Evolution of Panchayati Raj
- Balwant Rai Mehta Committee
In 1957, the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee recommended for the introduction of a three-tier Panchayati Raj System in India. Following the recommendations of this committee report, the then government of India and the State Governments too took different measures to strengthen the Panchayati Raj system existing at that time. It was with this purpose the Balwant Rai Meheta Committee was appointed by the Central Government of India in 1957.
The committee recommended for the establishment of the three-tier Panchayati Raj system in India. These three-tires are:
- The Gram-Panchayats at the village level or at the bottom,
- The Panchayat Samiti at the block level or in the middle and
- The Zilla Parishad at the district level.
It was recommended that these three-tires would have to be related with each other. The committee also discussed about the philosophical basis of the Panchayati-Raj-system.
The Panchayati Raj system acts as a link between the local leadership and the government. The local leadership always enjoys the trust of the local people and it is this local leadership which translates the governmental policies and decisions into action. That is why the Gram-Panchayat is considered as the lowest unit of the government.
Its aim is to use the panchayat as the means or medium for proper implementation of the governmental policies and programmes.
It may be mentioned in this regard that the basic idea of Mahatma Gandhi was to establish the Panchayati Raj as an independent self-government system or as independent republic. However, in course of time, the Panchayati Raj system lost much of its popularity and popular participation in it also became insignificant.
First state to launch Panchayati Raj
The implementation of Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad Act of September 2, 1959 came into effect from October 2 when the Panchayati Raj was formally launched from Nagaur, Rajasthan. Andhra Pradesh launched the scheme soon after, on October 11, while Assam, Karnataka and Madras launched it in 1960. One by one all the other States followed the suit later.
Ashok Mehta Committee
In December 1977, the Janta Government appointed a committee on Panchayati Raj institutions under the chairmanship of Ashok Mehta. It submitted its report in August 1978 and made 132 recommendations to revive and strengthen the declining Panchayati Raj System in the country. Its main recommendations are:
- The three-tier system of Panchayati Raj should be replaced by the two-tier system, that is, Zila Parishad at the district level, and below it, the Mandal Panchayat consisting of a group of villages covering a population of the 15000 to 20000.
- A district should be the first point for decentralization under popular supervision below the state level.
- Zila Parishads should be the executive body and made responsible for planning at the district level.
- There should be an official participation of political parties at all levels of Panchayat elections.
- The Panchayati Raj institutions should have compulsory powers of taxation to mobilize their own financial resources.
- There should be a regular social audit by a district level agency and by a committee of legislators to check whether the funds allotted for the vulnerable social and economic groups are actually spent on them.
- The state government should not supersede the Panchayati Raj institutions. In case of an imperative supersession, election should be held within six months from the date of supersession.
- The Chief Electoral Officer of state in consultation with Chief Election Commissioner should organise and conduct the Panchayati Raj elections.
- Development functions should be transferred to the Zila Parishad and all development staff should work under its control and supervision.
- A minister for Panchayati Raj should be appointed in the state council of ministers to look after the affairs of the Panchayati Raj institutions.
- Seats for SC and ST should be reserved on the basis of their population.
- G.V.K. Rao Committee
The G.V.K. Rao Committee- was set up by the Planning Commission in 1985. It recommended for the revival of Panctiayati Raj institutions and highlighted the need to transfer powers to democratic bodies at the local level. The two important suggestions that this committee made were:
- That the ‘district’ should be the basic unit of planning and programme implementation.
- Zilla Parishads should become the principal body for the management of all development programmes which can be handled at that level.
- Zila Parishads should to be given prime importance and all developmental programs at that level to be handed to it.
- Post of DDC (District Development Commissioner) to be created acting as the chief executive officer of the Zila Parishad.
- Regular elections to be held.
- L.M. Singhvi Committee
The Government of India set up in 1986 L.M. Singhvi Committee to prepare a concept paper on the revitalisation of the Panchayati Raj institutions. It recommended that the Panchayati Raj should be constitutionally recognised, protected and preserved, by the inclusion of a new chapter in the Constitution.
Its recommendations were:
- Constitutional recognition for PRI institutions.
- Nyaya Panchayats to be established for clusters of villages
Though the 64th Constitutional Amendment bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1989 itself, the Rajya Sabha opposed it.