All Panchayati Raj Institutions perform such functions as are specified in state laws relating to panchayati raj. Some States distinguish between obligatory (compulsory) and optional functions of Gram Panchayats while other States do not make this distinction.
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.
The optional functions depend on the resources of the panchayats. They may or may not perform such functions as tree plantation on roadsides, setting up of breeding centers for cattle, organizing child and maternity welfare, promotion of agriculture, etc.
After the 73rd Amendment, the scope of functions of Gram Panchayat was widened. Such important 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 are now expected to be performed by panchayats.
Selection of beneficiaries through Gram Sabhas, public distribution system, non-conventional energy source, improved Chullahs, biogas plants have also been given to Gram Panchayats in some states.
Some functions are entrusted to them like agriculture, land improvement, watershed development, social and farm forestry, technical and vocational education, etc.
The second type of functions relates to the implementation of some specific plans, schemes or programmes to which funds are earmarked. It means that a Panchayat Samiti has to spend money only on that specific project. The choice of location or beneficiaries is, however, available to the Panchayat Samiti.
Zila Parishad links Panchayat Samitis within the district.
It coordinates their activities and supervises their functioning.
It prepares district plans and integrates Samiti plans into district plans for submission to the State Government.
Zila Parishad looks after development works in the entire district.
It undertakes schemes to improve agricultural production, exploit ground water resources, extend rural electrification and distribution and initiate employment generating activities, construct roads and other public works.
It also performs welfare functions like relief during natural calamities and scarcity, the establishment of orphanages and poor homes, night shelters, the welfare of women and children, etc.
In addition, Zila Parishads perform functions entrusted to them under the Central and State Government sponsored programmes. For example, Jawahar Rozgar Yojna is a big centrally sponsored scheme for which money is directly given to the districts to undertake employment-generating activities.
A provision on the duration of members in Panchayat. A clear term for 5 years has been provided for the Panchayats and elections must take place before the expiry of the terms. However, the Panchayat may be dissolved earlier on specific grounds in accordance with the state legislation. In that case, the elections must take place before the expiry of 6 months of the dissolution.