He stood there by the road after three long decades overlooking the land which he once called his evergreen village of Ago. Then, it was a haven of peace, now,….
Adr: Village Panchayat in India
INTRODUCTION The present village Panchayat is a kind of local self-Government. The system has three objects. One is to make the villagers better habituated with the exercise of franchise. The second is to relieve the Government from the details of the local affairs. The third is to let the people manage their own affairs. The Panchayat system has been integral part of the Indian village system through ages. A village is self contained microcosm, a composite peasant society representing different communities and cultural hues.
It does not have irritant elements but represent an integrated culture, free to a greater extent from the penetrations of urban cultural patterns into the village life. The importance of village with its head man, called Gramani, could be traced to Rig Vedic times and this head man figures in later Vedic literature as one of the jewels or Ratnas of the administration. The Decimal system of classifications of village into units of 10, 20 or 100 or 1000 is well known. According to Vinaya, heads of the villages (Gramikas) are stated to be meeting in an assembly of their own.
Narada supervised the appointment of five officials in each village. The state took full responsibility of rural development, particularly by constructing roads, setting up of markets etc. There were also references to village elders — Gamma- vriddhas and Grama mahattaras – the prominent persons in the village being associated with village administration. An account of the Panchayat system comparing five persons (official and non official) in districts as well as in sub divisions is afforded by the inscriptions of the Gupta period.
At the districtlevels, the Vishayapati or its head had a non official advisory council representing different interest in the locality. These included the Nagara- sresthin- the chief banker representing the commercial interests; the Sarthavaha or carvan – the chief of the leader of the trading community; the Prathama kulika – the chief of the head of the families or the community head; and the Prathama kayastha – the chief scribe or the official administrator. The assistance of the council was sought in matters of alienation of lands and other allied matters of the community interest.
At the subdivision (Vithi) and village level, there was a council of non officials consisting of the Vithi- mahaattaras and the kutumbins, representing the elders and agricultural house holds, respectively. The kulikas represented the non official elements in an advisory capacity. At the village level, the Gramika or the head man and his council settled land disputes by fixing boundaries and they also mentioned law and order. His advisory council constitutes the mahattaras – the village elders and the Astha – kuladhikarans – the eight head of the families and other leading men of experience and status.
The village elders in southern India were known as Mahajans and they regulated the socio-economic life of the village and assisted equally in administration. The Panchayat system was prevalent in the urban context as well. The local body was called Uttarasabha, Goshthi, Panchakula and a board of Sauvayika. The Panchakula signified a body of five persons who were appointed by provincial head. They deliberated in the town hall called Mandapika. The committee looked after proper realization of grant and rent from the endowed property.
On May 15, 1989, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi introduced a constitutional amendment bill in Lok Sabha. This was introduced to make Panchayat Raj in India a truly representative and effective system. The bill could not become law as it was not passed by Rajya Sabha. The bill was again introduced in the new parliament by Narasimha Rao government. This bill, the seventy third amendment act, 1992, passed by parliament, was bought into effect on April 24, 1993. Madhya Pradesh was the first state in the country to comply with the spirit and letter of the act. Presently, there are 2. 0 lakhs village Panchayats, 5500 Samities and 375 zila parishads. These institutions have been granted statutory authority in many states for raising funds through taxation, cess, land and fairs. The 11th Five Year Plan has ambitious plans for Panchayati system reforms. These bodies will take into account local aspirations, resources and would recommend programmes and methodologies to match them. The concept of Panchayati Raj is nothing new. It was the dream of Gandhi, the father of the nation, its need was stressed by Pandit Nehru, and it was repeatedly and forcefully advocated by Late Shri Jai Prakash Narayan.
But, unfortunately, for various reasons, not much headway could be made for the realization of this ideal. Ever since Late Shri Rajiv Gandhi came to the helm of affairs in the country he repeatedly stressed the importance of Panchayati Raj. He formed his views on the subject by under-taking whirlwind tours of rural India to familiarize himself with the realities of rural life, by holding frequent workshops of District magistrates all over the country, and thus assessing their views and understanding their difficulties.
As a result of this interaction with the people and the administrators, his views on Panchayati Raj gradually evolved, his thoughts ware clarified and he could from his own plan of Panchayati Raj and place it before the parliament with perfect self-confidence and case. He also sought to give it constitutional sanction by proposing to add a fresh chapter to the Indian constitution in the form of the 64thamendment, through the Bill which he moved in the parliament on the 15th of May, 1989.
As a result of his clarity of thought and powerful advocacy, the bill was passed with near unanimity, with only five M. P. ’s voting against it. Late Shri Gandhi forcefully and clearly unfolded the concept of Panchayati Raj, the urgent need of constitutional sanction for it, and the salient features of his scheme for making it a reality. He pointed out that Panchayati Raj means taking democracy to the gross roots, it means transfer of power, in the real sense of the word, to the people living even in remote villages and bringing even the weakest sections of society into the national mainstream.
He told the honorable members of parliament that, “Democracy was the greatest gift of our freedom struggle to the people of India. Independence made the nation free. Democracy made our people free. A free people are a people who are governed by their will and ruled with their consent. A free people are a people who participate in decisions affecting their lives and their destinies”. Gandhiji believed that democratic freedoms have to be founded in institutions of self-government in every village of India. He drew his inspiration and his vision from the Panchayats, the traditional ‘village republics’ of India.
Panditji established the institution of Panchayati Raj as the primary instrument for bringing development to the doorstep of rural India. Indiraji stressed the need for the people’s participation in the processes of economic and social transformation. ” Yet, there can be no denying the fact that in most parts of the country, elections to the Panchayats have been irregular. The Bill seeks to put an end to such delays and difficulties. The essence of democracy is elections. But elections to Panchayati Raj institutions have been most irregular and uncertain.
A mandatory provision in the constitution is therefore necessary. A statutory provision in the state law does not quite have the same sanctity. The Bill provides for regular periodic elections of Panchayati Raj institutions. In the absence of any compelling provision to reconstitute Panchayats within a reasonable period of time, by democratic elections, suspended Panchayats have remained suspended for years and dissolved Panchayats have remained dissolved for up to a decade or even more. Their existence has depended less on the mandate of the people then on the whim of state Governments.
The bill leaves it to the state to determine the grounds and conditions on which Panchayats may be suspended or dissolved. The state Legislatures are to specify the grounds on which the Governor may suspend or dissolve a Panchayat. That is a matter for the Governor, acting in accordance with the constitution on the advice of the state Government. But dissolved Panchayats must be reconstituted within a reasonable period of time. It is the people who will determine, within a matter of months, the shape of the reconstituted Panchayat.
The Bill will ensure that Panchayati Raj has a democratic character similar to the Lok Sabha and the state Assemblies and Constitutional protection for their functioning as representative institutions of the people. “The single greatest event in the evolution of democracy in India was the enactment of the Constitution which established democracy in Parliament and in the state Legislature. The historic, revolutionary Panchayati Raj Bill takes the place alongside that great event as the enshrinement in the constitution of democracy at the grassroots”.
Once democracy is accorded to the Panchayats the same sanctity as is enjoyed by parliament and the state Legislature, the doors will be opened for the participation in democratic institution to about seven lakh elected representatives. In this way the power-broker, the middlemen, the vested interests will be eliminated. For the minutest municipal function the people have to run around finding persons with the right connections who would intercede for them with the distant source of power.
The system has been captured by the power-brokers who have established their vice-like grip on it, only because democracy has not functioned at the grass-roots. Once the people have their own elected representatives from electorates as small as a hundred persons, the source of power will lie only as far away as the Panchayat Ghar, not in some distant state capital or even the more distant capital of the country. There will be direct elections to Panchayats at all levels. Every voter will have his own representative in the Gram Panchayat, the mid-level Panchayat. The representative will be responsible to small and recognized electorate. It hey fulfill the mandate of the people the re-elected; otherwise the people will throw them out of office, power of the vote. In establishing the institutions of democracy in Parliament and in the state Legislature, our founding fathers gave particular recognition to the disabilities suffered by the Scheduled Castes and tribes. Provision was made for the reservation of seats for the total electorate. This is a principle which has not been incorporated in most of the Panchayati Raj legislations enacted by the state Legislatures. The democratic rights of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes cannot be secured by good intentions alone.
It has to be secured in the first instance, by reservation in Panchayati Raj Institutions on the same basis as reservations are given in the Lok Sabha and the state Assemblies. The Bill makes it mandatory for the state legislatures to ensure reservation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their population in the relevant Panchayat area. Also, there will be reservations in Panchayats at all levels of 30% of the seats for women. The presence of women in large numbers in the Panchayats will not only make the Panchayats more representative but will also make them more efficient, honest, disciplined and responsible.
It is the strength of moral character which women will bring to the Panchayats. The Panchayats will have the power and authority to draw of plans within the framework of guidelines and conditions to be laid draw by the state Government. These plans will constitute the basic inputs for the planning process of higher levels. This will ensure that the voice of the people, their needs, their aspirations, their priorities become the building blocks of the edifice of planning. The second major responsibility of the Panchayats will be the implementation of development schemes assigned to them by the state Governments.
These schemes should cover the major economic concerns of rural India, commencing with agriculture and land improvement and going on to irrigation. They must comprise the diversification of the rural economy into animal husbandry, dairying, poultry and fisheries. They must incorporate industrial activity in rural India. They must look to the day-to-day concerns of rural India, housing, drinking water, fuel and fodder. The panchayats will also have the major responsibility for the administration of poverty-alleviation programmes.
They would have to look to the education and culture, to health and family welfare, and to women and child development. Social welfare programmes for the weaker and handicapped sections would be the responsibility of the Panchayats. It is also proposed to give to the Panchayats the responsibility for the public distribution system which is so crucial to the survival of the weakest and the poorest, as also to the general health of the rural economy. In this way development will be taken to the grassroots in rural India.
The same concern must be extended to the growing urban and semi-urban population of the country. To this end, a new chapter has been added to the constitution. Urban Municipalities and corporations have been brought within the two major questions have been raised repeatedly. Most reservations become a parliament feature of the Indian economic, educational and political scene? Must social disability, with the attached stigma of being a Harijan and hence being disallowed to enter the places of worship etc. continue for all times, privileges as their counterpart in the rural areas?
Efforts have also been made to recast revamp and rejuvenate the cooperative movement, which Pundit Nehru always regarded as the essential compliment to Panchayati Raj. Our democracy has reached the stage where the full participation of the people brooks no further delay. Those who decry Panchayati Raj as an election stunt are only those whose feudal interest will be overthrown by the power reaching the people. The late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said, “We trust the people. We have faith in the people. It is the people who must determine their own destinies and the destiny of the nation.
To the people of India let us ensure maximum democracy and maximum devolution of power. Let there be an end to the power-brokers. Let us give power to the people. Salient features enumerated were: 1. Panchayats shall be constituted in every state at the village, intermediate and districtslevels. At intermediate level population should exceed 20 lakhs. 2. All the seats in a Panchayat shall be filled by persons chosen directly through the elections from the territorial constituencies in the Panchayat area. 3.
The legislature of state may, by law, provide for the representation of chairpersons of the Panchayats at various levels – district, intermediate and village. The chairpersons may or may not be chosen directly from election from territorial constituencies. They shall haveright to vote in Panchayat meetings. 4. There shall be proportionate representation according to the total population of Panchayat area reserved for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. One- third of the total number of seats shall be preserved for women. The office of the chairperson shall also be likewise be reserved. . Term of each Panchayat shall be 5 years unless it is dissolved earlier. This will apply to Panchayats constituted before the 73rd amendment act. 6. The legislature of a state may, by law, endow the Panchayats with the power to prepare plans for economic development and authorize them to levy, collect appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees and the power to provide for grants-in-aid from the consolidated fund of the state. 7. The governor of a state, after every 5 years, will constitute a finance commission to review and audit the financial position of the Panchayats.
He will also determine the principles for the distribution of the net proceeds of the taxes and tolls between the state and the Panchayats and will measure for the improvements of the financial positions of the Panchayats. 8. The governor shall appoint a state election commissioner whose tenure and service conditions will be decided by the state legislature. The state election commissioner will be responsible for the preparation of the electoral rolls and for the conduct of all elections. 9. The provisions mentioned above shall apply to union territories as well.
The administrators shall be empowered in the same manner as the governors of the state. 10. None of the afore-mentioned provisions would be applicable to scheduled and tribal areas, to the hills area of Manipur, to the states of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram, to the district of Darjeeling in west Bengal to the Darjeeling Gorkha hill council. 11. Finally, the 73rd Amendment Act provides for the addition of Eleventh schedule – Article 243 G. This includes 29 areas like agriculture, land improvement, minor irrigation, animal husbandry, women and child development etc. OLD SYSTEM OF THE VILLAGE PANCHAYAT AND ITS DECAY
In the pretty old time there were village Panchayats in India. They were very powerful organizations. They were virtually ruling over the village according to the customary laws. During the Mughal period the village Panchayats remained unaffected. Because the Mughal Emperors and the Mughal Chiefs were satisfied with the collection of revenue and taxes. They did not trouble about the local administration. But during the British period the Indian village Panchayats were completely inactive and runied. Because the British administration was very strong and was penetrating into every nook and corner of the country.
The British Government founded the system of union-president to know the view of the public. But the union presidents played into the hands of the thana officers. Hence the old panchayat system was completely ruined. Panchayati Raj in Pre British Period. The word panchayat is derived from the word pancha panchasvanusthitah, has references in to the existence of Grama Sanghas or rural communities. The institution of Panchayati Raj is as old as Indian civilization itself. It was in existence since ancient periods, having an effective control over civil and judicial matters in the village community.
The Rigveda, Manusamhita, Dharmashastras, Upanishads, Jatakas and others, refer extensively to local administration, i. e. the panchayat system of administration. In the Manusmriti and Shantiparva of Mahabharata, there are many references to the existence of Grama Sanghas or village councils. The earliest reference to panchayat is derived from the word Pancha, that refers to an institution of the five (pancha panchasvanusthitah) is found in the Shanti-Parva of Mahabaratha, pancha and panchavanustitah are semantically close to panchayat.
A description of these village councils are also found in Arthashastra of Kautilya who lived in 400 B. C. Arthashstra gives a comprehensive account of the system of village administration prevailing in his time. During this period, the village administration was carried under the supervision and control of Adyaksha or headman. There were other officials such as Samkhyaka [accountant], Anikitsaka [veterinary doctor], Jamgh karmika [village couriers], Chikitsaka [physitian]. The village headman was responsible for ensuring the collection of state dues and controlling the activities of the offenders.
In Ramayana of Valmiki, there are references to the Ganapada (village federation) which was perhaps a kind of federation of village republics. Self-governing village communities characterized by agrarian economies existed in India from the earliest times. It is mentioned in Rigveda that dates from approximately 200 B. C. The village was the basic unit of administration in the Vedic period. The most remarkable feature of the early Vedic polity consisted in the institution of popular assemblies of which two namely ‘Sabha’, and the ‘Samiti’ deserve special mention. A Samiti was the Vedic Folk Assembly that in some cases njoyed the right of electing a king while the Sabha exercised some judicial functions. Both the Samiti and Sabha enjoyed the rights to debate, a privilege unknown to the popular assemblies of other ancient people. The office of the village head man (Gramani) indicates the emergence of the village as a unit of administration. In the later Vedic period, the Samiti disappeared as a popular assembly while the Sabha sank into a narrow body corresponding to the kings Privy Council. In the course of time, village bodies took the form of panchayats that looked into the affairs of the village.
They had the powers to enforce law and order. Customs and religion elevated them to the sacred position of authority. Besides this there was also the existence of caste panchayats. This was the pattern in Indo Gangetic plains. In the south, the village panchayats generally had a village assembly whose executive body consisted of representatives of various groups and castes. These village bodies, both in the north and south India, had been the pivot of administration, the centre of social life and above all a focus of social solidarity. In the Mouryan period, the village was the basic unit of administration.
Villagers used to organize works of public utility and recreation, settle disputes, and act as trustees for the property of minors. But, they had not yet evolved regular councils. The village council appeared to have evolved into regular bodies in the Gupta period. They were known as Panchamandalas in central India and Gramajanapadas in Bihar. These bodies negotiated with the government for concessions and settlement of disputes. The inscription of Chola dynasty shows the construction and functions of the village assembly and their executive committees.
The village administrations were performed by the elected representatives forming village council. During the medieval and Moghal periods, village bodies were the pivot of administration. In the Moghal period, particularly in the regime of Sher Shah, the villages were governed by their own panchyats. Each panchayat comprised of village elders who looked after the interest of the people and administered justice and imposed punishment on defaulters. The head man of the village, a semi government official, acted as a coordinator between the village panchayat and the higher administrative hierarchy.
Akbar accepted this system and made it an indispensable part of civil administration. In this period, each village had its own panchayat of elders. It was autonomous in its own sphere and exercised powers of local taxation, administrative control, justice and punishment. The Moghals introduced elaborate administrative machinery with a hierarchy of officials, particularly in the field of revenue. The Moghal local administrative system lasted over centuries. It was with the collapse of the Moghal strong hold, the British established their hegemony in India. British Period
The British came to India as traders, and before long established an inroad into the cultural nexuses of the land. The primary focus of the British Raj was much to do with trade and little to do with governance and development. The local governments were hardly their first priority. In fact till the advent of the British rule in India, the rural republic had flourished and thrived. With the emergence of the British Raj in India, panchayats ceased to play a role that it once played. But, local self government as a representative institution was the creation of the British.
In the initial days, the interest of the British was limited to the creation of local bodies with nominated members. These bodies were built around trading centers. Thus in the year 1687, a municipal corporation came to be formed in Madras. Set up on the British model of town council, this body was empowered to levy taxes for building guild halls and schools. As time passed, similar bodies were set up in other major towns and this model became prevalent, helping the British widen their taxation power. This model continued to comprise nominated members with no elected elements what so ever.
It was Lord Mayo, the then viceroy of India (1869 to 1872), who felt the need to decentralize powers in order to bring about administrative efficiency and in the year 1870 introduced the concept of elected representatives in the urban municipalities. The revolt of 1857 that had put the imperial finances under considerable strain and it was found necessary to finance local service out of local taxation. Therefore it was out of fiscal compulsion that Lord Mayo’s resolution on decentralization came to be adopted. The Bengal Chowkidar Act of 1870
The Bengal Chowkidar Act of 1870 marked the beginning of the revival of the traditional village panchayati system in Bengal. The Chowkidar Act empowered district magistrates to set up panchayats of nominated members in the villages to collect taxes to pay the chowkidars or watchmen engaged by them. Ripon Resolution (1882) Lord Ripon made remarkable contribution to the development of Local Government. In 1882, he abandoned the existing system of local government by the officially nominated people. According to his local self government plan, the local boards were split into smaller units to achieve greater efficiency.
In order to ensure popular participation, he introduced an election system for the local boards. The government resolution of 18th May, 1882, stands as a landmark in the structural evolution of local governments. It provided for local boards consisting of a large majority of elected non-official members and presided over by a non-official chairperson. This is considered to be the Magna Carta of local democracy in India. This resolution proposed the establishment of rural local boards where 2/3rd of whose membership was composed of elected representatives.
He brought in the concept of self-government in urban municipalities. He is treated as the founding father of urban local government. Ripon’s resolutions followed a series of Committees, Commissions and Acts in this line. The Royal Commission on Decentralization in 1909 elaborated further the principles of Ripon resolution. But this remained merely on paper. Ripon’s scheme did not make much progress in the development of local self government institutions. Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919 In this backdrop, Montagu Chelmsford reforms were passed in the year 1919.
This reform transferred the subject of local government to the domain of provinces. The reform also recommended that as far as possible there should be a complete popular control in local bodies and the largest possible independence for them, of outside control. By 1925, eight provinces had passed village panchayat acts. However, these panchayats covered only a limited number of villages with limited functions. But this reform could not get much result as far as democratization of panchayats was concerned and lead to a lot of organizational and fiscal constraints. Government of India Act (1935)
This is considered as another important stage in the evolution of panchayats in British India. With popularly elected government in the provinces, almost all provincial administrations felt duty bound to enact legislations for further democratization of local self government institutions, including village panchayats. Although the popular government in the provinces governed by the Congress vacated office following the declaration of Second World War in 1939, the position as regards local government institutions remained unchanged till August 1947, when the country attained independence.
Even though the British government did not have interest in the village autonomy, they were forced to do so, in order to continue their rule in India and moreover to meet financial necessities. The Indian rural republic had flourished till the advent of British. It received a set back during the British rule. Self contained village communities and their panchayats ceased to get substance. They were replaced by formally constituted institutions of village administration. In the highly centralized system of British rule, village autonomy seems to have lost.
PANCHAYATI RAJ IN INDEPENDENT INDIA The task of strengthening panchayati raj system fell on the Indian government formed after independence. It was clear that India a country of villages had to strengthen village panchayats to strengthen democracy. Mahatma Gandhi who strongly believed in Ggrama Swaraj pleaded for the transfer of power to the rural masses. According to him the villages should govern themselves through elected panchayats to become self sufficient. But surprisingly, the draft Constitution prepared in 1948 had no place for Panchayati Raj Institutions.
Gandhi severely criticized this and called for immediate attention. It is thus, that panchayat finds a place in the Directive Principles of the State Policy. Article 40 of the Directive Principles of the State Policy states that ‘the states shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them function as units of self governments’. The most important aspect to strengthen grass root democracy was neglected by the Constitution makers as Directive Principle of State Policy is not legally binding on the governments.
The first organized effort to tackle the problem of rural India was made through Community Development Programme in 1952 and National Extension Service in 1953. The programme was based on an integrated approach to the various aspects of rural development. The objectives were to promote self help and self reliance among the rural people, to generate a process of integrated social, economic and cultural change with the aim of transforming social and political life of the villagers. Community Development Programme was launched in 55 selected blocks.
The programme was based on an integrated approach to the various aspects of rural development. The programme made provisions for appointing Block Development Officers [BDO] and Village Level Workers [V. L. W]. This programme was intended to bring socio economic development of the rural masses on democratic lines, but failed to take off along the expected lines due to the absence of an effective instrument for people’s participation. Balwantrai Mehta Committee Balwantrai Mehta Committee was the first Committee set up in 1957 to look into the problems of democratic decentralization in independent India.
The Committee was asked to report on community development projects. The Committee made far reaching recommendations in the direction of democratic decentralization and rural reconstruction. It pointed out that the community development program was not successful because it failed to evoke local initiative and that in the absence of local initiative and local interest, development would not be possible. The committee laid down five fundamental principles. 1. There should be three tier structures of local self government bodies from village to the district level and these bodies should be linked together. . There should be genuine transfer of power and responsibility to these bodies to enable them to discharge their responsibility. 3. Adequate resources should be transferred to these bodies to enable them to discharge their responsibilities. 4. All welfare and developmental schemes and programmes at all three levels should be channeled through these bodies, and 5. The three tier system should facilitate further devolution and disposal of power and responsibility in future.
The committee envisaged three tire system of panchayats known as Zilla Parishad, Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat and recommended encouragement of peoples’ participation in community work, promotion of agriculture and animal husbandry, promoting the welfare of the weaker sections and women through the panchayats. For the first, time the Committee made recommendations for co-opting of two women who are interested to work for women and children. However, like the rest of the male members, women were not to be elected but were to be co-opted.
The recommendations of the Balwantrai Mehta Committee came into effect on 1st April 1958. Rajasthan was the first state to implement it on 2nd October 1959. By mid 1960s, panchayat had reached all parts of the country. More than 2,17,300 village panchayats covering over 96% of the 5,79,000 inhabited villages and 92% of rural population had been established. There was enthusiasm in rural India and people felt that they had a say in the affairs affecting their daily life. These were considered as the promising days of Panchayati Raj Institutions in India.
The report of the Ministry of Community Development had stated in 1964-65 that younger and better leadership was emerging through Panchayati Raj Institutions and there was a fairly high degree of satisfaction among the people with the working of the panchayats. The recommendations of Balwantrai Mehta Committee were implemented by many states in the country. Till the mid sixties, Panchayati Raj system flourished in India. But there was decline in Panchayati Raj Institutions after the mid sixties mainly because of centralized tendencies of functioning all over the country.
The elections were not held regularly and the participation of people weakened in these bodies. Inefficiency, corruption, favoritism, uncertainty and irregularity led to their decline. Most of the development programmes were kept out of their preview. Centrally sponsored schemes were initiated; parallel administrative bodies were created and government reduced funds considerably. During the period of national emergency, bureaucracy got the upper hand and these institutions lost their significance. The village panchayats were made subordinate units of government to implement its programmes.
Ashok Mehta Committee (1977) In this backdrop in 1977, the Janata government appointed a Committee with Ashok Mehta as chairman and was entrusted with the task of enquiring into the causes responsible for the poor performance of Panchayati Raj Institutions. It was also asked to suggest measures to strengthen Panchayati Raj Institutions. The committee suggested two tire system of Panchayati Raj consisting of Zilla Parishads at the district level and Mandal Panchayats at the grass root level as against three tier system suggested by the Balwantrai Mehta Committee.
The committee recommended constitutional protection to the Panchayati Raj Institutions and further decentralization of power at all levels. THE PRESENT SYSTEM OF VILLAGE PANCHAYAT The present system of village Panchayat has been introduced by the Government of India. It is according to the Directory Principles of the Indian Constitution. Accordingly, a Panchayat organized for every group of villages. This Panchayat consists of a President or Sarpanch, Vice-President or Naib-Sarpanch and some members. The Sarpanch is directly elected by the voters. The Government has assigned certain local taxes to Panchayat for its maintenance.
The Government bears the deficit. The Government does many of its welfare schemes through the village Panchayats. The Government is encouraging the Panchayats to work better. The best Panchayat is awarded a rich cash-prize to found an industry in the Panchayat area. These village Panchayat elect some Panchayat Committee. They are connected with adalat Panch and the Zilla Parishad. The Village Panchayats are elected once in every three years. DUTIES The Panchayat is to look after the village and its welfare. It works out the Government welfare schemes. It collects taxes from the villagers.
The village Panchayat has a Secretary to help the Panchayat in its work. The Secretary is a Government servant. The Panchayat manages some village institution. THREE TIER SYSTEM It envisages Panchayat at the village level, Panchayat Samitis at the block level & Zila Parishad at the district level. a. Village Panchayat •Consists of elected representatives of the people. •Membership varies from 5 – 31. •Seats reserved for SC, ST, women, etc. •Chairman is elected from among its members, known as ‘Sarpanch’. •The Panchayat is accountable for all its actions to the Gram Sabha, the general body of villagers. Gram Sabha consists of all the adults residing within the jurisdiction of the Panchayat. •It exercises general supervision over the working of the Panchayat & lays down necessary guidelines for its working. b. Block & Panchayat Samiti •The block, consisting of 20 – 60 villagers is administered through a Panchayat Samiti, consisting of indirectly elected members of village panchayat. •The chairman of Panchayat Samiti is called ‘Pradhan’. c. Zila Parishad •It is the top level of the 3 – tier structure. •Elect its chairman from amongst its members who is known as the District Collector CONCLUSION The system of Village Panchayat is a good thing.
It is an elected body. The villagers can vote out the Panchayat office-bearers if they do not work satisfactorily. But the villagers should co-operate with the Panchayat in working out all their welfare programmes. BIBLIOGRAPHY WEBSITES: www. greenwood. com www. wikipedia. com www. legalserviceindia. com www. westlaw. com BOOKS: •Law Relating to ARBITRATION and CONCILLITATION IN INDIA, by Dr. N. V. Paranjape •Law Relating to ARBITRATION and CONCILLITATION IN INDIA, Lexis Nexis •Law Relating to ARBITRATION and CONCILLITATION IN INDIA, by C. K Takwani •Law Relating to ARBITRATION and CONCILLITATION IN INDIA, by Avtar Singh