Zila Parishad is at the apex, being the third tier of Panchayati Raj System. It is situated at the district level. Zila Parishad also has a term of 5 years. Some of its members are directly elected and the Chairpersons of the Panchayat Samitis are ex-officio members. MPs and MLAs belonging to the district are also the members of Zila Parishad. Chairperson of the Zila Parishad is elected from the directly elected members. Not less than 1/3rd of the offices and seats are reserved for the women members. Seats are also reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
B. Functions of the Zila Parishad
The following are the major functions of the Zila Parishad, though you may find some variations across the States:
1. providing essential services and facilities to the rural population, planning and executing the development programmes for the district;
2. supplying improved seeds to farmers, informing them of new techniques of farming, undertaking construction of small-scale irrigation projects and percolation tanks, and maintaining pastures and grazing lands;
3. setting up and running schools in villages, executing programmes for adult literacy, and running libraries;
4. starting Primary Health Centers and hospitals in villages, managing mobile hospitals for hamlets, conducting vaccination drives against epidemics and family welfare campaigns;
6. encouraging entrepreneurs to start small scale industries like cottage industries, handicrafts, agriculture products, processing mills, dairy farms, etc., and implementing rural employment schemes; and
7. constructing roads, schools and also taking care of the public properties;
C. Sources of Income of Zila Parshad
As you have seen, the Zila Parishad performs a number of important functions. For exciting them it needs money. This is arranged through its sources of income that are as follows:
1. income from taxes levied by Zila Parishad, license fees and market fees;
2. a share is given to Zila Parishad from the collected land revenue;
3. income from various properties of Zila Praishad;
4. grants from the State and Central governments; and
5. funds allotted by the State for developmental activities.
The Organisation and Functions of Panchayat Samiti
Panchayat Samiti is the intermediate or the middle tier of the Panchayati Raj System. These are named differently in different States. Its organization and functions also vary as these are determined by the Act passed by the concerned State. It coordinates all the activities of the Panchayats in a Block. A Panchayat Samiti is constituted by the following members:
all the Sarpanches (Mukhias) or Chairpersons of the Gram Panchayats within the Block
MPs, MLAs and MLCs of that Block
some directly elected Members
the elected Members of Zila Parishad from that Block
some Officers of that Block
Do You Know
A Panchayat Samiti is created at the Block level. Each Block consists of the areas of several Panchayats. In different States it is known by different names: in Andhra Pradesh Mandal Praja Parishad, Assam the Anchalik Panchayat, Gujarat the Taluka Panchayat, Karnataka the Mandal Panchayat, Madhya Pradesh the Janapada Panchayat, Tamil Nadu, the Panchayat Union Council, and Uttar Pradesh the Kshetra Samiti. However, its most popular name happens to be Panchayat Samiti.
The term of each Panchayat Samiti is five years in all States. In its very first meeting, each Panchayat Samiti elects two of its members as Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson. Chairpersonships of at least 1/3rd Panchayat Samities stand reserved for women members. Likewise, some of the offices of Chairperson are reserved for members belonging to Scheduled Castes. The tenure of the Chairperson is coterminous with the tenure of the Panchayat Samiti. The members of a Panchayat Samiti can remove the Chairperson by passing a resolution supported by 2/3rd majority. A Panchayat Samiti usually meets at least six times in one year. There cannot be a gap of more than two months between its two meetings. A meeting of Panchayat Samiti is either ordinary or special. The date of every meeting is fixed by the Chairperson of the Panchayat Samiti and in his/her absence by the Vice-Chairperson. Its chief administrative officer is Block Development Officer popularly known as BDO.
B. Functions of Panchayat Samiti
Panchayat Samiti performs a number of functions. Some important functions are: agriculture, land improvement, watershed development, social and farm forestry, and technical and vocational education. Besides, the Panchayat Samiti implements certain schemes and programmes for which specific funds are allocated by the State government or Central government. It promotes and coordinates different development programmes of its areas. It also has the responsibilities like (a) provision of drinking water in the villages, (b) development and repair of rural roads, (c) framing of rules and regulations for the markets, (d) provision of improved seeds and chemical fertilizers, pesticides, agricultural tools and implements, (e) promotion of cottage industries such as handlooms, handicrafts, traditional art and artisans, (f) the welfare of Scheduled Castes and Tribes and other backward classes, and (g) promotion of the self employment schemes in the rural areas.
C. Sources of Income
The main source of income of Panchayat Samiti is the Grants given by the State government. Besides, it also levies taxes, levies and receives a fixed percentage of land revenue.
The Organisation, Functions and Sources of Funds of Gram Panchayats
Village Panchayat also called Gram Panchayat is the grass root institution of Panchayati Raj System. At village level there is a Gram Sabha or Village Assembly and a Gram Panchayat having a Chairperson known as Gram Pradhan or Sarpanch (Mukhia), a Vice Chairperson and some Panches. In fact, the Village Panchayats are organized and they function according to the Act passed by every State government. That is why, you may find variations in different States. But mostly, the Panchayati Raj Institutions are organized and they function as follows:
A Gram Sabha or Village Assembly consists of all the adults i.e. voters (persons above the age of 18 years) living in the area of a Gram Panchayat i.e., village or a group of small villages. The Gram Sabha has now been recognized as a legal body. It acts like the legislative body. In one year at least two meetings of the Gram Sabha are held. In its first meeting the Gram Sabha considers the budget of the Gram Panchayat. In its second meeting it considers the reports of the Gram Panchayat. The main functions of Gram Sabha are to review the annual accounts of Panchayat,discuss audit and administrative reports and the tax proposals of its Panchayat and accept community service, voluntary labour and schemes for Panchayat. The members of Gram Sabha elect the members and also the Chairperson of Gram Panchayat. The States have to ensure that all the Gram Sabhas in their respective areas are functional.
The Village Panchayat or Gram Panchayat is the executive committee of Gram Sabha. It is the most important unit of rural local self-government. As we have seen, all the members of each Gram Sabha are voters who elect the members of the Panchayat by a secret ballot. In most of the States, a Village Panchayat has 5 to 9 members who are called Panches. In every Panchayat, one-third of the seats are reserved for women. However, there are States where the percentage of seats reserved for women is even more. Seats are also reserved for persons belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The Sarpanch (Mukhia) of the Panchayat is directly elected by all the voters of the village. Some offices of Sarpanches are now reserved for women, and some for persons belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Sarpanch calls the meetings of the Panchayat and presides over those meetings. He/She is to call at least one meeting of the Panchayat per month. The Panches can also request him/her for calling a special meeting. He/She has to call such special meeting within three days of the request. Sarpanch keeps the records of the meetings of Panchayat. The Panchayat can assign any special function to him/her. A Vice Chairperson is elected by the members of the Panchayat. The tenure of the Village Panchayat is of 5 years.
B. Functions of Gram Panchayats
Vijay showed greater interest in knowing more about Gram Panchayat and asked the teacher about the functions and sources of funds of this institution. The teacher explained the details. All the major functions of Gram Panchayat are related to the welfare and development of the village. With a view to fulfill the needs and requirements of the villagers every Gram Panchayat has to perform some important functions such as provision of safe drinking water, paving of streets, developing and maintaining good drainage system, ensuring cleanliness of the village, upkeep of street lights, dispensary, etc. These functions are known as obligatory functions. Some other functions are discretionary and can be performed, if the Panchayat has the resources and funds. These are plantation of trees, setting up and maintenance of insemination centre for cattle, developing and maintaining play ground for sports and setting up and running the library. From time to time some other functions can be assigned to Panchayats by the State government or Union government. But along with these functions of Panchayats, every member of the village also has the duty towards his/her village. One should keep the surroundings of his /her home clean, not waste drinking water and plant more and more trees.
C. Sources of Income of Gram Panchayats
Financial resources are essential for performance of the functions by Panchayats, whether these are obligatory functions or developmental work. Gram Panchayats can work better, if they have adequate funds to spend. Over and above the Grants-inaid, State governments have empowered Panchayats to levy taxes and collect funds. Some of the sources are as follows:
1. taxes on property, land, goods and cattle;
2. rent collected for facilities like Barat Ghar or any other property of panchayat;
3. various types of fines collected from the offenders;
4. grants-in- aid from the State government and Union government;
5. a part of the land revenue collected by the State government given to the Panchayats; and
6. donations collected from the villagers for some common cause.
The Constitution makers also considered this system to be very important and made provisions for it in the Directive Principles of State Policy. The Constitution states that the State shall take steps to organize Village Panchayats and empower them with such powers and authorities as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of local self-government.
As a follow-up, the present day Panchayats began functioning under the Community Development Programme introduced during the first Five year Plan. To make the system more effective a Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Balwant Rai Mehta that went into its details. The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee in its report submitted in 1957 recommended the establishment of a three-tier Panchayati Raj System: Gram Panchayats at the village level, the Panchayat Samitis at the block level or intermediate level and the Zila Parishad at the district level. In 1958, the National Development Council also recommended a similar structure of local government where the village was at the bottom of the system and district at the top. However, it is the 73rd Constitutional Amendment 1992 that provided the present shape to the Panchayati Raj System. Now the Panchayati Raj Institutions in most of the States have been set up at three levels, village, intermediate and district levels. But in smaller States having a population of less than 20 lakh, there are only two tiers, the village level, and the district level.
The 73rd Constitutional Amendment 1992
The passage of the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 marks a new era in the federal democratic set up of the country and provides constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). The main features of the Act are:
(i) establishment of a three-tier structure: Village Panchayat (Gram Panchayat); intermediate panchayat (Panchayat Samiti; and the district panchayat (Zila Parishad); (ii) regular elections, every five years; (iii) reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their population; (iv) not less than one-third reservation of seats for women at three different levels of PRIs; (v) establishment of State Finance Commissions to recommend measures to improve the finances of panchayats;
(vi) establishment of State Election Commissions to conduct election to the PRIs; (vii) establishment of District Planning Committees to prepare development plans for the districts; (viii) preparation of plans for economic development and social justice and their execution concerning 29 subjects listed in the 11th Schedule of the Constitution; (ix) establishment of Grama Sabha (village assemblies) and their empowerment as a decision making body at the village level; and (x) rotation in accordance with the reservation of seats for women and the Scheduled Castes in the PRIs.
By the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, the Panchayati Raj Institutions have been given such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function. It contains provisions for the devolution of powers and responsibilities related to (a) the preparation of plans for economic development and social justice; and (b) the implementation of such schemes for economic development and social justice as may be entrusted to them.
Do You know
Consequent upon the enactment of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, almost all the States/UTs, except J&K, NCT Delhi, and Uttaranchal have enacted their legislation. Moreover, almost all the States/UTs have held local body elections. As a result, 2,32,278 Panchayats at village level; 6,022 Panchayats at the intermediate level and 535 Panchayats at the district level have been constituted in the country. These Panchayats are being manned by about 29.2 lakh elected representatives of Panchayats at all levels. This is the broadest representative base that exists in any country in the world.
Panchayati Raj is an important feature of the Indian Political The system which ensures direct participation of people at the grassroots level. Though panchayats have been in existence in India since ancient times, they suffered a setback during British rule. After independence, the framers of the Constitution decided to give them the importance and directed the states to “organize village panchayats as units of self-government ” (Article 40). Following this directive, the various state governments took steps to organize village panchayats as units of rural self-government. Greater importance was attached to the panchavat system after the adoption of the five year plan and launching of the Community Development Programme.
In 1956. the National Development Council appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Balwantrai G. Mehta to suggest measures for the better working of the Community Development Programme and the National Extension Sen ice. The committee submitted its report in 1957 in which it recommended:
a three-tier structure consisting of the village at the bottom, district at the top and an intermediary structure in between;
genuine transfer of power and responsibility to these institution;
adequate resources to all bodies to enable them to discharge their responsibilities;
that all social and economic development programmes be channelised through these agencies;
that a system be evolved to effect further dissolution and dispersal of pow er.
The recommendations of the Committee were approved by the National Development Council in January. 1958. This set the stage for the launching of Panchayati Raj institutions throughout the country. Although the broad fundamentals were to be identical, it did not insist on rigidity regarding the form and pattern. The states were free to evolve their own patterns suitable to local conditions.
The three-tier system of Panchayati Raj was first adopted by Rajasthan on October 2.1959. This was followed by Andhra Pradesh, Bihar. Gujarat. Himachal Pradesh. Maharashtra, Punjab. Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal Gradually, the Panchayati Raj system was adopted by most states even though the system differed in matters of detail.
The three-tier system of local self-government envisages panchayat at the village level Panchayat Samitis at the block level and Zilla Parishad at the district level. Each tier is organically linked to the next tier through the system of indirect elections. However, elections to panchayats at the village level are direct. The organization and functions of various Panchayati Raj institutions are as follows:
1. Village Panchayat This is the lowest rung of the three-tier system and consists of the elected representatives of the people. Membership usually varies from 5 to 31. In addition to elected members, scats arc also reserved for Scheduled Castes. Scheduled Tribes, women, etc. The chairman of the panchayat is known as the sarpanch. who is elected by members of the panchayat from among themselves? Some panchayats also have an up-sarpanch. The panchayat is accountable for all its actions to theGram Sakha. the general body of villagers.
Panchayats are responsible for the formulation and implementation of developmental programmes at the village level. They also perform certain administrative functions such as taking care of village sanitation, public health, street lighting, the construction and maintenance of bridges, wells and ponds, village roads, village schools, etc. They also try to promote agriculture, animal husbandry, rural and cottage industries, cooperative societies, etc. The panchayats also maintain village statistics, etc.
The Gram Sabha is the general body of the village. It consists of all the adults residing within the jurisdiction of the panchayat. It exercises general supervision over the working of the panchayat and lays down necessary guidelines for its working. It controls the finances of the panchayat, imposes various taxes, and examines its accounts. The Gram Sabha usually meets twice a year and examines and approves the various development schemes of the panchayat.
2. Block and Panchayat Samiti The block is the intermediary unit of the three-tier structure. It is administered through a Panchayat Samiti consisting of indirectly elected members of village panchayats under the block, comprising 20 to 60 villages. The Panchayat Samiti is known by different names in different states such as Janpad Panchayat, Taluka Panchayat, Ancha! Panchayat, etc. Generally, the Panchayat Samiti consists of the sarpanches of village panchayats under the block. Besides, it also contains certain members who represent Scheduled Castes. Scheduled Tribes, women, representatives of cooperatives, representatives of small municipalities within the jurisdiction of the block, etc. The Panchayat Samiti elect its own chairman from amongst its members who are known as the Pradhan.
The main function of the Panchayat Samiti is to coordinate the working of the various panchayats under its jurisdiction. It performs important developmental functions such as preparation of plans for the development of the area under its control and implementation of these plans after they have been approved by the state government. It is responsible for the implementation of Community Development Programmes within its jurisdiction.
The chief sources of income of the Panchayat Samiti arc grants and loans provided by the state gov comment/Zilia Parishad. for the implementation of various schemes. In addition, it gets a share of the cess of land revenue from the Gram Panchayat and Zilla Parishad The Panchayat Samiti is responsible for its working to Gram Panchayats as well as Gram Sabhas.
3. Zilla Parishad The Zilla Parishad is the top level of the three-tier structure and is also known as the District Panchayat, District Development Council, etc. The composition of the Zilla Parishad also differs from state to state. Generally, the Zilla Parishad consists of representatives of the Panchayat Samiti under its jurisdiction, local members of the state legislature, members of Parliament representing a part or whole of the district, co-opted members representing Scheduled Castes. Scheduled Tribes, women, etc., representatives of cooperative bodies, district level officers of the medical, public health, public works, engineering, agriculture, education, veterinary and other development departments. The Zilla Parishad elects its own chairman from amongst its members who is known as tare Pradhan.
The Zilla Parishad performs mainly coordinating and supervisory functions. It coordinates the work of the Panchayat Samitis under its jurisdiction and ensures the implementation of the various developmental schemes within its jurisdiction. It also examines and approves the budget of Panchayat Samitis under it. The Zilla Parishad also performs important administrative functions which include the establishment and maintenance of primary and secondary schools, hospitals and dispensaries, irrigation works, execution and maintenance of roads, etc. The Zilla Parishad does not possess any independent sources of income and is entirely dependent on the state government for grants. Its other sources include a share in cesses on land revenue, stamp duties, etc.
Strengthening The PRIs
The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments marked a watershed in the history of decentralised governance, planning, and development in India as these made panchayat bodies the third tier of government with reasonable power and authority in addition to creating space for women and marginalised groups in the federal set-up. Decentralised democracy was also extended to Fifth Schedule areas through the provisions of another Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 known as the Extension Act which not only made the gram sabha a strong body, but also put ‘jal, jungle, and jamin’ (water, forest, and land) under its control.
These central acts, however, instead of clearly specifying the powers and functions of panchayats and municipalities, have left it to the discretion of state governments. Articles 243 G and 243 W of these acts decree that the legislature of a state may, by law, endow the panchayats/municipalities with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government. Such law may also contain provisions for the devolution of powers and responsibilities upon panchayats/municipalities, subject to such conditions as may be specified therein, with respect to the preparation of plans and implementation of such schemes for economic development and social justice as may be entrusted to them. These may include inter alia schemes and plans in relation to socio-economic development and providing basic services as listed in the Eleventh and Twelfth Schedules of the Constitution.
Article 243 ZD of the 74th Amendment Act providing for constitution of district planning committees (DPC) by the state government in every district is a milestone in decentralised planning with people’s participation. These committees are expected to consolidate the plans prepared by the panchayats and municipalities in the district and prepare a draft development plan for the district as a whole. DPCs have been set up in most of the states. Much of the implementation of these panchayat acts, i.e., power-sharing with panchayat bodies are left to the states. Over the years, the panchayat bodies have not been strengthened in terms of functions, finances and functionaries (triple Fs) with regard to the preparation of plans and the listed subjects. The Economic Survey 2014–15 suggests the following steps towards strengthening the PRIs:
(i) The panchayat bodies have the potential to become true vehicles for carrying out the government’s slogan of “less government–more governance” if states show consensus. (ii) In order to convert outlays of the local-centric programmes into outcomes, these institutions need greater awareness, responsibility, and accountability, which will also enable better connect of these programmes with the common man. (iii) Greater devolution of powers to the panchayats and municipalities is the need of the hour, in respect of the ‘triple Fs’ in a phased manner. (iv) Majority of panchayat/municipalitycentric programmes do have earmarked funds for awareness generation and capacity building. These funds across ministries need to be pooled together under the Panchayati Raj Ministry and Ministry of Urban Development to make infrastructure and capacity building of panchayats and municipalities a continuous and regular process.
These steps will create the following possibilities in the local bodies:
(a) Enable them to understand not only their role and rights but also their responsibilities and will make them accountable, bringing about qualitative improvement in governance at decentralised level. (b) Transform them into vibrant institutions and enable them to perform their envisaged role in participatory planning, implementation, execution, monitoring, and supervision and also carry out social audit of all panchayat/ municipality-centric programmes.
Government has given high priority to ‘inclusion’ factor—through the ideas of “inclusive growth” (as outlined by the 11th Plan, 2007-12) and the “third generation of economic reforms” (launched 2002, on the margins of the 10th Plan, 2002-07)—it is officially decided to use the PRIs as the main tool. In this way, it is essential for the governments (centre and states, both) to use the untapped potential of the PRIs as the vehicle of decentralising the fruits of growth and development to the ‘grass-root’ level. For this the PRIs need strengthening—newly created ‘think tank’, the NITI can play as an instrumental role in it (through its platform, the ‘Governing Council’)—in reaching a broad consensus among the governments regarding it.
The term Panchayati Raj in India signifies the system of rural local self-government. It has been established in all the states of India by the Acts of the state legislatures to build democracy at the grass root level1. It is entrusted with rural development. It was institutionalized through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992.
EVOLUTION OF PANCHAYATI RAJ
Balwant Rai Mehta Committee
In January 1957, the Government of India appointed a committee to examine the working of the Community Development Programme (1952) and the National Extension Service (1953) and to suggest measures for their better working. The chairman of this committee was Balwant Rai G Mehta. The committee submitted its report in November 1957 and recommended the establishment of the scheme of ‘democratic decentralization’, which ultimately came to be known as Panchayati Raj. The specific recommendations made by it are:
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. These tiers should be organically linked through a device of indirect elections.
The village panchayat should be constituted with directly elected representatives, whereas the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad should be constituted with indirectly elected members.
All planning and development activities should be entrusted to these bodies.
The panchayat samiti should be the executive body while the Zila Parishad should be the advisory, coordinating and supervisory body.
The district collector should be the chairman of the zilaparishad.
There should be a genuine transfer of power and responsibility to these democratice bodies.
Adequate resources should be transferred to these bodies to enable them to discharge their functions and fulfil their responsibilities.
A system should be evolved to effect further devolution of authority in future.
These recommendations of the committee were accepted by the National Development Council in January 1958. The council did not insist on a single rigid pattern and left it to the states to evolve their own patterns suitable to local conditions. But the basic principles and broad fundamentals should be identical throughout the country.
Rajasthan was the first state to establish Panchayati Raj. The scheme was inaugurated by the prime minister on October 2, 1959, in Nagaur district. Rajasthan was followed by Andhra Pradesh, which also adopted the system in 1959. Thereafter, most of the states adopted the system.
Though most of the states created Panchayati Raj institutions by mid-1960s, there were differences from one state to another with regard to the number of tiers, the relative position of Samiti and Parishad, their tenure, composition, functions, finances and so on. For example, Rajasthan adopted the three-tier system while Tamil Nadu adopted the two-tier system. West Bengal, on the other hand, adopted the four-tier system. Further, in the Rajasthan–Andhra Pradesh pattern, panchayat Samiti was powerful as the block was the unit of planning and development, while in Maharashtra–Gujarat pattern, Zila Parishad was powerful as the district was the unit of planning and development. Some states also established Nyaya panchayats, that is, judicial panchayats to try petty civil and criminal cases.
Study Teams and Committees
Since 1960, many study teams, committees, and working groups have been appointed to examine the various aspects of the functioning of the Panchayati Raj system. They are mentioned below in Table 34.1.
Study Teams and Committees on Panchayati Raj
Name of the study Team / Committee
Committee on Rationalisation of Panchayat Statistics
Working Group on Panchayats and Cooperatives
Study Team on Panchayati Raj Administration
Study Team on Nyaya Panchayats
Study Team on the Position of Gram Sabha in Panchayati Raj Movement
Study Group on Budgeting and Accounting Procedure of Panchayati Raj Institutions
M. Rama Krishnayya
Study Team on Panchayati Raj Finances
Committee on Panchayati Raj Elections
Study Team on the Audit and Accounts of Panchayati Raj Bodies
Committee on Panchayati Raj Training Centres
Study Team on Involvement of Community Development Agency and Panchayati Raj Institutions in the Implementation of Basic Land Reform Measures
Working Group for Formulation of Fifth Five Year Plan on Community Development and Panchayati Raj
Committee on Community Development and Panchayati Raj1961
Smt. Daya Choubey
Ashok Mehta Committee
In December 1977, the Janata Government appointed a committee on panchayati raj institutions under the chairmanship of Ashok Mehta. It submitted its report in August 1978 and made 132 recommendations to revive and strengthen the declining panchayati raj system in the country. Its main recommendations were:
The three-tier system of panchayati raj should be replaced by the two-tier system, that is, zilaparishad at the district level, and below it, the mandal panchayat consisting of a group of villages with a total population of 15,000 to 20,000.
A district should be the first point for decentralisation under popular supervision below the state level.
Zila parishad should be the executive body and made responsible for planning at the district level.
There should be an officialparticipation of political parties at all levels of panchayat elections.
The panchayati raj institutions should have compulsory powers of taxation to mobilise their own financial resourses.
There should be a regular social audit by a district level agency and by a committee of legislators to check whether the funds allotted for the vulnerable social and economic groups are actually spent on them.
The state government should not supersede the panchayati raj institutions. In case of an imperative supersession, elections should be held within six months from the date of supersession.
The nyaya panchayats should be kept as separate bodies from that of development panchayats. They should be presided over by a qualified judge.
The chief electoral officer of a state in consultation with the chief election commissioner should organise and conduct the panchayati raj elections.
Development functions should be transferred to the zilaparishad and all development staff should work under its control and supervision.
The voluntary agencies should play an important role in mobilising the support of the people for panchayati raj.
A minister for panchayati raj should be appointed in the state council of ministers to look after the affairs of the panchayati raj institutions.
Seats for SCs and STs should be reserved on the basis of their population.
A constitutional recognition should be accorded to the Panchayati Raj institutions. This would give them the requisite status (sanctity and stature) and an assurance of continuous functioning.
Due to the collapse of the Janata Government before the completion of its term, no action could be taken on the recommendations of the Ashok Mehta Committee at the central level. However, the three states of Karnataka, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh took steps to revitalize the Panchayati Raj, keeping in view some of the recommendations of the Ashok Mehta Committee.
G V K Rao Committee
The Committee on Administrative Arrangement for Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation Programmes under the chairmanship of G.V.K. Rao was appointed by the Planning Commission in The Committee came to the conclusion that the developmental process was gradually bureaucratized and divorced from the Panchayati Raj. This phenomenon of bureaucratization of development administration as against the democratization weakened the Panchayati Raj institutions resulting in what is aptly called ‘grass without roots’. Hence, the Committee made the following recommendations to strengthen and revitalize the Panchayati Raj system:
(i) The district level body, that is, the Zila Parishad should be of pivotal importance in the scheme of democratic decentralization. It stated that “the district is the proper unit for planning and development and the Zila Parishad should become the principal body for management of all development programmes which can be handled at that level.” (ii) The Panchayati Raj institutions at the district and lower levels should be assigned an important role with respect to planning, implementation and monitoring of rural development programmes. (iii) Some of the planning functions at the state level should be transferred to the district level planning units for effective decentralized district planning. (iv) A post of District Development Commissioner should be created. He should act as the chief executive officer of the Zila Parishad and should be in charge of all the development departments at the district level. (v) Elections to the Panchayati Raj institutions should be held regularly. It found that elections became overdue for one or more tiers in 11 states.
Thus the committee, in its scheme of the decentralized system of field administration, assigned a leading role to the Panchayati Raj in local planning and development. It is in this respect that the recommendation of the G.V.K. Rao Committee Report (1986) differed from those of the Dantwala Committee Report on Block-Level Planning (1978) and the Hanumantha Rao Committee Report on District Planning (1984). Both the committees have suggested that the basic decentralized planning function should be done at the district level. The Hanumantha Rao Committee advocated separate district planning bodies under either the District Collector or a minister. In both the models, the Collector should play a significant role in the decentralized planning through the Committee stated that Panchayati Raj institutions would also be associated with this process (of decentralized planning). The committee recommended that the Collector should be the coordinator, at the district level, of all developmental and planning activities. Thus the Hanumantha Rao Committee differed in this respect from those of Balwantray Mehta Committee, the Administrative Reforms Commission of India, the Ashok Mehta Committee and finally the G.V.K. Rao Committee which recommended the reduction in the developmental role of the District Collector and which assigned a major role to the Panchayati Raj in development administration.
L M Singhvi Committee
In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi government appointed a committee on ‘Revitalisation of Panchayati Raj Institutions for Democracy and Development’ under the chairmanship of L M Singhvi. It made the following recommendations. (i) The Panchayati Raj institutions should be constitutionally recognized, protected and preserved. For this purpose, a new chapter should be added in the Constitution of India. This will make their identity and integrity reasonably and substantially inviolate. It also suggested constitutional provisions to ensure regular, free and fair elections to the Panchayati Raj bodies. (ii) Nyaya Panchayats should be established for a cluster of villages. (iii) The villages should be reorganized to make Gram Panchayats more viable. It also emphasized the importance of the Gram Sabha and called it as the embodiment of direct democracy. (iv) The Village Panchayats should have more financial resources. (v) The judicial tribunals should be established in each state to adjudicate controversies about the election to the Panchayati Raj institutions, their dissolution and other matters related to their functioning.
Rajiv Gandhi Government The Rajiv Gandhi Government introduced the 64th Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha in July 1989 to constitutionalize Panchayati Raj institutions and make them more powerful and broad-based. Although the Lok Sabha passed the bill in August 1989, it was not approved by the Rajya Sabha. The bill was vehemently opposed by the Opposition on the ground that it sought to strengthen centralization in the federal system.
V P Singh Government The National Front Government, soon after assuming office in November 1989 under the Prime Ministership of V P Singh, announced that it would take steps to strengthen the Panchayati Raj institutions. In June 1990, a two-day conference of the state chief ministers under the chairmanship of V P Singh was held to discuss the issues relating to the strengthening of the panchayati raj bodies. The conference approved the proposals for the introduction of a fresh constitutional amendment bill. Consequently, a constitutional amendment bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in September 1990. However, the fall of the government resulted in the lapse of the bill.
Narasimha Rao Government The Congress Government under the prime ministership of P V Narasimha Rao once again considered the matter of the constitutionalization of Panchayati Raj bodies. It drastically modified the proposals in this regard to deleting the controversial aspects and introduced a constitutional amendment bill in the Lok Sabha in September 1991. This bill finally emerged as the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 and came into force on 24 April 1993.
73RD AMENDMENT ACT OF 1992
Significance of the Act
This act has added a new Part-IX to the Constitution of India. It is entitled as ‘The Panchayats’ and consists of provisions from Articles 243 to 243 O. In addition, the act has also added a new Eleventh Schedule to the Constitution. This schedule contains 29 functional items of the panchayats. It deals with Article 243-G.
The act has given a practical shape to Article 40 of the Constitution which says that “The State shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.” This article forms a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
The act gives constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj institutions. It has brought them under the purview of the justiciable part of the Constitution. In other words, the state governments are under constitutional obligation to adopt the new Panchayati Raj system in accordance with the provisions of the act. Consequently, neither the formation of panchayats nor the holding of elections at regular intervals depends on the will of the state government anymore.
The provisions of the act can be grouped into two categories—compulsory and voluntary. The compulsory (mandatory or obligatory) provisions of the act have to be included in the state laws creating the new Panchayati Raj system. The voluntary provisions, on the other hand, may be included at the discretion of the states. Thus the voluntary provisions of the act ensure the right of the states to take local factors like geographical, politico-administrative and others, into consideration while adopting the new Panchayati Raj system.
The act is a significant landmark in the evolution of grassroots democratic institutions in the country. It transfers the representative democracy into participatory democracy. It is a revolutionary concept to build democracy at the grassroot level in the country.
The salient features of the act are:
Gram Sabha The act provides for a Gram Sabha as the foundation of the Panchayati Raj system. It is a body consisting of persons registered in the electoral rolls of a village comprised within the area of Panchayat at the village level. Thus, it is a village assembly consisting of all the registered voters in the area of a panchayat. It may exercise such powers and perform such functions at the village level as the legislature of a state determines.
Three-Tier System The act provides for a three-tier system of Panchayati Raj in every state, that is Panchayats at the village, intermediate, and district levels. Thus, the act brings about uniformity in the structure of Panchayati raj throughout the country. However, a state having a population not exceeding 20 lakh may not constitute panchayats at the intermediate level.
Election of Members and Chairpersons All the members of panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels shall be elected directly by the people. Further, the chairperson of panchayats at the intermediate and district levels shall be elected indirectly—by and from amongst the elected members thereof. However, the chairperson of a panchayat at the village level shall be elected in such manner as the state legislature determines.
Reservation of Seats The act provides for the reservation of seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in every panchayat (i.e., at all the three levels) in the proportion of their population to the total population in the panchayat area. Further, the state legislature shall provide for the reservation of offices of the chairperson in the panchayat at the village or any other level for the SCs and STs.
The act provides for the reservation of not less than one-third of the total number of seats for women (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging the SCs and STs). Further, not less than one-third of the total number of offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level shall be reserved for women.
The act also authorizes the legislature of a state to make any provision for reservation of seats in any Panchayat or offices of the chairperson in the panchayat at any level in favour of backward classes.
Duration of Panchayats The act provides for a five-year term of office to the panchayat at every level. However, it can be dissolved before the completion of its term. Further, fresh elections to constitute a Panchayat shall be completed (a) before the expiry of its duration of five years; or (b) in the case of dissolution, before the expiry of a period of six months from the date of its dissolution.
Disqualifications A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as or for being a member of panchayat if he is so disqualified, (a) under any law for the time being in force for the purpose of elections to the legislature of the state concerned, or (b) under any law made by the state legislature. However, no person shall be disqualified on the ground that he is less than 25 years of age if he has attained the age of 21 years. Further, all questions of disqualifications shall be referred to such authority as the state legislature determines.
State Election Commission The superintendence, direction, and control of the preparation of electoral rolls and the conduct of all elections to the Panchayats shall be vested in the state election commission. It consists of a state election commissioner to be appointed by the governor. His conditions of service and tenure of office shall also be determined by the governor. He shall not be removed from the office except in the manner and on the grounds prescribed for the removal of a judge of the state high court. His conditions of service shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
The state legislature may make provision with respect to all matters relating to elections to the panchayats.
Powers and Functions The state legislature may endow the Panchayats with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government. Such a scheme may contain provisions for the devolution of powers and responsibilities upon Panchayats at the appropriate level with respect to (a) the preparation of plans for economic development and social justice; (b) the implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice as may be entrusted to them, including those in relation to the 29 matters listed in the Eleventh Schedule.
Finances The state legislature may (a) authorize a panchayat to levy, collect and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls, and fees; (b) assign to a panchayat taxes, duties, tolls and fees levied and collected by the state government; (c) provide for making grants-in-aid to the panchayats from the consolidated fund of the state; and (d) provide for constitution of funds for crediting all money of the panchayats.
Finance Commission The governor of a state shall, after every five years, constitute a finance committee to review the financial position of the panchayats. It shall make the following recommendations to the Governor:
The principles that should govern: (a) The distribution between the state and the panchayats of the net proceeds of the taxes, duties, tolls, and fees levied by the state. (b) The determination of taxes, duties, tolls, and fees that may be assigned to the panchayats. (c) The grants-in-aid to the panchayats from the consolidated fund of the state.
The measures needed to improve the financial position of the panchayats.
Any other matter referred to it by the governor in the interests of sound finance of the panchayats.
The state legislature may provide for the composition of the commission, the required qualifications of its members and the manner of their selection.
The governor shall place the recommendations of the commission along with the action taken report before the state legislature.
The Central Finance Commission shall also suggest the measures needed to augment the consolidated fund of a state to supplement the resources of the panchayats in the states (on the basis of the recommendations made by the finance committee of the state).
Audit of Accounts The state legislature may make provisions with respect to the maintenance of accounts by the panchayats and the auditing of such accounts.
Application to Union Territories The president of India may direct that the provisions of this act shall apply to any union territory subject to such exceptions and modifications as he may specify.
Exempted States and Areas The act does not apply to the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram and certain other areas. These areas include, (a) the scheduled areas and the tribal areas in the states5; (b) the hill area of Manipur for which a district council exists; and (c) Darjeeling district of West Bengal for which Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council exists.
However, the Parliament may extend the provisions of this Part to the scheduled areas subject to such exceptions and modifications as it may specify. Under this provision, the Parliament has enacted the ‘Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act’, 1996 (PESA).
Continuance of Existing Laws and Panchayats All the state laws relating to panchayats shall continue to be in force until the expiry of one year from the commencement of this act. In other words, the states have to adopt the new Panchayati Raj system based on this act within the maximum period of one year from 24 April 1993, which was the date of the commencement of this act. However, all the Panchayats existing immediately before the commencement of the action shall continue till the expiry of their term, unless dissolved by the state legislature sooner.
Consequently, the majority of states passed the Panchayati Raj acts in 1993 and 1994 to adopt the new system in accordance with the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992.
Bar to Interference by Courts in Electoral Matters The act bars the interference by courts in the electoral matters of panchayats. It declares that the validity of any law relating to the delimitation of constituencies or the allotment of seats to such constituencies cannot be questioned in any court. It further lays down that no election to any panchayat is to be questioned except by an election petition presented to such authority and in such manner as provided by the state legislature.
Eleventh Schedule It contains the following 29 functional items placed within the purview of panchayats:
Agriculture, including agricultural extension
Land improvement, implementation of land reforms, land consolidation and soil conservation
Minor irrigation, water management and watershed development
Animal husbandry, dairying and poultry
Social forestry and farm forestry
Minor forest produce
Small-scale industries, including food processing industries
Khadi, village and cottage industries
Fuel and fodder
Roads, culverts, bridges, ferries, waterways and other means of communication
Rural electrification, including distribution of electricity
Non-conventional energy sources
Poverty alleviation programme
Education, including primary and secondary schools
Technical training and vocational education
Adult and non-formal education
Markets and fairs
Health and sanitation including hospitals, primary health centres and dispensaries
Women and child development
Social welfare, including welfare of the handicapped and mentally retarded
Welfare of the weaker sections, and in particular, of the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes
Public distribution system
Maintenance of community assets.
COMPULSORY AND VOLUNTARY PROVISIONS
Now, we will identify separately the compulsory (obligatory or mandatory) and voluntary (discretionary or optional) provisions (features) of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (1992) or the Part IX of the Constitution:
A. Compulsory Provisions
Organisation of Gram Sabha in a village or group of villages.
Establishment of panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels.
Direct elections to all seats in panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels.
Indirect elections to the post of chairperson of panchayats at the intermediate and district levels.
21 years to be the minimum age for contesting elections to panchayats.
Reservation of seats (both members and chairpersons) for SCs and STs in panchayats at all the three levels.
Reservation of one-third seats (both members and chairpersons) for women in panchayats at all the three levels.
Fixing tenure of five years for panchayats at all levels and holding fresh elections within six months in the event of supersession of any panchayat.
Establishment of a State Election Commission for conducting elections to the panchayats.
Constitution of a State Finance Commission after every five years to review the financial position of the panchayats.
B. Voluntary Provisions
Giving representation to members of the Parliament (both the Houses) and the state legislature (both the Houses) in the panchayats at different levels falling within their constituencies.
Providing reservation of seats (both members and chairpersons) for backward classes in panchayats at any level.
Granting powers and authority to the panchayats to enable them to function as institutions of self-government (in brief, making them autonomous bodies).
Devolution of powers and responsibilities upon panchayats to prepare plans for economic development and social justice; and to perform some or all of the 29 functions listed in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution.
Granting financial powers to the pachayats, that is, authorizing them to levy, collect and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees.
Community Development Programme starts on 2nd October
Balvantrai Mehta Committee, appointed in January, submits its report on 24 November
Several state governments enact new Panchayat Acts bringing in three-tier panchayat system
Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurates the first generation panchayat at Nagaur in Rajasthan on 2nd October Kerala District Council Bill is introduced in Kerala Assembly; lapses after Assembly is dissolved
Decline of first generation Panchayati Raj Institutions
II. Growth and Decline of Second Generation Panchayats
Panchayat elections are held in West Bengal on party basis on 4th June—marking the beginning of second generation of Panchayati Raj. Ashok Mehta Committee on working of panchayats, appointed on 12 December 1977, submits its report on 21 August
Karnataka government enacts new PR Act
Hanumantha Rao Committee on district level planning, appointed by Planning Commission in September 1982, submits its report in May
Karnataka PR Act receives President’s assent in July; comes into force on 14th August
G.V.K. Rao Committee on administrative aspects of rural development, appointed by Planning Commission on 25 March, submits its report in December
Andhra Pradesh follows West Bengal and Karnataka Panchayati Raj Model
Karnataka holds panchayat elections in January
Panchayats are dissolved and brought under administrators in Karnataka
III. Constitutionalisation of Panchayati Raj
L.M. Singhvi Committee submits its report on 27 November; recommends constitutional status for panchayats
Consultative Committee of Parliament appoints a sub-committee under chairpersonship of P.K. Thungon to consider Constitutional Amendment
64th Constitutional Amendment Bill is introduced in Parliament on 15 May; is defeated in Rajya Sabha on 15 October
74th Constitutional Amendment Bill is introduced in Parliament on 7 September; lapses on dissolution of Lok Sabha
72nd (Panchayats) and 73rd (Municipalities) Amendment Bills are introduced in Parliament; referred to the Parliament’s Joint Select Committee in September
Lok Sabha passes both the Bills on 22 December; Rajya Sabha passes them on 23 December
73rd Amendment Act, 1992 comes into force on 24 April 74th Amendment Act, 1992 comes into force on 1 June
All state governments pass Conformity Acts between 30 May, 1993 and 23 April, 1994
Madhya Pradesh holds panchayat elections under the 73rd Amendment dispensation on 30 May
Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, extending 73rd Amendment Act to Scheduled Areas, comes into force on 24 December. Kerala launches People’s Plan Campaign on 16 August
Bihar holds panchayat elections after 23 years (11-30 April)
83rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 2000 amends Art. 243-M to dispense with reservations for Scheduled Castes in Arunachal Pradesh—paving way for panchayat elections in the only state yet to hold them under the new dispensation