It is very essential to have local self-government for the real development of the country because local levels are the real areas where the policies and programs are to be executed and where the government will come to know the problems and issues in the existing policies etc. Therefore, India also brought local government through the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts of the Constitution which includes both - the Panchayats and the Municipalities.
Development of Panchayati Raj Institution
Various committees have been formed to discuss the local governments or the Panchayati Raj system. For example Balwant Rai Mehta Committee and Ashok Mehta Committee of 1957. During the period of P.V. Narsimha Rao, 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act was passed by the Parliament in 1992 along with the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act also which added Part IX, i.e., The Panchayats and Part IX-A, i.e., The Municipalities respectively. Balwant Rai Mehta Committee was managed by the Government of India to look at the working of two of its very earlier programs. The committee submitted its very purposeful report in 1957. The word democratic decentralization first appeared there.
Their important recommendations were: Establishment of a three-tier Panchayati Raj system – i.e., gram panchayat at the village level, Panchayat Samiti at the block level, and Zila Parishad at the district level.
The District Collector had to be the chairman of the Zila Parishad. Transfer of these resources and power to these bodies is to be ensured. The existing National Development Council accepted those recommendations which were made. However, they did not insist on a single and definite pattern which was to be followed in the establishment of these institutions. It allowed the states to devise their own pattern while the broad fundamentals were the same throughout the country. Rajasthan adopted the system first, followed by Andhra Pradesh in the very same year. Some states even went ahead to create four-tier systems with Nyaya panchayats, which served as various judicial bodies. The powers of a panchayat are not exclusively defined. They can be fitted by the state governments according to the environment of the place. In general, the State governments can assign powers to the Panchayats which enables them to prepare plans forthe economic development and social justice. They may also be authorized to levy and collect appropriate taxes.
The G V K Rao Committee was established by the Planning Commission. The committee concluded that the developmental procedures had to be taken away from the local self government institutions, which will result in a system comparable to ‘grass without roots’. Zila Parishad has to be given the prime importance and all developmental programs at that level are to be handed to it. Post of the District Development Commissioner is to be created for acting as the chief executive officer of the Zila Parishad. Regular elections have to be held.
L M Singhvi Committee (1986)
It has been constituted by the Rajiv Gandhi government on the ‘Revitalisation of Panchayati Raj institutions for Democracy and Development’. Its important recommendations are the constitutional recognition for PRI institutions, Nyaya Panchayats had to be established for those for villages. The 64th Constitutional Amendment bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1989. Rajya Sabha opposed it. It was only during the term of Narasimha Rao government that the idea finally became a reality in the form of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment acts in the year 1992.
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Gram Sabha is the largest as well as the primary body of the Panchayati Raj system. It is a permanent body mentioned in Article 243(b) of the Constitution of India. It is a group that is created for the welfare of the village, which consists of people who are voters of that village. There can be one village or more than one village in a Gram Sabha.
The person who fulfills the following conditions can be the part of Gram Sabha:
It includes those persons who are more than 18 years of age and living in the village whose name is also written in the electoral roll of the village panchayat.
Powers and Functions
As per the Indian Constitution, The Gram Sabha exercises its functions and has powers as decided and Provided by the legislature of that state. The various powers and functions of the Gram Sabha are as follows:
Implementation of the development schemes and programs of the village panchayat.
It also identifies the beneficiaries of the various programs and schemes. If they fail to do so, then this task is done by the Gram Panchayat.
It requests support from the people of the village in various welfare schemes and programs in the form of cash or kind or both.
It supports the various mass education and family welfare programs and schemes.
It considers matters relating to levy of taxes or charges, etc., or any other matter referred by the Gram Panchayat.
Hierarchy of Panchayati Raj System
India follows the three-tier structure of the Panchayati Raj in the country, i.e., at the village level, intermediate level, and district level. These are discussed below:
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At the Village Level
At the village level, we have seen that the Gram Sabha is a permanent and primary body, which is headed by the Gram Panchayat. The Gram Panchayat is a temporary body that takes all the village responsibilities.
The whole village is divided into various wards and the representative of each ward is chosen who is called Panch or Ward Member. The head of the Panchayat is called the Sarpanch who is elected by the Gram Sabha. Thus, Gram Panchayat consists of all the Panch and Sarpanch who are elected for a term of 5 years. Besides these, there is one secretary, who is not elected like these members but appointed by the Government and this secretary is also the secretary of Gram Sabha and he calls all the meetings of the Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat and also keeps records of these meetings.
Functions of the Gram Panchayat
The main function of the Gram Panchayat is to implement and execute the various government schemes and programs.
Identifying the beneficiaries of various schemes and programs in case Gram Sabha fails to do so.
Levying and collection of local taxes.
Construction as well as maintenance of the public property in the village-like roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, etc.
At Intermediate Level
At the intermediate level, there is Panchayat Samiti, which is also called Anchalik or Janpad or Block Panchayat. The intermediate level is also called the block level. Here, it is looked after by the Block Development Officer (BDO), who has a number of villages under him. There is no need for an intermediate level in the States having a population of fewer than 20 lakhs as per Article 243B of the Constitution of India.
At District Level
At this level, there is Zila Parishad. All the Block development officers of the state are answerable to the Zila Parishad. All the development plans are made by the Zila Parishad at the District levels with the help of Panchayat Samiti.
As per Article 243 ( C ) ( 2 ) of the Constitution of India, all the seats are filled with direct elections at all levels.
Seats of SCs and STs are reserved as per their proportion of the population.
⅓ seats are reserved for women and ⅓ of all the seats reserved for SCs and STs are also reserved for women.
Difference Between Gram Sabha and Gram Panchayat
The difference between the two bodies are given below:
Here, In this article, we have talked about the Panchayats. We have learnt about the development of Panchayati Raj, the Gram Panchayat system, functions of Panchayat, how village panchayat works, the Gram Panchayat definition, the difference between Gram Sabha and Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti, Zila Parishad, and other related things. We hope these notes will help you to understand the basic unit of democracy as well as the functioning of all these bodies. Understanding how the Legislative and the Executive bodies work at the local levels can be fun but also help you know the system better and use it in real life as well.