The Gist of Kurukshetra: April 2014

The Gist of Kurukshetra: April 2014

Panchayati Raj – Three Tier System in India

The Panchayati Raj is a South Asian Political system mainly in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. The world “Panchayat” literally means “assembly” of five wise and respected elders chosen and accepted by the local community.

Panchayati Raj is a system of governance in which gram Panchayats are the basic units of administration. Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayati Raj, a decentralized form of government. It is the oldest system of local government in the Indian sub continent. This system was adopted by state governments during the 1950s and 60s as laws were passed to establish Panchayats in various states. It also found backing in Indian constitution with the 73rd Amendment 1992 to accommodate the idea. In the history of Panchayati Raj in India, on 24th April, 1993, the constitution (73rd Amendment) Act 1992 came into force to provide constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj institutions.

The Three-Tier System of Panchayati Raj in India

The states of Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Sikkim have two-tier Panchayats – one at the village level and the second at the zila or District level. In all other states Panchayati Raj is a three-tier system-village as first level, block or janapad as second level and zila or district as the third level.

Village Level

Village is the basic unit of Panchayati Raj Institutions. It is generally a revenue unit. The unit of local government here is called village Panchayat. In the structure of the Panchayati Raj, the village Panchayat is the lowest unit. The Panchayat chiefly consists of representatives elected by the people of the village.

Only the persons who are registered as voters and do not hold any office of profit under the government are eligible for election to the Panchayat. The persons convicted by the court for criminal offences are disqualified from election of the Panchayat.

There is also provision for co-option of two women and one member of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, if they do not get adequate representation in the normal course.

The Panchayat as a body is accountable to the general body of the village known as Gram Sabha which meets at least twice a year. The Gram Panchayat must present its budget, accounts of the previous year and annual administrative report before the Gram Sabha. Furthermore, it has to secure the latter’s approval of the village production plan, proposals for taxation and development programmes before they are enforced by the Panchayat.

Every Panchayat elects a president or Sarpanch and a Vice-President or Up-Sarpanch. The Sarpanch occupies a pivotal position in gram Panchayat system. He supervises and coordinates the various activities of the Panchayat. The Panchayat secretary and the village level worker are the two officers at the Panchayat level to assist the Sarpanch in administration


1. Mandatory Function: Sanitation, conservancy and drainage, prevention of public nuisances, drinking water, construction and maintenance of village roads, public buildings, registration of births and deaths, maintenance of cremation and burial grounds, rural electrification, poverty alleviation programme, preparation of annual budget and development plans, construction and maintenance of cattle sheds, ponds etc. social farm forestry, fuel and fodder, slaughter focuses, public parks and playgrounds, agriculture, poultry and fisheries etc.

2. Discretionary Functions: Agriculture, animal husbandry and dairy development, minor irrigation, small scale industries, housing, electricity and non-conventional energy, rural development programmes, education cultural affairs and heritage, public health etc.

Source of Revenue

A gram Panchayat fund has been created on the pattern of consolidated fund of the state. All money received by the Gram Panchayat like contribution of grants made by the State Government, Union Government, Zila Parishad and all sums received by the Panchayat in the form of taxes, rates, duties, fees, loans, fines and penalties, compensation, court decree, sale proceeds and income from Panchayat etc. go into that fund. Village Panchayats have been empowered to levy taxes of fees on subjects like houses and buildings, professions, trades, callings and employments, fees on registration of vehicles, fairs and meals, sanitary arrangement, water, tax, lighting tax, tax on sale of firewood.

Block Level

Block or Union is the second or intermediate level of local self government in rural India. It has been named differently in different states. In Andhra Pradesh, it is known as Mandal Parishad, in Assam, it is known as Anchalik Panchayat, in Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab and Rajasthan t is known as Panchayat Samiti ad so on.

Usually, a Panchayat Samiti consists of 20 to 60 villages depending on area and population. The Panchayat Samiti generally consists of the following:

1. About twenty members elected by and from the Panches of all the Panchayats falling in the block area.
2. Two women members and one member each from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to be co-opted.
3. Two local persons possessing experience of public administration, which may be beneficial for the rural development.
4. Representatives of the co-operatives working within the jurisdiction of the block.
5. One representative elected by and form the members of each small municipality lying within the geographical limits of a block.
6. The members of the State and Union legislatures representing the area are to be taken as associate members.

The President of the Panchayat Samiti is the Pradhan, who is elected by an electoral college consists of all members of the Panchayat Samiti and all the Panchas of the Gram Panchayat falling within the panchas areas.

Besides the Pradhan, the Up-pradhan is also elected. The Pradhan convenes and presides over the Panchayats in making plans and carrying out production programmes. He ensures the implementation of the decision and resolutions of the Samiti and its standing committees. He exercises administrative control over the Vikas Adhikari (BDO) and his staff. He is a member of the Zila Parishad by virtue of his office as a Pradhan. He is the ex-officio chairman of the standing committees of the Samiti.

As the Chief Executive Officer of the Panchayat Samiti, the Block Development Officer is entrusted with the responsibility for implementing the resolutions of the Samiti and its Standing Committees. He prepares the budget of the Samiti and places it before the Samiti for approval. Preparing the annual report of the Samiti and sending it to the Zila Parishad and State Government also comes within the purview of his responsibility. He is accountable to the president of the Samiti for his action.

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