(Sample Material) IAS Online Coaching : Polity - Panchayatraj Institutions

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Subject: Polity

Topic: Panchayatraj Institutions

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Ques. 1 : 'The 73rd and 74th amendment was necessitated with the increase in the developmental interventions of the government’. Discuss.

Ans. P.V. Narasimha Rao government enacted the 73rd Constitution Amendment Act, which was passed by Parliament in 1992 and became effective from 24th April 1993 after the required number of State Legislatures ratified the same. The need & ratification was felt as, the local self Government is a State List item and the legislation of the Union parliament was vulnerable to judicial challenge even though the item is a Directive principle of State Policy.

The need for model national legislation is as follows:

Legislations were passed by different States setting up PRIs. However, there was considerable variation from State to State in the constitution and composition of Panchayats at various levels starling from the village upto the district in different states, as also the manner of election of the office-bearers. Even in terms of functions entrusted to the PRIs at different levels, the position varied considerably. One important feature to be noted was the association or MPs and MLAs with these institutions and whether they had or did not have voting rights etc. Therefore, a national model legislation was needed.

It lays down a broad national pattern with sufficient regional flexibility; and there was a federal consensus on such an initiative This Act added Part - IX to the Constitution of India, entitled as ‘The Panchayats’ and consists of provisions from articles 243 to 243-o. The Act gave Constitutional shape and teeth to Article 40 of the Constitution.

Giving the PRIs Constitutional status meant that in case the States did not comply with the provisions, judicial enforcement would be an option. Since local self government is a State List item, states had to enact to FRI legislation for the 73 Amendment Act to come into force. Local variation was permitted. In the 73 Act States were given one year in which to conform to the Act one year from the date when the 73rd Amendment act was made. All states either introduced new legislation or amended existing legislation, to bring the state laws into line with the provisions of the 73rd Act.

Mandatory and Discretionary Powers

The Act contains mandatory (compulsory) and discretionary (voluntary) provisions: The distinction between the two is that mandatory provisions contain the word “shall”. In the discretionary provisions, on the other hand, the word “may” is used.

Important mandatory provisions are:

The establishment in every state (except those with populations below 2 million) of panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels (Article 243B)

  • direct, elections to all- seats in the panchayats (lowest elective tier) at all levels (Article 243 C)
  • compulsory elections to panchayats every five years
  • If a panchayat is dissolved prematurely, elections must be held within six months, with the newly elected members serving the remainder of the five year term (Article 243E)
  • reservation of seats in all panchayats at all levels for SC/ST (Article 243D)
  • reservation of one—third of all seats in all panchayats at all levels for women, with the reservation for women applying to the seats reserved for SC/STs (Article 243D)
  • indirect elections to the position of panchayat chairperson at the intermediate and district levels (Article 243C)
  • reservation of the position of panchayat chairperson at all levels for SC/STs in proportion to their share in the state population (Article 243D)
  • reservation of one-third of the positions of chairperson at all three levels for women (Article 243D)

Following are the discretionary provisions:

  • Transfer of powers and functions to Gram Sabha.
  • Mode of election of chairperson of a panchayat at village level.
  • Reservation of OBCs.
  • To decide the taxes, duties, tolls and fees for which a panchayat shall be authorised.
  • To make provision for maintenance of accounts and auditing of panchayats.

Ques. 2 : The institution of village Panchayats was developed earliest and preserved perhaps largest in India. Elaborate.

Ans. The institution of village Panchayat was developed earliest and preserved perhaps longest in India. The word Panchayat is derived from the word “pancha” literally means assembly (vat) of five (panch) elders of the village, who enjoy a respectable position in the village. They are chosen to be members of assemblies to settle village problems, disputes and so on according to village customs

India’s federal democratic structure has three levels of governance - national or federal, state or regional and the grassroots level called the Panchayati Raj and Nagar Palika systems. Panchayati Raj system covers the village, the tehsil and the district; and the Nagar Palika system serves towns and cities.

Panchayati Raj is a three-tier structure of democratic institutions at district, block and village levels namely, Zila Prishad, Panchayat Samiti and Village Panchayats respectively; is a system of local self government aimed at securing gram-swaraj; is based on the philosophy of decentralization ; enables pail participative governance; is a suitable institutional arrangement for achieving rural development through people’s initiative.

Panchayats as local self government institutions and vehicles of development have been part of the Indian system of governance since ancient times. In ancient India, Panchayati Raj system was in vogue during the Chola period. During the British rule, local self-government was given a statutory base.

In the modem period, Lord Mayo’s Resolution of 1870 initiated a the political and administrative process of decentralization by attempting to enlarge the powers and responsibilities of local self government institutions.

Lord Ripon’s Resolution on local self-government laid the foundation of local self- government in rural India. The 1882 Resolution was important for two reasons

  • it set out general principles for development of local institutions in the future and
  • provided the rationale behind functions of local bodies.

The Ripon Resolution was passed in 1885 as the Bengal Local Self-Government C.EH. Hobhouse, Chairman of the Royal Commission on decentralization (1907), viewed that the local governance should begin at the village level and not district. Montague-Chelmsford Reforms 1919 made local self-governance a part of the ‘transferred subject’ via the newly enacted scheme of Dyarchy. Various provinces passed the village Panchayat Acts particularly in 1919 and thereafter. But, the Panchayats formed under these Acts were not democratic institutions as the government nominated most of their members.

Gandhi and Dr. Ambedkar

Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar differed on the issue of panchayats. Dr. Ambedkar argued in the Constituent Assembly that caste oppression through the hierarchical order would not be weakened by Panchayats. Gandhian members in the Assembly differed with him, predictably. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar however accepted the ideal of Gram Swaraj through Panchayati Raj institutions to be placed in the Constitution of India in Part IV through Directive Principles of State Policy.

Reflecting the long history of Panchayats in India, the framers of the Constitution provided for Village Panchayats under the Directive Principles of the Constitution in Article 40 requiring that “the State shall take steps to organise village panchayats and endow them with such power and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government”.

After Independence (1947), Prime Minister Nehru introduced the Community Development Programme (CDP) on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi (October 2) in 1952. The CDP was followed by the National Extension Service in 1953. NES blocks represented the lowest rung of administration- closest to the people. The two programmes did not succeed as they were controlled by bureaucracy and participative development was not possible. Union Government setup Balwant Rai Mehta Committee in 1957 to review the functioning of the CD and NES Programmes.

CD Programme and Balwant Ral Mehta Committee

Community development programme was introduced in 1952 in India. Under community development, people of a community organize themselves for planning and action; define their individual needs and solve their problems; execute their plans with a maximum reliance upon community resources and supplement these resources, when necessary with services and material from Governmental and non-Governmental agencies outside the community. CD programmes are the essence of decentra1ization which refers to ensuring the participation of people at the lowest level in self-governance and socioeconomic development. It is an example of all around and multi-level democratization of governance.

Balwantrai Mehta Committee (1957) was set up to review the working of the CD programme. It observed that lack of - people’s participation stands at the root of the failure of the CD programme.

The Committee suggested that a ‘set of institutional arrangements’ was required not only to secure people’s participation but also to make it effective and meaningful. It suggested ‘democratic decentralization’ and village reconstruction through the introduction of a three tier system of panchayats. The committee felt that democratic government composed of controlled and directed by popular representation of the local areas is necessary the local level. The Report strongly recommended that training requirements of Pachayat personnel should be given high priority.

As per the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee recommendations, Panchayati Raj was launched on 2’ October 1959 in Nagaur district of Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and many state governments followed Rajasthan.

Due to the interest generated by the panchayati raj institutions several states set up committees to assess their working and to recommend measures for improvement. The states and committees were:

Andhra Pradesh

Pumushottain Pai Committee, 1964 Raachandra Reddy Committee, 1965 Narasirnhan Committee, 1972


Basappa Committee, 1963


Naik Committee 1961 Bongiwar Committee, 1963


Mathur Committee 1963 Sadiq All Committee 1964 G.L.Vyas Committee 1973

Uttar Pradesh

Govind Sahai Committee 1959 Murti Committee, 1965.

However, by the mid-sixties, Panchyati Raj Insitutions (PRIs) lost steam as they fell victim to a growing tendency of centralization. One reason for the weakness of the local sell government institutions was that state governments saw them as rivals, rather than complements. Hence, Panchayats were not empowered with adequate functions and finances. These bodies were frequently superseded for long periods by state governments. But the need for the PRIs as a mechanism for democratic self-government and provider of services to local communities and as is undeniable and universally accepted. As the developmental interventions of the Government increased, the urgency to reform the PRIs and strengthen them was felt equally.

Therefore, in 1977, the Janata Government set up Ashok Mehta Committee to review and report on the PR1s. It suggested change in the Balwant Rai Mehta pattern of PRIs. The three- tier system of PRIs was to be replaced by a two- tier i.e. Zilla Parishad at the district level and Mandal Panchayat (consisting of a number of villages) below it; five year term should not be cut short; district should be the first point of decentralization; political parties should be allowed to participate as they are ubiquitous; social audit should be provided for; compulsory powers of taxation for the panchayats so that they become truly autonomous creation of Nyaya Panchayats; reservation for SC/STs; state minister for panchayats; significant role for the NGOs; training for the elected representatives;

The panchayti raj institutions, which came into being in certain states after the Ashok Mehta Committee’s recommendations, could be considered the second generation Panchayats. The second generation Panchayats raj institutions can be said to have started when the west Bengal Govt. took the imitative in 1978 to give a new life to it’s Panchayats on the lines of the Ashok Mehta Committee’s recommendations, west Bengal, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir either revised their existing panchayat raj acts or passed new acts based on Ashok Mehta Committee report. These states adopted the recommendations to suit their conditions

Dantwala Committee (1978)

The Working Group on Block level Planning headed by Prof. M.L. Dantwala submitted a report in 1978. It identified the remoteness of planning agencies, at the District Level from the grassroots as the major weakness of local area planning. Dantwala committee made the recommendation that Block level planning, (the same area which was covered by Community Development Blocks) should be the appropriate sub-state planning level for proper appreciation of the felt needs of the people.

The Hanumantha Rao Committee (1984)

The Hanumantha Rao Committee (1984) on District Planning has enumerated the following factors for peoples participation at local level:

  • To take note of the felt needs of population;
  • To mobilise local resources for plan implementation;
  • To decrease the level of conflict during the planning the implementation stages;
  • To increase the speed of implementation by securing the co-operation of the people;

G. V. K. Rao Committee (1985)

Committee to review the Existing Administration Arrangements for Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation Programmes. G.V.K. Rao Committee- was set up by the Planning Commission in 1985. It recommended for the revival of Panchayati Raj institutions and highlighted the need to transfer powers to democratic bodies at the local level. The two important suggestions that this committee made were:

  • That the ‘district’ should be the basic unit of planning and programme implementation and
  • Zilla Parishad could, therefore, become the principal body for the management of all development programmes which can be handled at that level.

L. M. Singhvi Committee (1986)

The Government of India set up in 1986 L.M. Singhvi Committee to prepare a concept paper on the revitalisation of the Panchayati Raj institutions. It recommended that the Panchayati Raj should be constitutionally recognised, protected and preserved, by the inclusion of a new chapter in the Constitution. It also suggested a constitutional provision to ensure regular, free and fair elections for Panchayati Raj institutions. Accepting these recommendations, the Union Government headed by late Rajiv Gandhi brought in the Constitution 64th amendment Bill which was passed by the Lok Sabha in 1989: It could not be enacted as it was not approved by the Rajya Sabha.

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