendment Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha in September, 1991. The bill was passed by Lok Sabha on 22nd December, 1992 and by Rajya Sabha on 23rd December, 1992. It received the Presidential assent on 20th April, 1992 and came into force on 24th April, 1993. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment made radical provisions in Article 243 to 243(o) in part IX of the constitution. The act also added Eleventh Schedule in the constitution, which contains 29 subjects assigned to panchayats. Specifically, Article 243(G) of the Constitution of India intended to empower the Gram Panchayats by enabling the State Government to devolve powers and authority in respect of all 29 subjects stated under Eleventh Schedule for local planning and implementation of schemes. For e.g. PRIs have been playing a significant role in implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee, since its launch in 2006. MGNREGA one of the largest employments generating schemes which provides alternative employment to the people in rural areas through providing guaranteed employment of 100 days to each rural household. The programme has 261 permissible works out of which around 164 types of works are relating to agriculture and allied activities including water conservation. The thrust of government in creation of individual assets on water conservation and irrigation which would boost the agriculture sector. For dealing with situation arising from COVID-19 spread, the permissible works under MGNREGA had been enhanced to 262 numbers by adding unskilled 3 wage component of 230 person-days for construction of commonly sanitary complexes in convergence with Swachh Bharat Mission. PRIs are primarily responsible for planning, implementation and monitoring of the works that are undertaken.

PRIs were established as a three-tier structure based on direct elections at all three tiers. Which are- gram panchayat, panchayat samiti and zila parishad. Major function of PRIs includes preparing plans for economic development and social justice.

Gram Panchayat- Civic functions relating to sanitation, cleaning of public roads, public toilets, supply of drinking water, public wells, primary health care and education, etc. are the major functions of village panchayats. For e.g. Role of PRIs is to implement Jal Jeevan Mission, a flagship programme launched by the PM Shri Narendra Modi in 2019, aims to provide all rural household with tap water supply in adequate quantity and of prescribed quality by 2024. The amin aim is to provide functional household tap connections to every household of the country. During the current fiscal (2019-2020), Rs. 8050 crores have been made available to the states for implementation of JJM by the Central Government. The role gram panchayats have been to identify beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana is also a flagship scheme of the government. The scheme provides assistance to BPL families who are either houseless or having inadequate housing facilities for constructing a safe and durable shelter.

Panchayat Samiti- It is a second tier of the Panchayati Raj is Panchayati Samiti. It bridges the link between Gram Panchayat and Zila Parishad. In Panchayat Samiti members are directly elected. Sarpanchs of Gram Panchayats are ex[1]officio members of Panchayati Samiti.

Zila Parishad- It is the uppermost tier of the PRIs. This institution has directly elected members. Chairpersons of panchayat samitis are ex-officio members of 4 zila parishad. Members of Parliaments, legislative assemblies and councils belonging to the districts are also nominated members of zila parishads. It also prepares district plans and integrates samiti plans for submission to the State Government. Another critical aspect of 73rd Constitutional Amendment was the insertion of a clause under Article 280 (3) (bb) of the constitution that the Union Finance Commission would recommend measures to supplementing the resources of the Panchayats in the state on the basis of the recommendation of Finance Commission of the state.

After getting Constitutional status in 1992, PRIs have played a vital role in the development of the villages. Constitutional recognition established a cemented base for PRIs.



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