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Balwant Rai Mehta Committee Report

As we read above, the Community Development Programme was formulated to provide an administrative framework through which the government might reach to the district, tehsil / taluka and village level. All the districts of the country were divided into “Development Blocks” and a “Block Development Officer (BDO)” was made in charge of each block. Below the BDO were appointed the workers called Village Level Workers (VLW) who were responsible to keep in touch with 10-12 villages. So, a nationwide structure was started to be created. Thousands of BDOs and VLW’s were trained for the job of carrying out array of government programmes and make it possible to reach the government to villages. Top authority was “Community Development Organization” and a Community Development Research Center was created with best academic brains of the country at that time.
But this programme could not deliver the results. The programme became an overburden on the Government.

Further, in 1953, the National Extension Services were started under which the entire country was divided into Blocks. These Blocks were envisaged as smallest division for development work.

In 1957, the Balvant Rai Mehta Committee was appointed to study the Community Development Programmes and National Extension Services Programme especially from the point of view of assessing the extent of people’s participation and to recommend the creation of the institutions through which such participation can be achieved.
The committee recommended that the Gram Panchayats should be constituted with directly elected representatives, whereas the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad should be the constituted with indirectly elected members.
The status of the Panchayat samiti should be of that of an executive body, while the status of the Zila Parishad should be that of an advisory body. This continued for 5-6 years and after that the institutions started crippling due to lack of resources, political will, and bureaucratic apathy and change the government priorities. The rural elites dominated the system and the benefit of the development schemes was not able to reach to the last corner of the country. The legitimacy of the Panchayati Raj institutions came under questions. There was not much development in this site until the Congress was thrown out of center and Janta Government came in 1977.

Launching of Panchayati Raj in India :

The Balwant Rai Mehta report was greeted very warmly, and Panchayati raj was introduced with great fanfare all over the country. The committee recommended a three-tier system of rural local government, which is called panchayat raj. The principal thrust of the Mehta report was on the decentralization of democratic institutions in an effort to shirt decision centres closer to the people to ensure their participation, and to put the bureaucracy under local popular control.
The recommendations of the Balwant Rai Mehta committee were accepted by the National Development Council in 1958 and subsequently Rajasthan in 1959 became the first state in India to launch the Panchayati Raj.
The institution of Panchayati Raj was inaugurated by Jawahar lal Nehru on October 2, 1959 in Nagaur District of Rajasthan. Nine days later, Andhra Pradesh became the second state to launch Panchayati Raj at Shadnagar near Hyderabad
The launch of the Panchayati Raj institutions was a thumping success and soon the states started adopting the institutions. This continued for 5-6 years and after that the institutions started crippling due to lack of resources, political will, and bureaucratic apathy and change the government priorities. The rural elites dominated the system and the benefit of the development schemes was not able to reach to the last corner of the country. The legitimacy of the Panchayati Raj institutions came under questions. There was not much development in this site until the Congress was thrown out of center and Janta Government came in 1977. However, before that there are some efforts in the form of committees were done to make the system more efficient.
Balwant Rai Mehta was one of the legendry freedom fighters of the country who participated in the Bardoli Satyagraha. He is best known as second Chief Minister of Gujarat. Balwant Rai Mehta was a parliamentarian when the committee was established. He is credited for pioneering the concept the Panchayati Raj in India and also known as Father of Panchayati Raj in India.
Following were the landmark recommendations of the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee:

  • Panchayati Raj Institutions should be composed of elected representatives and should enjoy enough autonomy and freedom.
  • The Balwant Rai Mehta committee recommended a 3-tier Panchayati Raj System which includes.
  • Zila Parishad at the District Level
  • Panchayat Samiti at the Block/ Tehsil/ Taluka Level.
  • Gram Panchayat at the Village Level

But the committee did not insisted on a rigid pattern. It recommended that the states should be given freedom to choose and develop their own patterns as per the local conditions. The committee recommended that the above 3 tiers should be organically linked together through an instrument of indirect election.
The committee recommended that the Gram Panchayats should be constituted with directly elected representatives, whereas the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad should be the constituted with indirectly elected members.
The status of the Panchayat samiti should be of that of an executive body, while the status of the Zila Parishad should be that of an advisory body.
The Zila Parishad should be chaired by the District Collector.
These democratic bodies must be given genuine powers.
These bodies should be given adequate resources to carry out the functions and fulfill the responsibilities.
Thus we see, that most of the recommendations of the Balwant Rai Mehta committee reflect in the Panchayati Raj institutions, as we see them today.