6th Class Social Science Local Government Notes - Panchayati Raj

Notes - Panchayati Raj

Category : 6th Class


Panchayati Raj




1.            Panchayati Raj is the three-tier structure working as the Gram Panchayati at the village level, the Block Samiti at the block level and the Zila Parishad at the district level.

2.            The Panchayati system at village level consists of Gram Panchayat, Gram Sabha and Nyaya Panchayat.

3.            Gram Panchayat is a body of elected representative governing at village level.   

4.            The Gram Sabha is the electorate of Gram Panchayat.

5.            The members of the Gram Panchayat are called Panchs and their head is called the Sarpanch.

6.            The Nyaya Panchayat is a system of dispute resolution at village level.

7.            The responsibilities of the Panchayati Raj include implementing development programmes and government schemes and ensuring the welfare of the villagers, and resolve disputes.

8.            The Panchayati Raj has one-third or 33 per cent of its seats reserved for women.



?Independence must begin at the bottom. Thus, every village will be a republic or Panchayat having full powers. It follows, therefore, that every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs even to the extent of defending itself against the whole world. It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without. Thus, ultimately, it is the individual who is the unit.?  ?Mahatma Gandhi



Panchayati Raj is the first tier or the lowest level of administration in the Indian democracy. The word 'Panchayat' means 'assembly (yat) of five' (panch). Traditionally, the Panchayat was an assembly of five chosen elders of the village community who settled disputes among individuals and villages. Panchayats have been the backbone of the Indian villages.



In 1947, India became free and chose the democratic way of governance. Mahatma Gandhi believed that India's independence must begin from the bottom or at the grass root level. Every village ought to be responsible for its own affairs and governance. He advocated Panchayati Raj as the foundation of India's political system.


He called this political system 'Gram Swaraj' which means 'village self-governance'. The Panchayati Raj in India generally refers to the system introduced by the constitutional amendment in 1992. The 73rd Amendment (1992) added a new Part IX to the constitution titled as "The Panchayats".


India has 29 states and 7 union territories. We have governance at various levels?at the national level is the union or central government, at state level works the state government and at the local level is the Panchayati Raj in villages or Municipality in towns. Indian government thus has decentralized power for the convenience of governance and efficient administration. Each state is divided into districts and the districts are further



sub-divided into tehsils or talukas. Each tehsil or taluka is made up of small units of human settlement called grams or villages. The Indian government established the Panchayati Raj as a system of local self government in rural1 areas. Today, Panchayat is not a body of five persons, sorting out disputes. Today, Panchayati Raj works at three levels: the village level, the block level and the district level. They take care of the welfare and development related to agriculture, health, education; and also look after the proper supply of drinking water, electricity, maintenance of sanitation, roads, etc. In cities and towns, the local self government consists of municipal corporations, municipal councils and nagar palikas. We will read about them in the next chapter.



Panchayati Raj is a three-tier structure working as the Gram Panchayat at the village level, the Block Samiti at the block level and the Zila Parishad at the district level.




The Village Level

A gram or village is a cluster of human settle- ment, with a population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand. The Panchayat system at the village level consists of the Gram Panchayat, the Gram Sabha and the Nyaya Panchayat.



Gram Panchayat

Each village in India has a Gram Panchayat to govern it. However, in some parts, two or three small villages have a common panchayat.


Gram Panchayat is a body of elected representatives responsible for governing at the village level and taking care of development of that area. The Gram Panchayat area is generally divided into wards. People residing in each ward elect their representative. The representative becomes a member of the Gram Panchayat and is known as Panch. There can be 7 to 15 panchs in a Gram Panchayat. Seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in the Panchayat. Also, there is at least one female member in the Panchayat.


A Sarpanch or Pradhan is the head. Usually the panchs elect their head through the show of hands or through a secret ballot. The Sarpanch and panchs are elected for a period of five years. The Sarpanch is a link between government officers and the village community.


Gram Sabha

Villagers aged 18 years or more who have the right to vote form the Gram Sabha.


Gram Sabha elects the panch and checks and balances the power of the Gram Panchayat. The Gram Panchayat is accountable to the Gram Sabha. On being dissatisfied with the performance of a panch it can remove him or her from power. The Gram Sabha is expected to



meet at least twice a year. Here all development plans of the Gram Panchayat are placed before the people and implemented. The State Government appoints a secretary for both the Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat. The secretary's duties include scheduling a meeting of the Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat, keeping a record (minutes) of the discussions in the meeting and maintaining the accounts.


Q. How does Gram Sabha check the powers of Panchayat?


Responsibilities and Sources of Funds

The powers and responsibilities of the Gram Panchayat include the following:

? To construct and maintain roads, drainage systems, provide water sources for clean drinking water and irrigation, build schools and other public property.


? To levy and collect local taxes, duties, tolls and fees.


? To plan and implement development programmes and government schemes regarding economic and social development

? To maintain a record of births and deaths in the village.


? To ensure the welfare of the villagers by providing them means of recreation such as libraries and fairs.


 To fulfil its responsibilities, the Panchayat needs funds. Its main sources of funds are:



1.    House tax, property tax, tax on purchase or sale of cattle, etc.


2. Funds from the State Government.


2.    Donation by the villagers for community development programmes.


Nyaya Panchayat

Nyaya Panchayat is like a local court. It settles minor disputes and dispenses justice. There is a Nyaya Panchayat for every Gram Panchayat area or a group of Gram Panchayat areas. Nyaya Panchayat renders quick justice to villagers. However, it cannot send a person to jail.



Many villagers are illiterate even today. Social evils and caste system are also deeply rooted in the villages of India. Can villages then do true justice to self-governance?


The Block Level


Panchayat Samiti

The next tier of governance is the Panchayat Samiti. A Block Samiti or Panchayat Samiti has many Gram Panchayats under its supervision and also has a Block Development officer (BDO) to supervise the developments in the villages.

The BDO is appointed by the government.


The Panchayat Samiti's functions include:


? To supervise the work of the Gram Panchayat within the block.


? To implement plans for the development of agriculture like distribution of seeds and fertilizers; animal husbandry, poultry and fishery.


? To look after drinking water, construction and repair of roads, sanitation, education and rural health.


? To promote small scale and cottage industries and co-ordinate the working of the block development officer and the executive officer.


Know a Little More

The Panchayat Samiti is called by different names in different states of India, it is known as Mandal Praja Parishad in Andhra Pradesh, Anchalik Panchayat in Assam, Taluka Panchayat in Gujarat, Mandal Panchayat in Karnataka, Panchayat Union Council in Tamil Nadu, Kshetra Samiti in Uttar Pradesh and Anchalik Parishad West Bengal.


The District Level

Zila Parishad

The highest tier in the Panchayati Raj system is the Zila Parishad or District Council. It is a vital link between the Gram Panchayat and Panchayat Samiti, and the State Government. It looks after the welfare of the district as a whole. Its office is located at the district headquarters. Zila Parishad prepares plans for the development of the district. It also ensures that all the Gram Panchayats receive funds and utilise them to implement its programmes.


The functions of the Zila Parishad include:


? Planning and execution of work for the development of the district based on reports submitted by the Block samiti and the Gram Sabha.


? Supervising the implementation of the Five-Year-Plan   and   the   Community Development Plan at the district level.


? Improving the agricultural production, sanitation and health.


? Distributing the funds allotted to the district by the Central or State Government among the Panchayat Samitis.


? Building and maintaining secondary vocational and industrial schools in the district.


? Executing adult literacy programmes and running mobile hospitals.


? Organising vaccinations and drives against epidemics and family welfare campaigns.


? Constructing and maintaining roads, bridges and other developments.


Sources of income are:

1. Taxes  

2. Grants from Government


Q. Do you live in a community where there is a Panchayat? Have you had any dealings with the Panchayat?



Recognising the limitation where gender is concerned, the Indian Constitution has passed laws that make it mandatory for the local governments to include women. According to 73rd Amendment Act 1992, one-third of the seats in local bodies?Gram Panchayats, Municipalities, City Corporations and district bodies?are reserved for women. This is the first step in enabling women to participate in decision making at the grass root level. Leadership training is given to these women to develop their self-esteem. This has led to women empowerment.


Q. What is your opinion on women's participation in Panchayati Raj? Are women good policy makers?



If there was no Gram Panchayat/ do you think that the villagers would have managed to solve the problem of shelter sanitation and getting clean drinking water themselves?


Know a Little More

Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP) instituted in 2005, is given to Panchayati Raj institutions which attain full sanitation coverage with a totally open defecation-free environment. This award has motivated Panchayats to maintain cleanliness in villages.



This is a story of the successful mobilisation of the entire village community by a Gram Panchayat in order to meet their basic needs like shelter, clean water and sanitation.


In 1996, a survey held by the Avanur Gram Panchayat (Village Council) in Kerala State found that over 2,000 homes in Avanur were below Poverty Line (BPL). And could not like afford basic sanitation facilities. The Panchayat decided to provide the families building materials for a sanitation unit, with the condition that each family would complete 20 per cent of the work in its own. This way, the Gram Panchayat spent only 80 per cent of the allocated resources. This ensured participation of the villagers. This campaign was successfully completed within three months and the Gram Panchayat was awarded 1 million rupees by the government. The Gram Panchayat used the money to start another programme _ a total housing scheme. Five hundred houses were built during 1997-2000. The Gram Panchayat gave each family an amount of Rs. 20,000 in three stages as a grant and the families contributed their own labour and material worth Rs. 30,000. The total housing scheme was also complete successfully. The Gram Panchayat also implemented a drinking water scheme.

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