Evolution of Panchayati Raj system

On 2nd October, 1959, Rajasthan became the first State in the country to launch Panchayati Raj Institutions. However, Andhra Pradesh was the first State to launch it on a pilot basis.

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By Author Deepika Reddy   |  Published: 25th Dec 2017  12:12 amUpdated: 23rd Dec 2017  3:55 pm
Panchayati Raj

A strong vibrant local government is a means of political decentralisation. It ensures decision-makers more effective accountability to the governed. Lets us take a look at India’s evolution to a modern Panchayati Raj.

• In the time of the Rig-Vedic Period, self-governing village bodies called ‘sabhas’ existed.

• Village administration was mentioned in Kautilya’s Arthashastra in which he mentioned Gramini – village head.

• Cholas were very famous for their Local Self Government initiatives.

• In ancient times, each village was headed by group of five people called panch which formed basis for PRI’s. The word panchayat is derived from the word panch.

• In 1870 Lord Mayo passed a resolution for implementing LSG in India

• In 1882, Lord Rippon passed a resolution for LSG which is referred to as ‘The magna Carta of Local Self Governance in India’ and Lord Rippon is referred to as the ‘Father of Local Self Governance in India’

• The Royal Commission on Decentralization (1907) under the chairmanship of CEH Hob house recognized the importance of panchayats at the village level. The commission recommended that “it is most desirable, alike in the interests of decentralization and in order to associate the people with the local tasks of administration that an attempt should be made to constitute and develop village panchayats for the administration of local village affairs”.

• The Government of India Act, 1919 placed Local Self Government in the Transferred List.

• The Government of India Act, 1935 placed Local Self Government in the Provincial List.

After independence

1952 – Community Development program was initiated by Ford Foundation, US on recommendations of T Krishnamachari. This program was inaugurated in Rajasthan on an experimental basis and later extended to entire country in form of National Extension Scheme (NES). The main purpose of program was
1. Poverty alleviation
2. Basic education
3. Eradication of unemployment
4. Provision for basic health care

1957 – Balwanth Rai Mehta Committee was appointed by Planning Commission to study Community Development Programme and National Extension Scheme. The Committee submitted its report in November 1957 in which it identified lack of people’s participation as a main cause of failure of both programmes. The committee made the following recommendations:
1. Three- tier structure for PRIs – Zilla Parishad, Mandal Parishad and Gram Panchayat. It was the first committee to propose a three tier structure for PRIs.
2. It proposed indirect elections for Zilla Parishad and Mandal Parishad and direct elections for Gram Panchayat.
3. It recommended transfer of powers and responsibilities to these institutions and transfer of resources to discharge these responsibilities.
4. It recommended that all social-economic development programs must be channelized through these institutions.
5. It recommended tenure of five years.

2nd October, 1959 – Rajasthan became the first State to launch PRI in entire State. AP was the first State to launch PRI on Pilot (experimental) basis. The program on Oct 2nd, 1959 was  inaugurated in Nagaur district of Rajasthan by Nehru

1964 – Sadik Ali Committee was appointed by the Rajasthan Government to study the reasons for failure of PRI’s. The Committee identified following reasons
1. Meetings of Grama Sabha were not announced
2. When meetings were arranged they were not used to discuss people’s problems but were used as a platform to promote government policies and initiatives.
3. Meeting were mostly organised during peak agricultural seasons.
4. No records of Gram Sabha were maintained as a consequence of which there was absolutely no progress.

1973 – GLVyas Committee was appointed by Rajasthan government to suggest measures for improving performance of PRI’s. Recommendations of the committee:
1. Statutory recognition should be given to Gram Sabha.
2. Compulsory attendance of sarpanch in Gram Sabha meetings
3. Meetings to be held in non agricultural seasons
4. Village level workers must attend Gram Sabha meetings and maintain a record of meetings.

December 1977 – Ashok Mehta Committee was appointed by Janatha government to suggest measures for improvement of LSG in India. Recommendations of the Committee
1. It recommended two tiers Structure for PRIs – Zilla Parishad and Mandal Panchayat (5000 to 10,000 people)
2. Open participation of political parties in elections.
3. Social Audit by district level agencies
4. Compulsory taxation to powers.
5. Reservations for SC, ST and women.
6. Separate ministry of PRI’s in state
7. Government shouldn’t supercede PRI’s, if so done, elections must be held within 6 months.

1985 – GVK Rao Committee was appointed by Planning Commission to recommend on Administrative Arrangement for Rural Development. Observations made by the committee are:
1. The developmental process was gradually bureaucratised and divorced from panchayat as a consequence of which PRI’s became Grass without Roots Recommendations of the Committee
2. Office of District Development Officer must be established to supervise developmental activities in the district.
3. Some of the planning functions at state level must be transferred to the district level to give effect to decentralised planning because district is proper unit for planning and development.
4. The status of the office of Block Development officer must be elevated because he is sheet anchor for entire Rural development programme

1986 – LN Singhvi Committee was appointed by Rajiv Gandhi Government on Revitalization of PRI’s for democratic Development (CRPDD). Recommendations of the Committee:
1. Constitutionalization of PRI’s
2. Gram Sabha is an embodiment of direct Democracy therefore it should be made compulsory

Constitutionalization of PRI’s :

1. Rajiv Gandhi Government introduced 64th Constitutional Amendment Bill to provide constitutional status to PRI’s. This bill was approved by Lok Sabha but was defeated in Rajya Sabha.
2. In 1990, the VP Singh government made an attempt for constitutionalization of PRI’s by arranging a national seminar on same. However the government did not survive.
3. In 1992, the PV Narsimha Rao Government introduced the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act which was passed by both housed in December 1992 came into effect from 24th April 1993.

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