Panchayat Raj Institutions vital force for Indian democratic structure


Evolution and development of the local self Government has long history. The notion of direct democracy in janapada and mahajanapadas, that said to be precursor of panchayati Raj Institutions in Post – independence India. The idea of local self – Government  (LSG) was also extended to the urban areas, thereby making the notion of local self government two dimensional i.e. rural local self Government and urban local self Government.

Local Self Government based on basic human needs having direct bearing on the lives of the individual and the community as whole, better fulfilled by a government to which the individual and the local community have direct and easy access. Panchayati Raj in India signifies the system of rural local self Government.

Post independence times, democratisation of the Polity in the members of the constituent assembly, Gandhian plea for a village based system of political formation fostered by a stateless, classless society was initially rejected by the Congress Constitution committee. The idea of Panchayati Raj finding a place in the Constitutional framework of the country persuaded to provide a place of relative insignificance to the dream of Panchayati Raj by placing part IV of the Constitution.

It was created to establish democracy at the grassroot level.  It was constitutionalised through 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act 1992. The Ministry of Rural Development looks after the matters relating to panchayati Raj bodies. The 5th entry of state list of the 7th schedule to the Constitution of India deals with local government. The government to operationalize the panchayati Raj with the inauguration of the Constitution on 26th January 1950.


Committees on Local Self Government

Balwant Raj Mehta Committee

In 1957, Government of India appointed a committee under Balwant Mehta to examine the working of the community development Programme and National Extension services. The committee recommended the establishment of democratic decentralization, which ultimately came to known as Panchayati Raj.

Recommendations of Balwant Mehta Committee are as follows;

Establishment of a 3 tier panchayat Raj system Gram panchayat at the village level, panchayat samiti at the block level, Zila Parishad at the district level.  

The village Panchayat should be constituted with directions elected Representatives. The panchayat samiti and Zila Parishad should be constituted with indirectly elected members.

These bodies are entrusted with all developmental activities. The Panchayat samiti should be the executive body while the Zila Parishad be the advisory body.

The district collector should be the Chairman of Zila Parishad.

National Development Council accepted these recommendation, but left to states to evolve their own patterns.


Ashok Mehta Committee

In December 1977, the janta Government appointed a committee on panchayat. Raj Institutions under the chairmanship of ashok mehta. It submitted it’s report in August 1978 and made 132 recommendations to revive and strengthen the declining Panchayati Raj system in the country.

The 3 tier system of Panchayati Raj be replaced by the two tier system, Zila Parishad at the district level. A district should be the first point for decentralization 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 official participation of political parties at all levels of panchayat elections. The panchayat Raj Institutions should have compulsory powers of taxation to mobilize their own financial resources.

A minister for panchayat Raj should be appointed in the state council of ministers to look after the affairs of the panchayati Raj Institutions. Seats for SC and ST should be reserved on the basis of their population.

GVK Rao Committee

The planning commission of India in 1985, appoint GVk Rao as the Chairman of the committee on administrative arrangement for rural development and poverty alleviation programmes. The commission found that bureaucracy side lined Panchayati Raj in developmental process. The phenomenon of bureaucratisation of development administration’ results into grass without roots.

The committee made following recommendations:

Zila Parishad should become the principal body for management of all development programme at the district level. Planning functions at the state level should be transferred to the district level planning units.

A post of District Development commissioner should be created. He should act as the chief Executive officer of Zila Parishad.

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 programme. Election to Panchayati Raj Institutions should be held regularly.

LM Singhvi Committee

Rajiv Gandhi Government in 1986, appointed a committee on “Revitalization of Panchayati Raj Institutions for democracy and development” under the  ‘Chairmanship of LM Singhvi’.

Constitutional recognition of the Panchayati Raj Institutions were recommended. It suggested Constitution provisions to ensure regular , free and fair elections to the panchayati Raj bodies.

Nyaya panchayat should be established for cluster of village. The village Panchayats need to be equipped with financial resources.

The judicial tribunals should be established in each state to adjudicate controversies about the election to the panchayati Raj Institutions their dissolution and other matter related to their functioning.


73rd Amendment Act 1992

The Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 has added Part – IX to the Constitution of India. It is entitled as The Panchayats’ and consists of provision from Article 243 to 243. The act also add 11th schedule to the Constitution. It contains 29 functional items of the panchayat and deals with Article 243- G.

Panchayati Raj Institutions get a constitutional status and State Government are oblised to adopt the new Panchayati Raj Act. Constitution balance between the center and state is not disturbed by the act.

Gram Sabha

Gram Sabha as the foundation of the panchayati Raj system. The Gram Sabha is a body consisting of persons registered in the electoral rolls of a village comprised within the area of panchayat at the village level. The Gram Sabha exercise such powers and functions at the village level. The Balwant Rai Mehta committee report, which envisaged a three tier structure at local level, made no formal mention of the Gram Sabha.

Gram Sabha exists as a statutory body in almost all states except in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In states like Bihar, Odisha and Rajasthan, all the audit residents of a village or a group of village are it’s member.

Functions of Gram Sabha

To help implementation of the development programme and schemes of the panchayat. To support the programme of mass education and family welfare.

To solicit support in cash or kind or both and voluntary labour from the Public for community welfare programme. To discuss and appropriate action with regard to reports of the vigilance committee.


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