Competitive Exams: Panchayati Raj

The term ‘Panchayati Raj’ in India signifies the system of rural local self-Government. It is created in all the States in India by the Acts of concerned State Legislature to establish democracy at the grass root level. It is entrusted with the duties and the responsibilities in the field of rural development.

It was constitutionalized through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992. At the Central level, the Ministry of Rural Development looks after the matters relating to the Panchayati Raj bodies.

  • ‘Local Government’ is a subject of the State List.

  • The fifth entry of the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India deals with the ‘Local Government’

Balwant Rai Mehta Committee

  • In January 1957, the Government of India appointed a committee to examine the functioning of the Community Development Program (1952) and the National Extension Service (1953) and to suggest measures for their better performance.

  • The committee submitted its report in November 1957 and recommended the establishment of the scheme for ‘democratic decentralization which ultimately came to be known as the’ Panchayati Raj'.


The specific recommendations made by it are:

  • Establishment of a three-tier Panchayati Raj System which includes Zila Parishad at the District Level, Panchayat Samiti at the Block Level and Gram Panchayat at the Village Level.

  • These tiers should be organically linked together through a device of indirect elections.

  • The village panchayat should be constituted with directly elected representatives, whereas the Panchayat Samiti and the Zila Parishad should be constituted with indirectly elected members.

  • All the planning and developmental activities should be entrusted to these bodies.

  • The Panchayat Samiti should be the executive body while the Zila Parishad should be the advisory, coordinating and supervisory body.

  • The District Collector should be the Chairman of the Zila Parishad.

  • There should be a genuine transfer of power and responsibility to these democratic bodies.

  • Adequate resources should be transferred to these bodies to enable them to discharge their functions and fulfill their responsibilities.

  • A system should be evolved to effect further devolution of authority in future.

  • These recommendations were accepted by the National Development Council in January 1958.

  • The Council did not insist on a single rigid pattern and left it to the States to evolve their own patterns suitable to the local conditions. But the basic principles and the broad fundamentals should be identical throughout the Country.

  • Rajasthan was the first State to establish the institution of Panchayati Raj.

  • The scheme was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Pt Jawahar Lai Nehru on October 2, 1959, in Nagaur District.

  • Rajasthan was followed by Andhra Pradesh which also adopted the system in 1959.

  • Rajasthan adopted a three-tier system.


  • Tamil Nadu adopted a two-tier system.

  • West Bengal adopted a four-tier system.

Ashok Mehta Committee

  • In December 1977, the Janata 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.


The three-tier system of the Panchayati Raj should be replaced by two-tier system, that is, the Zila Parishad at the district level, and below it, the Mandal Panchayat consisting of a group of villages comprising a population of 15 (XX), to 20, 000.

  • A district should be the first point for the decentralisation under the popular supervision below the State level.

  • The Zila Parishad should be the executive body and be made responsible for planning at the district level.

  • There should be an official participation of the political parties at all the levels of panchayat elections.

  • The Panchayati Raj institutions should have compulsory powers for taxation to mobilise 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 imperative super session, election should be held within six months from the time of super session.

  • The Nyaya Panchayats should be kept as separate bodies from that of development panchayats. They should be presided over by a qualified Judge.

The Panchayati Raj Elections

  • Development functions should be transferred to the Zila Parishad and all the development staff should work under its control and supervision.

  • The voluntary agencies should play an important role in mobilizing the support of the people for the Panchayati Raj.

  • A minister for the Panchayati Raj should be appointed in the State Council of Ministers to look after the affairs of the Panchayati Raj Institutions.

  • Seats for the SCs and the STs should be reserved on the basis of their population.

  • Due to the collapse of the Janata Government before the completion of its term, no action could be taken on the recommendations of the Ashok Mehta committee at the Central level.

  • The three states of Karnataka, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh took steps to revitalize the Panchayati Raj, keeping in view some of the recommendations of the Ashok Mehta Committee.

GVK Rao Committee

  • In this respect, the G. V. K. Rao Committee Report (1986) differed from the Dantwala Committee Report on the Block-Leve 1 Planning (1978) and the Hanumantha Rao Committee Report on the District Planning (1984).

  • The Hanumantha Rao Committee differed in respect from the Balwant Ray Mehta Committee, Administrative Reforms Commission of India, the Ashok Mehta Committee and finally the G. V. K. Rao Committee which recommended reduction in the developmental role of the District Collector and assigned a major role to the Panchayati Raj in development administration.

LM Singhvi Committee

  • In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi Government appointed a committee on the ‘Revitalisation of the Panchayati Raj Institutions for Democracy and Development’ under the chairmanship of L. M. Singhvf.


  • The Panchayati Raj Institutions should be Constitutionally recognized, protected and preserved. For this purpose, a new chapter should be added in the Constitution of India. It also suggested some Constitutional provisions to ensure regular, free and fair elections to the Panchayati Raj bodies.

  • Nyaya Panchayats should be established for a cluster of villages.

  • The villages should be organized to make the Gram Panchayats more viable. It also emphasized the importance of the Gram Sabha and called it as the embodiment of direct democracy.

  • The Village Panchayats should have more financial resources.

  • The Judicial tribunals should be established in each State to eradicate controversies about election to the Panchayati Raj Institutions, their dissolution and other matters related to their functioning.


  • The Narsimha Rao Government introduced the Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha in September 1991.

  • It was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 22, 1992 and by the Rajya Sabha on December 23.

  • Later, it was approved by the 17 State Assemblies and received the assent of the President of India on April 20, 1993.