To empower the India’s villages and establishing governance at the grassroot level, Mahatma Gandhi had advocated for Gram Swaraj (village self-governance) which made way for brining in Panchayati Raj System in India.
What is the Structure Panchayati Raj System?
Though, taking note from the Gandhian philosophy of Gram Swaraj, Government of India brought Panchyati Raj System in 1957. However in 1992, the 73rd amendment to the Constitution of India gave a constitutional power, structured a three-tier Panchayati Raj system in the country. According the the constitutional structure, the three tiers are; Zila Parishad at district level headed by a Zila Parishad chairperson; Panchayat Samiti at block level headed by a Panchayat Samiti chairperson and Gram Panchayat at village level headed by a Panchayat Mukhiya or a Sarpanch, varies in states.
Strengthening the democratic process at the village level, the fundamental objective of this local governance system is to implement rural development projects as per the need of the local community and being implemented by the community. The citizens within the Gram Panchayats directly elect the representatives at the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), from village level to block level to district levels. The village community puts up their development needs in front of the Gram Sabha at Gram Panchayat level. After discussions, the need based development projects are implemented in the villages. In other ways, Gram Panchayats function as a local government at the village level.
Functioning as a local body in rural India, each Gram Panchayat is represented by one Panchayat Mukhiya, one Sarpanch, one Panchayat Samiti member along with ward members, directly elected by the persons above 18 years of age in the Gram Panchayat. There are 250,000 Gram Panchayats, 6,300 Panchayat Samitis (block panchayats) and nearly 600 Zila Parishads (district panchayats or councils) functioning in the country.
Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI)
|Name of Institutions||Total Numbers|
|Gram Panchayat (Village level)||250,000|
|Panchayat Samitis (Block level)||6,300|
|Zila Parishads (District level)||600|
The Constitution of India makes way for the Gram Panchayats to function as institutions of self-government which prepare plans and implement schemes for economic development and social justice. For this, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) have to be an effective, efficient and transparent vehicle for local governance, social change and public service delivery mechanism, meeting the aspirations of local population through policy interventions, advocacy, capacity building, persuasion and financial support. In this regard, eGramSwaraj (https://egramswaraj.gov.in), a user friendly portal,developed by Ministry of Panchayati Raj, aims to bring in better transparency in the decentralised planning, progress reporting, financial management, work-based accounting and details of assets created.
The representation of women has been mandatory with the constitutional provisions in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). Clause (3) of the Indian Constitution mandates to ensure 33 percent reservation of women in the PRIs. However, Panchayati Raj, being a state subject, states have been allowed to increase the women’s participation in the PRIs.
As many as 20 states namely Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand and West Bengal have given 50 percent reservation to women in the PRIs in their respective states. It has given an important say to the women in the development process of villages in the country.
What’s Gram Panchayat Development Plan?
In order to increase the participation of the community in implementation of the government schemes and economic development in the villages with the convergence of Central and state government’s rural development schemes, the Government of India has mandated all the Gram Panchayats to prepare their Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDP). And therefore, Gram Panchayats in association with the local community, have to prepare their annual GPDP for the process of development.
GPDP gives a chance to the Gram Panchayats to participate in the planning for themselves and to provide sufficient financial resources to them. According to the Union Panchayati Raj Ministry, under Deendayal Upadhyay National Rural Livelihood Mission (DDU-NRLM), 5.8 crore rural women are associated with the self-help-groups (SHGs) and all these SHGs participate in the Gram Panchayat Development Plan for the economic development of the villages.
How Panchayati Raj is Important for India’s Development Process?
Since the 68 percent of India’s population reside in the villages, the country cannot scale its development process without the development of its villages. It is clear that Gram Panchayats are the backbone of the development of the villages. If the villages get developed, get prosper, India gets developed and prosper. And therefore, as per the guidelines of 14th Finance Commissions, the Centre had released Rs 180,237 crore to the Gram Panchayats for the period of fives years from 2015 to 2020. For the period of financial year 2020-21, Fifteenth Finance Commission has granted Rs 60,750 crore to the Gram Panchayats to execute the development programmes in the villages.