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Panchayati Raj in India

Posted by Admin on June 16, 2014 | Comment

Panchayati Raj in India 3.15/5 (62.96%) 27 votes

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Not many erstwhile political leaders were enthusiastic about Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of democratic decentralisation through the Panchayati Raj System in India. The concept of micro-management and bringing good governance to the remotest corners of the country had to prove its worth, before it could find a place in the Indian constitution. After a series of failed attempts to deal with local issues at the national level, panchayats were again brought into the picture in 1992, after its initial attempts of establishment in the 1950s. It got recognised as institutions of local self-governance in 1958. Panchayats now have a presence across the country barring Meghalaya and Nagaland.

Panchayat Raj – The Beginning

The genesis of Panchayat Raj dates back to 1958, when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru popularised the idea after the recommendations of the Community Development Programme (1952) and the National Extension Service (1953), were approved by the NDC (National Development Council.) Nehru actually coined this term as an extension of Gandhiji’s belief, that each village should be made responsible for its own affairs. His vision of “village self-governance” (Gram Swaraj) and a decentralised form of government prompted the birth of this new system. The objective behind establishing such a system is to take democracy to the village level, by delegating powers to the people at the grass roots level. Rajasthan was the first state to adopt Panchayat Raj in 1958.

Types of Panchayat in India

India follows a three-tier Panchayat system – Gram Panchayat at a village level, Panchayat Samiti at a block level, and Zila Parishad at a district level. Gram Panchayat, which is considered as the “cornerstone” of the Panchayati Raj system, operates at the village or small town level. It is incumbent upon the elected head (commonly referred to as a Sarpanch) to take stock of the infrastructural development of the region, tax collection, and public health and hygiene. The head of the Gram Panchayat regularly convenes meetings on pressing issues.

District level panchayat or the Zila Parishad has an IAS officer as the administrative head. The prime role of the panchayat is to ensure that the locals have access to essential services and facilities. Its focus remains on Education, Health, and Agricultural segments. Besides, Zila Parishad is also entrusted with the duty of inspiring entrepreneurial spirit and implementing employment schemes. The members of Zila Parishad mainly comprise of MPs elected from that particular district. The major chunk of their revenue comes in the form of grants from the State Government panchayat, along with the earnings from taxes on water, tourism and markets.

Block panchayat (Panchayat Samiti) is the replication of same style of governance at the tehsil level. It’s a form of the Panchayati Raj that works for the villages of the tehsil that are called a Development Block. This governing body is composed of ex-MPs and MLAs of the area, and other elected members. Block Panchayat takes care of important departments such as Finance, Public work, Health, Education, and IT. Each department is headed by an individual officer. He/she is accountable before the Block Development Officer (BDO), who is at the helm of its administration. The panchayat is elected for five years. While the members of the Panchayats are elected directly by the people, the Panchayat Samiti members are elected by the Panchayats.

Importance of Panchayat Raj in India

Panchayats can reach where the bureaucrats can’t. India has accepted this fact with grace. Each village has its own set of issues, which only the locals can understand. Members of a Panchayat are far more cognizant of the region-specific problems, and thus they are capable of taking a more informed decision in favour of the people of their village or tehsil. Moreover, this mechanism of local self-governance acts as a force to counter the dominance of a particular group or caste in a village.

According to experts, the evolution of Panchayats is seen as a boon by the villagers, as they can now discuss about their issues with confidence, and even seek solutions through the Panchayat in their region. The Panchayat system has made a common man even in the rural areas, more conscious of their rights. The good thing about Panchayats is their high-degree of accountability before the people. When it comes to administrative benefits, the Panchayati Raj has “bridged the gulf between the central government and the people in the rural areas.” The Panchayat system also works towards the development of their regions according to the needs of the people. A Panchayat works at various levels, from creation of necessary establishments such as primary schools, to hygiene-related issues, to water requirements, to seek the central government’s help towards generating jobs at the village level as well.

The increasing prominence of the panchayat at various levels in the village areas, led to the creation of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj in 2004, to empower Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and “ensure efficient delivery of services and inclusive development of the nation.”

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