Panchayati raj in India

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Panchayati Raj (Council of five officials) is the system of local self-government of villages in rural India[1] as opposed to urban and suburban municipalities.

Muhamma Panchayat office, Kerala

It consists of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) through which the self-government of villages is realized.[2] They are tasked with "economic development, strengthening social justice and implementation of Central and State Government Schemes including those 29 subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule."[2]

Part IX of the Indian Constitution is the section of the Constitution relating to the Panchayats.[3][4] It stipulates that in states or Union Territories with more than two million inhabitants there are three levels of PRIs:

In states or Union Territories with less than two million inhabitants there are only two levels of PRIs. The Gram Sabha consists of all registered voters living in the area of a Gram Panchayat and is the organization through which village inhabitants participate directly in local government. Elections for the members of the Panchayats at all levels take place every five years. The Panchayats must include members of Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the same proportion as in the general population. One third of all seats and chairperson posts must be reserved for women, in some states half of all seats and chairperson posts.[2]

The modern Panchayati Raj system was introduced in India by the 73rd constitutional amendment in 1993, although it is based upon the historical Panchayati raj system of the Indian subcontinent and is also present in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.[citation needed] Following a proposal submitted in 1986 by the LM Singhvi Committee[5] to make certain changes to the Panchayati raj institutions, which had already existed in early Indian history and which had been reintroduced, not very successfully, in the 20th century,[citation needed] the modern Panchayati raj system was formalized and introduced in India in April 1993 as the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution,[citation needed] following a study conducted by a number of Indian committees on various ways of implementing a more decentralized administration. The modern Panchayati Raj and its Gram Panchayats are not to be confused with the extra-constitutional Khap Panchayats found in parts of western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

In India, the Panchayati Raj now functions as a system of governance in which gram panchayats are the basic units of local administration. The system has three levels: Gram Panchayat (village level), Mandal Parishad or Block Samiti or Panchayat Samiti (block level), and Zila Parishad (district level). Currently, the Panchayati Raj system exists in all states except Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, and in all Union Territories except Delhi.

The Panchayats receive funds from three sources:

  • Local body grants, as recommended by the Central Finance Commission
  • Funds for implementation of centrally sponsored schemes
  • Funds released by the state governments on the recommendations of the State Finance Commissions


Panchayati raj originated in 2nd millennium BCE in India during Vedic times. Since Vedic times, the village (gram) in the country is considered as the basic unit for regional self-administration.[6]

Open Panchayat near Narsingarh, Madhya Pradesh

Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayati Raj as the foundation of India's political system, as a decentralized form of government in which each village would be responsible for its own affairs.[7][8] The term for such a vision was Gram Swaraj ("village self-governance"). Instead, India developed a highly centralized form of government.[9] However, this has been moderated by the delegation of several administrative functions to the local level, empowering elected gram panchayats. There are significant differences between the traditional Panchayati Raj system, that was envisioned by Gandhi, and the system formalized in India in 1992.[10]

The Panchayat Raj system was first adopted by the state of Bihar by the Bihar Panchayat Raj Act of 1947.[11] It was a continued legacy of local self government started by Lord Ripon in the British era. Later it was implemented by Rajasthan in Nagaur district on 2 October 1959. Rajasthan was the first state to introduce the panchayat system in India after independence. During the 1950s and 60s, other state governments adopted this system as laws were passed to establish panchayats in various states. Maharashtra was the ninth state.

The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee, headed by MP Balwantrai Mehta, was a committee appointed by the Government of India in January 1957 to examine the work of the Community Development Programme (1952) and the National Extension Service (1953), to suggest measures to improve their work. The committee's recommendation was implemented by NDC in January 1958, and this set the stage for the launching of Panchayati Raj Institutions throughout the country. The committee recommended the establishment of the scheme of ‘democratic decentralization’, which finally came to be known as Panchayati Raj. This led to the 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.

On 24 April 1993, the Constitutional (73rd amendment) Act of 1992 came into force in India to provide constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj institutions. This amendment was extended to Panchayats in the tribal areas of eight states, namely: Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Rajasthan beginning on 24 December 1996. This amendment contains provisions for the devolution of powers and responsibilities to the panchayats, both for the preparation of economic development plans and social justice, as well as for implementation in relation to 29 subjects listed in the eleventh schedule of the constitution, and the ability to levy and collect appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees.[12] The Act aims to provide a three-tier system of Panchayati Raj for all states having a population of over two million, to hold Panchayat elections regularly every five years, to provide seats reserved for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women, to appoint a State Finance Commission to make recommendations regarding the financial powers of the Panchayats, and to constitute a District Planning Committee.[13]

List of committees constituted for recommendations regarding Panchayati Raj in India:

Balwant Rai Mehta 1957
V.T. Krishnammachari 1960
Takhatmal Jain Study Group 1966
Ashok Mehta Committee 1978
G.V.K. Rao Committee 1985
Dr. L.M. Singhvi Committee 1986
P.K. Thungon Committee 1989
S. Mohinder Singh 2013

Gram panchayat sabhaEdit

The Sarpanch is its elected head. The members of the gram panchayat are elected directly by the voting-age village population for a period of five years.[14]

Sources of incomeEdit

  • Taxes collected locally such as on water, place of pilgrimage, local mandirs (temples), and markets
  • A fixed grant from the State Government in proportion to the land revenue and money for works and schemes assigned to the Parishads
  • Donations

Block level panchayat or Panchayat SamitiEdit

Elected panchayat president in kottayam[15].

Just as the tehsil goes by other names in various parts of India, notably mandal and taluka, there are a number of variations in nomenclature for the block panchayat. For example, it is known as Mandal Praja Parishad in Andhra Pradesh, Taluka Panchayat in Gujarat and Karnataka, and Panchayat Samiti in Maharashtra. In general, the block panchayat has the same form as the gram panchayat but at a higher level.


Membership in the block panchayat is mostly ex-official; it is composed of: all of the Sarpanchas (gram panchayat chairmen) in the Panchayat Samiti area, the MPs and MLAs of the area, the sub-district officer (SDO) of the subdivision, co-opt members (representatives of the SC/ST and women), associate members (a farmer from the area, a representative of the cooperative societies and one from marketing services), and some elected members. However, in Kerala, block panchayat members are directly elected, just like grama panchayat and district panchayat members.

The Panchayat Samiti is elected for a term of five years and is headed by a chairman and a deputy chairman.[1]


The common departments in the Samiti are as follows:

  • General Administration
  • Finance
  • Public Works
  • Agriculture
  • Health
  • Education
  • Social Welfare
  • Information Technology
  • Water Supply Department
  • Animal Husbandry and others

There is an officer for every department. A government-appointed Block Development Officer (BDO) is the executive officer to the Samiti and the chief of its administration, and is responsible for his work to the CEO of ZP.


  • Implementation of schemes for the development of agriculture and infrastructure
  • Establishment of primary health centres and primary schools
  • Supply of clean drinking water, drainage and construction/repair of roads
  • Development of a cottage and small-scale industries, and the opening of cooperative societies
  • Establishment of youth organisations in India

Zila parishadEdit

The governing of the advance system at the district level in Panchayat Raj is also popularly known as Zila Parishad. The chief of administration is an officer of the IAS cadre and chief officer of the Panchayat raj for the district level.


The membership varies from 40 to 60 and usually comprises:

  • Deputy Commissioner of the District
  • Presidents of all Panchayat Samitis in the district
  • Heads of all Government Departments in the district
  • members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assemblies in the district
  • a representative of each cooperative society
  • some women and Scheduled Caste members, if not adequately represented
  • co-opted members having extraordinary experience and achievements in public service.


  • Provide essential services and facilities to the rural population
  • Supply improved seeds to farmers and inform them of new farming techniques
  • Set up and run schools and libraries in rural areas
  • Start primary health centers and hospitals in villages; start vaccination drives against epidemics
  • Execute plans for the development of the scheduled castes and tribes; run ashram for Adivasi children; set up free hostels for them.
  • Encourage entrepreneurs to start small-scale industries and implement rural employment schemes.
  • Construct bridges, roads and other public facilities and their maintenance
  • Provide employment.
  • Works on Sanitation related issues

The System in PracticeEdit

The Panchayats, throughout the years, have relied on federal and state grants to sustain themselves economically. The absence of mandatory elections for the Panchayat council and infrequent meetings of the Sarpanch have decreased the spread of information to villagers, leading to more state regulation.[16] Many Panchayats have been successful in achieving their goals, through cooperation between different bodies and the political mobilization of previously underrepresented groups in India. There is an obstacle of literacy that many Panchayats face for engagement of villagers, with most development schemes being on paper. However, homes linked to the Panchayati Raj System have seen an increase in participation for local matters.[17] The reservation policy for women on the Panchayat councils have also led to a substantial increase in female participation and have shaped the focus of development to include more domestic household issues.[18]

In popular cultureEdit

In 2020, the Indian series Panchayat premiered.

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Panchayati Raj Institutions in India
  2. ^ a b c d "Basic Statistics of Panchayati Raj Institutions". Ministry of Panchayati Raj. 2019. Archived from the original on 24 April 2020. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  3. ^ Renukadevi Nagshetty (2015). "IV. Structure and Organisational Aspects of Panchayati Raj Institutions in Karnataka and Gulbarga District". Problems and Challenges in the Working of Panchayat Raj Institutions in India. A Case Study of Gulbarga Zilla Panchayat (PhD). Gulbarga University. p. 93. hdl:10603/36516. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 October 2017. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  4. ^ "Record of Proceedings. Writ Petition (Civil) No. 671/2015" (PDF). Website "India Environment Portal" by the Centre for Science and Environment. Supreme Court of India. 2015. p. 3. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 October 2020. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  5. ^ "Diploma in Rural Development. Rural Development Institutions & Entrepreneurship. Block 1: Institutions of Rural Development" (PDF). Odisha State Open University. 2017. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 October 2020. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  6. ^ Panchayati Raj: The Grassroots Dynamics in Arunachal Pradesh, p. 13, APH Publishing, 2008, Pratap Chandra Swain
  7. ^ Sisodia, R. S. (1971). "Gandhiji's Vision of Panchayati Raj". Panchayat Aur Insan. 3 (2): 9–10.
  8. ^ Sharma, Manohar Lal (1987). Gandhi and Democratic Decentralization in India. New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications. OCLC 17678104. Hathi Trust copy, search only
  9. ^ Hardgrave, Robert L. & Kochanek, Stanley A. (2008). India: Government and Politics in a Developing Nation (seventh ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Thomson/Wadsworth. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-495-00749-4.
  10. ^ Singh, Vijandra (2003). "Chapter 5: Panchayate Raj and Gandhi". Panchayati Raj and Village Development: Volume 3, Perspectives on Panchayati Raj Administration. Studies in public administration. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons. pp. 84–90. ISBN 978-81-7625-392-5.
  11. ^
  12. ^ India 2007, p. 696, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India
  13. ^ "Panchayati Raj System in Independent India" (PDF). Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  14. ^ Seetharam, Mukkavilli (1990). Citizen Participation in Rural Development. Mittal Publications. p. 34. ISBN 9788170992271. OCLC 23346237.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Dwivedi, Ritesh; Poddar, Krishna (1 December 2013). "Functioning of Panchayati Raj Institutions in India: A Status Paper". Adhyayan. 3 (2). doi:10.21567/adhyayan.v3i2.10183.
  17. ^ Singhal, Vipin (17 November 2015). "Dynamics of Panchayati Raj Institutions – Problems and Prospects". Rochester, NY. SSRN 2692119. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ Billava, Nnarayan; Nayak, Nayanatara (1 January 2016). "Empowerment of Women Representatives in Panchayat Raj Institutions: A Thematic Review". Journal of Politics and Governance. 5 (4): 5. doi:10.5958/2456-8023.2016.00001.2.


Further readingEdit

  • Mitra, Subrata K.; Singh, V.B. (1999). Democracy and Social Change in India: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the National Electorate. New Delhi: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-81-7036-809-0 (India HB) ISBN 978-0-7619-9344-5 (U.S. HB).
  • Mitra, Subrata K.. (2001). "Making Local Government Work: Local elites, Panchayati raj and governance in India", in Kohli, Atul (ed.). The Success of India's Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-80144-7
  • Mitra, Subrata K.. (2003). "Chapter 17: Politics in India", in Almond, Gabriel A. et al. (eds.), Comparative Politics Today. 8th edition. New York: Addison-Wesley-Longman, pp. 634–684. ISBN 978-0-321-15896-3 (also reprinted in the 9th (2007), 10th (2012) and 11th (2015) editions)
  • Palanithurai, Ganapathi (ed.) (2002–2010) Dynamics of New Panchayati Raj System in India. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. in seven volumes, volume 1 (2002) "Select States" ISBN 978-81-7022-911-7; volume 2 (2002) "Select States" ISBN 978-81-7022-912-4; volume 3 (2004) "Select States" ISBN 978-81-8069-129-4; volume 4 (2004) "Empowering Women" ISBN 978-81-8069-130-0; volume 5 (2005) "Panchayati Raj and Multi-Level Planning" ISBN 978-81-8069-244-4; volume 6 (2008) "Capacity Building" ISBN 978-81-8069-506-3; volume 7 (2010) "Financial Status of Panchayats" ISBN 978-81-8069-672-5.
  • Shourie, Arun (1990). Individuals, Institutions, Processes: How one may strengthen the other in India today. New Delhi, India: Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-83787-8.
  • Sivaramakrishnan, Kallidaikurichi Chidambarakrishnan (2000) Power to the People: The politics and progress of decentralisation. Delhi: Konark Publishers. ISBN 978-81-220-0584-4

External linksEdit