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Dr. Sentakir P Selvan National President, Panchayati Raj Parishad

National President

In the structure of the Panchayati Raj, the Village Panchayat is the lowest unit. There is a Panchayat for each village or a group of villages in case the population of these villages happens to be too small. The Panchayat chiefly consists of representatives elected by the people of the village. According to Pt. Jawahar lal Nehru “Panchayats should be given greater powers, for we want the villagers to have a greater measure of swaraj (self-government) in their own villages”. Political decentralization generally means strong and vibrant means of local government. Decision-making being closer to the people, decentralization ensures decision-makers more effective accountability to the governed. Panchayat Raj, a synonym of democratic decentralization, was introduced in India in the late 1950s and early 1960s to restore to the erstwhile institution of Panchayat the pristine glory that it enjoyed in ancient India.It was introduced by 73rd Amendment to the Constitution and formally.

recognized the third tier of government at the sub-State level, therebycreating the legal conditions for local self-rule – or Panchayati Raj. India has a chequered history starting from self-sufficient and self-governing village communities that survived the rise and fall of empires in the past to the modern institutions of governance with constitutional support. Though the basic structure of the PRIs or panchayat raj Institutions is identical across the states of India, it is described via different nomenclatures in different states. Every panchayat has its own characteristic features and their working also differs from one another.
It existed since the earliest times. We get ample references about the Panchayats in Manusmriti, Arthasastra and the Mahabharata. During the Muslim rule also talks the system continued to operate unobstructed. Arthashastra of Kautilya gives a comprehensive account of the system of village administration prevailing in his time. The village was the basic unit of administration in the Vedic period. The Vedic polity consisted of two popular assemblies namely the ‘sabha’ and the ‘samiti.’ The Samiti enjoyed the powers of electing the King, while the Sabha indulged in Judicial functions. During the period of Mughals, Akbar It was autonomous in its own sphere and exercised powers of local taxation, administrative control.
This resolution met with resistance from colonial administrators. The progress of local self-government was not that successful with only half-hearted steps taken in setting up municipal bodies. However, rural decentralization was not administratively reformed. The Royal Commission on Decentralisation (1907) under the chairmanship of C.E.H. Hobhouse recognised the importance of panchayats at the village level[4]. The commission recommended that to associate rural people also to be a part of administration it is necessary to constitute panchayats. The Montague Chelmsford reforms brought a significant development of village Panchayats in a number of provinces.

Mr. Arun Dhir National Convenor, Panchayati Raj Parishad

National Convenor

The institution of Panchayati Raj is not new to India. It existed since the earliest times. We get ample references about the Panchayats in Manusmriti, Arthasastra and the Mahabharata. During the Muslim rule also talks the system continued to operate unobstructed. Arthashastra of Kautilya gives a comprehensive account of the system of village administration prevailing in his time[2]. The village was the basic unit of administration in the Vedic period. The Vedic polity consisted of two popular assemblies namely the ‘sabha’ and the ‘samiti.’ The Samiti enjoyed the powers of electing the King, while the Sabha indulged in Judicial functions. During the period of Mughals, Akbar It was autonomous in its own sphere and exercised powers of local taxation, administrative control, justice and punishment.

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The state system, after the advent of the British, emerged as a highly centralized set up the form adopted during the British rule was an admixture of the British and continental patterns. From 1870 Viceroy Lord Mayo’s resolution gave the needed impetus to the development of local institutions[3]. The real benchmarking of the government policy on decentralization can, however, be attributed to Lord Ripon who, in his famous resolution on local self-government on May 18, 1882, recognized the twin considerations of local government:

  • Administrative efficiency and
  • Political education

The Rippon Resolution, issued by Lord Rippon which focused on towns, provided for local bodies consisting of a large majority of elected non-official members and it was headed by a chairperson, who was also a non-official member. This resolution met with resistance from colonial administrators. The progress of local self-government was not that successful with only half-hearted steps taken in setting up municipal bodies. However, rural decentralization was not administratively reformed. The commission recommended that to associate rural people also to be a part of administration it is necessary to constitute panchayats. When the constitution was drafted, panchayat system was placed as the non-justifiable part of the constitution under Article 40 of the Directive Principles of State Policy. Although the idea of decentralized planning is as old as the Gandhian economic thought, attempts at giving a concrete shape to this thinking may be said to have been made in the post-independence period. In the Initial Years, Local bodies like panchayats, by and large, functioned as civic agencies of the state government and not as instruments of micro-level planning. It was during the third five-year plan, rural development strategies were evolved and attempts were made to constitute three-tier Panchayat system was made. But it was not successful except for few states.