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Judiciary part 4- Panchayati Raj | POLITY

Introduction | JUDICIARY PART 4 – PANCHAYATI RAJ | POLITY 

  • A three-tier structure of the Indian administration for rural development is called Panchayati Raj. The aim of Panchayati Raj is to develop local self-governments in districts, zones, and villages.
  • It was constitutionalised through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992.
  • There were a 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.

Background | JUDICIARY PART 4 – PANCHAYATI RAJ | POLITY 

  • In the time of the Rig-Veda (1700 BC), evidence suggests that self-governing village bodies called ‘sabhas’ existed. With the passage of time, these bodies became panchayats (council of five persons).
  • The village panchayat, as a system of administration, began in the British days, as their offer to satisfy the demands for local autonomy. They opened up the governance of the lowest levels to the citizens. The GoI act, 1935 also authorizes the provinces to enact legislations.
  • Even though such minor forms of local governance was evident in India, the framers of the constitutions, unsatisfied with the existing provisions, included Article 40 among the Directive Principles, whereby: “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.”
  • Later, the conceptualisation of the system of local self-government in India took place through the formation and effort of four important committees from the year 1957 to 1986.

Balwant Rai Mehta Committee & Panchayati Raj (1957)

  • The committee was appointed in 1957, to examine and suggest measures for better working of the Community Development Programme and the National Extension Service.
  • The committee suggested the establishment of a democratic decentralised local government which came to be known as the Panchayati Raj.
  • Recommendations by the committee:
    • Three-tier Panchayati Raj system: gram panchayat, Panchayati Samiti and Zila Parishad.
    • Planning and development are the primary objectives of the Panchayati Raj system.
    • Directly elected representatives to constitute the gram panchayat and indirectly elected representatives to constitute the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad.
    • District collector to be made the chairman of the Zila Parishad.
    • Panchayat Samiti should be the executive body and Zila Parishad will act as the advisory and supervisory body.
    • It also requested for provisioning resources so as to help them discharge their duties and responsibilities.

Ashok Mehta Committee & Panchayati Raj (1977-1978)

  • The committee was constituted by the Janata government of the time to study Panchayati Raj institutions.
  • Out of a total of 132 recommendations made by it, the most important ones are:
    • Political parties should participate at all levels in the elections.
    • Three-tier system to be replaced by a two-tier system.
    • Zila Parishad to be made responsible for planning at the state level.
    • Compulsory powers of taxation to be given to these institutions.
    • Constitutional recognition to be given to Panchayati Raj institutions.
    • A minister for Panchayati Raj to be appointed by the state council of ministers.
  • Unfortunately, the Janata government collapsed before action could be taken on these recommendations.

G V K Rao Committee & Panchayati Raj (1985) |JUDICIARY PART 4 – PANCHAYATI RAJ | POLITY  

  • The committee was appointed by the planning commission in 1985.
  • It recognised that development was not seen at the grassroots level due to bureaucratisation resulting in Panchayat Raj Institutions addressed as ‘grass without roots’.
  • Hence it made some key recommendations which are as follows:
    • The district and the lower level of the Panchayati Raj system to be assigned with specific planning, implementation and monitoring of the rural developmental programmes.
    • Zila Parishad to be the most important body in the scheme of democratic decentralisation. Zila Parishad to be the principal body to manage the developmental programmes at the district level.
    • Elections to the levels of Panchayati Raj systems should be held regularly.
    • Post of District Development Commissioner to be created. He will be the chief executive officer of the Zila Parishad.

L M Singhvi Committee & Panchayati Raj (1986)

  • Constituted by the Rajiv Gandhi government on ‘Revitalisation of Panchayati Raj institutions  for Democracy and Development’, its important recommendations are:
    • Nyaya Panchayats to be established for clusters of villages
    • Constitutional recognition for PRI institutions.
  • Though the 64th Constitutional Amendment bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1989 itself, Rajya Sabha opposed it.
  • It was only during the Narasimha Rao government’s term that the idea finally became a reality in the form of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment acts, 1992.

Panchayati Raj System under 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment acts, 1992

  • The acts of 1992 added two new parts IX and IX-A  to the constitution.
  • It also added two new schedules – 11 and 12 which contains the lists of functional items of Panchayats and Municipalities.
  • It provides for a three-tier system of Panchayati Raj in every state – at the village, intermediate and district levels.

PESA Act of 1996

  • The provisions of part IX are not applicable to fifth schedule areas.
  • The Parliament can extend this part to such areas with medication and exceptions as it may specify.
  • Under these provisions, Parliament enacted Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, popularly known as PESA act or the extension act.
  • Objectives of PESA act
    • To extend the provisions of part IX to the scheduled areas.
    • To provide self-rule for the tribal population.
    • To have village governance with participatory democracy
    • To evolve participatory governance consistent with the traditional practices.
    • To preserve and safeguard traditions and customs of tribal population.
    • To empower panchayats with powers conducive to tribal requirements.
    • To prevent panchayats at a higher level from assuming powers and authority of panchayats at a lower level.

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