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Panchayati Raj System towards Changing Rural India

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  • Published
    27th Jan, 2021
  • Panchayati Raj System has existed since ancient times in India. Villages used to have Panchayat (council of persons) who would have both executive and judicial powers and authority to certain disputes in the village. The institution of Panchayat used to represent not only collective will, but also the collective wisdom of the entire rural community.
  • The term ‘Gram Swaraj’ (village self-governance) was the vision of Gandhi ji. Recognising the importance of panchayats, the constitution makers included provision of Panchayat in part IV (Directive Principles of State Policy) of the Indian Constitution.
  • The formal organisation and structure of Panchayati Raj was firstly recommended by Balwant Rai committee (1957). It recommended the establishment of the scheme of ‘democratic decentralisation’ which ultimately came to be known as Panchayati Raj. It recommended a three-tier system at village, block and district level and it also recommended direct election of village level panchayat. On October 2, 1959, Rajasthan (Nagaur district) became the first state to introduce the panchayat system in India.
  • The Panchayati Raj Institutions were constitutionalised by the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992.

Key elements of 73rd Amendment Act of 1992

  • The Article 243G of the Constitution intended to empower the Gram Panchayats (GPs) by enabling the State Governments to devolve powers and authority in respect of all 29 Subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule for local planning and i implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice.

Organisation of Gram Sabhas

  • Creation of a three-tier Panchayati Raj Structure at the District (Vila), Block and Village levels.
  • Minimum age for contesting elections to the PRIs is 21 years.
  • Provision for reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Panchayats, in proportion to their population, and for women in Panchayats up to one-third seats.
  • State Election Commission to be set up in each State to conduct elections to PRIs.
  • The tenure of PRIs is five years, if dissolved earlier, fresh elections to be held within six months.
  • Creation of a State Finance Commission in each state every five years.

Composition of Panchayats

  • PRIs were established as a three-tier structure based on direct elections at all the three tiers -village (gram panchayat), intermediate (panchayat samiti) and district (ZilaParishad).
  • The functions which could be devolved to PRIs include preparing plans for economic development and social justice.

Three-tier Structure of Panchayati Raj

Gram Panchayat

  • The civic functions relating to sanitation, cleaning of public roads, minor irrigation, public toilets and lavatories, primary health care, vaccination, the supply of drinking water, constructing public wells, rural electrification, social health and primary and adult education, etc. are obligatory functions of village panchayats.
  • Functions like preparation of annual development plan of panchayat area, annual budget, relief in natural calamities, removal of encroachment on public lands and implementation and monitoring of poverty alleviation programmes were expected to be performed by panchayats.

Panchayat Samiti

  • It provides a link between Gram Panchayat and ZilaParishad.
  • In Panchayat Samiti, some members are directly elected. Sarpanchs of Gram Panchayats are ex-officio members of Panchayat Samiti.


  • Chairpersons of Panchayat Samitis are ex-officio members of ZilaParishads.
  • Members of Parliament, Legislative Assemblies and Councils belonging to the districts are also nominated members of ZilaParishads.
  • It prepares district plans and integrates Samiti plans into district plans for submission to the State Government.

Devolution of Funds, Function and Functionaries to PRIs

  • Devolution has two main aspects: the operational core that includes funds, function, functionaries, and the support system that includes capacity building of PRIs, operationalising constitutional mechanisms and introducing systems of transparency and accountability.
  • Another critical aspect of legislation following the 73rd amendment was insertion of a clause under the article 280 (3) (bb) of the constitution that the Union Finance Commission would recommend measures to supplementing the resources of the Panchayats in the state on the basis of the recommendation of Finance Commission of the State.

Rising Financial Devolution to PRIs

  • For the period FY 2020-21, the Fifteenth Finance Commission has awarded a grant of Rs. 60,750 crores, for Rural Local Bodies (RLBs) in 28 states which has been the highest annual Finance Commission allocation for the RLBs so far.


  • On April, 24 (National Panchayati Raj Day), 2020, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi had launched a unified e-GramSwaraj Portal and mobile application.
  • The e-GramSwaraj helps prepare and execute Gram Panchayat Development Plans. The portal will ensure real the monitoring and accountability. The portal is a major step towards digitization down to the Gram Panchayat level.
  • TheSwamitya scheme which is launched in pilot mode in six states helps to map rural inhabited lands using drones and latest survey methods. The scheme will ensure streamlined planning, revenue collection and provide clarity over property rights in rural areas.

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