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For other uses, see Panchayat (disambiguation)

The panchayati raj is a South Asian political system mainly in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. It is the oldest system of local government in the Indian subcontinent. The word "panchayat" literally means "assembly" (ayat) of five (panch) wise and respected elders chosen and accepted by the local community. However, there are different forms of assemblies. Traditionally, these assemblies settled disputes between individuals and villages. Modern Indian government has decentralized several administrative functions to the local level, empowering elected gram panchayats. Gram panchayats are not to be confused with the unelected khap panchayats (or caste panchayats) found in some parts of India.[1]

Panchayat raj

Panchayat Raj is a system of governance in which gram panchayats are the basic units of administration. It has 3 levels: Gram (village, though it can comprise more than one village), Janpad (block) and Zilla (district).

The term "panchayat raj" is relatively new, having originated during the British administration. Raj literally means "rule". Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayati Raj, a decentralized form of Government where each village is responsible for its own affairs, as the foundation of India's political system. The term for such a vision was Gram Swaraj ("village self-governance").

The leader of the panchayat was generally called the mukhiya, a position which was both hereditary and elected.

Recommendations of Balwant Rai Mehta Committee

The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee was a committee appointed by the Government of India in January 1957 to examine the working of the Community Development Programme (1952) and the National Extension Service (1953) and to suggest measures for their better working. The recommendations of the committee were approved by NDC in January 1958 and this set the stage for the launching of Panchayati Raj Institutions throughout the country. The committee recommended the establishment of the scheme of ‘democratic decentralisation’ which finally came to be known as Panchayati Raj.

(i) Establishment of a 3-tier Panchayati Raj system - Gram Panchayat at the village level, Panchayat Samiti at the block level, and Zila Parishad at the district level.

This system was adopted by state governments during the 1950s and 60s, as laws were passed to establish panchayats in various states. It also found backing in the Indian Constitution, with the 73rd amendment in 1992 to accommodate the idea. The Amendment Act of 1992 contains provision for devolution of powers and responsibilities to the panchayats both for the preparation of economic development plans and social justice, as well as for implementation in relation to 29 subjects listed in the eleventh schedule of the constitution.[2]

The panchayats receive funds from three sources:[2]

  1. Local body grants, as recommended by the Central Finance Commission
  2. Funds for implementation of centrally sponsored schemes
  3. Funds released by the state governments on the recommendations of the State Finance Commissions

In the history of Panchayati Raj in India, on 24 April 1993, the Constitutional (73rd Amendment) Act 1992 came into force to provide constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj institutions. This act was extended to Panchayats in the tribal areas of eight states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan starting 24 December 1996. Currently, the Panchayati Raj system exists in all the states except Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram, and in all Union Territories except Delhi.[3] The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee was a committee appointed by the Government of India in January 1957 to examine the working of the Community Development Programme (1952) The Act aims to provide a 3-tier system of Panchayati Raj for all States having a population of over 2 million, to hold Panchayat elections regularly every 5 years, to provide seats reservations for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women; to appoint a State Finance Commission to make recommendations as regards to the financial powers of the Panchayats and to constitute a District Planning Committee to prepare a development plan draft for the district. The 3-tier system of Panchayati Raj consists:

  1. Village-level Panchayats
  2. Block-level Panchayats
  3. District-level Panchayats.

Powers and responsibilities are delegated to panchayats at the appropriate level:

  • Preparation of the economic development plan and social justice plan.
  • Implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice in relation to 29 subjects given in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution.
  • To levy and collect appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees.

Block panchayat

A block panchayat (panchayat samiti) is a local government body at the tehsil or taluka level in India. This body works for the villages of the tehsil or taluka that together are called a Development Block. The panchayat samiti is the link between the gram panchayat and the district administration. There are a number of variations of this institution in different states. It is known as Mandal Praja Parishad in Andhra Pradesh, Taluka panchayat in Gujarat, Mandal Panchayat in Karnataka, Panchayat Samiti in Maharashtra etc. In general, the block panchayat is a form of the Panchayati raj but at a higher level.


The constitution is composed of ex-official members (all sarpanchas of the panchayat samiti area, the MPs and MLAs of the area and the SDO of the subdivision), co-opt members (representatives of SC/ST and women), associate members (a farmer of the area, a representative of the cooperative societies and one of the marketing services), and some elected members.

The samiti is elected for 5 years and is headed by the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman.


The common departments in the Samiti are as follows:

  1. General administration
  2. Finance
  3. Public work
  4. Agriculture
  5. Health
  6. Education
  7. Social welfare
  8. Information technology, and others.

There is an officer for every department. A government appointed Block Development Officer (BDO) is the executive officer to the Samiti and the chief of its administration.


  1. Implementation schemes for the development of agriculture.
  2. Establishment of primary health centres and primary schools.
  3. Supply of drinking water, drainage and construction/repair of roads.
  4. Development of cottage and small-scale industries, and the opening of cooperative societies.
  5. Establishment of youth organisations.

Sources of income

The main source of income of the panchayat samiti are grants-in-aid and loans from the State Government.

District level panchayat

The governing system at district level in Panchayat Raj is also popularly known as "Zila Parishad". Chief of administration is an officer from IAS cadre.


  1. Provide essential services and facilities to the rural population
  2. Supply improved seeds to farmers. Inform them of new farming techniques
  3. Set up and run schools and libraries in the rural areas
  4. Start Primary Health Centers and hospitals in villages. Start vaccination drives against epidemics
  5. Execute plans for the development of the scheduled castes and tribes. Run ashramshalas for adivasi children. Set up free hostels for them
  6. Encourage entrepreneurs to start small-scale industries and implement rural employment schemes
  7. Construct bridges, roads & other public facilities and their maintenance
  8. Provide employment

Sources of Income:

  1. Taxes on water, pilgrimage, markets, etc.
  2. Fixed grant from the State Government in proportion with the land revenue and money for works and schemes assigned to the Parishad.

Centrality of Panchayati Raj Institutions

In various Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSSs) and Additional Central Assistance (ACAs) the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI's) have been given centrality[4]

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)

Under Section 13 of the Act ,[5] Panchayats at district, intermediate and village levels are the principal authorities for planning and implementation of MGNREGA . and at least  50 per cent of MGNREGA funds are to be spent by the Gram Panchayats (GPs). For this the Gram Sabhas (GSs) has to recommend special projects to the GPs and conduct social audit of MGNREGA works. Also the District  Programme Coordinators and Programme Officers are to assist District and Intermediate Panchayats respectively in discharge of their functions.

Saakshar Bharat Mission(SBM)

The SBM launched in 2009, is a programme aimed at creating a Literate Society through a variety of teaching learning programmes for non-literate and neo-literate of 15 years and above.[6] The SBM is envisaged to involve community PRI's and women self-help groups in its endeavour. Around 495 blocks with 7,739 panchayats will be covered under the mission.Each panchayat would have a Lok Shiksha Kendra. A male and a female prerak, elected by the panchayat, will comprise a Lok Shiksha Kendra to monitor the volunteers under the mission. Each Lok Shiksha Kendra will have around 50-60 Shiksha Kendras, where each volunteer would educate around 20-30 persons in an area.[7]

National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP)

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has revised the NRDWP guidelines under which, from 2011–12, in the inter-State allocation criteria, 10% scheme funds have been linked to States’ performance on a Management Devolution Index (MDI) which measures the extent to which a State has decentralized the management of the programme.[4]

Funds for Panchayti Raj Institutions

Funds from Central Government

The national level plan for improving the functioning of Panchayati Raj Institutions(PRIs) is chalked out in the Roadmap for Panchayati Raj (2011-2017).It has been noted that due to poor resource base and economic activity in rural areas, the Panchayats would continue to depend on State/Central transfers, grants etc.The national roadmap is enabled and assisted by the Central Government by the provision of funds under several schemes, to name few[8]

Scheme Name Details
Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) Provides untied grants to the Panchayats in the backward regions in order to reduce development deficits of the country, with the requirement that the District Plans for utilization of the grant be prepared by the involvement of the Gram Sabhas
Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Yojana (RGSY) Aims at capacity building and training of the elected representatives of Panchayati Raj Institutions as well as the Functionaries.Funds are released to States uncovered by the BRGF
Rural Business Hubs (RBH) Aims to assist the Panchayats to empower rural labour productivity by providing forward backward linkages with technical assistance in Public-Private-Partnership. RBH projects have been sanctioned for various products including metal work, carpets, embroidery, biofuels, horticultural products.
Panchayat Mahila`Evam Yuva Shakti Abhiyan Aims to enable women and youth Panchayat leaders to come together to articulate their problems as women Panchayat Leaders.
E-Panchayat For computerizing the databases, accounts and other functions of the Gram Panchayats for accountability and transparency
Panchayat Empowerment & Accountability Incentive Scheme To recognize and incentivize the efforts of Panchayats with respect to transparency, accountability and efficiency and of States with respect to devolution of funds, functions and functionaries to Panchayats. 

Computerisation of Functioning of Gram Panchayats

Government of India formulated e-Panchayat Mission Mode Project(MMP) for e-enablement of all the Panchayats, to make their functioning more efficient and transparent. The Project received in principle approval from the Planning Commission in August 2007. Under the e-Panchayat MMP, 11 Core Common Software applications were planned. Four of these applications namely PRIASoft, PlanPlus, National Panchayat Portal and Local Governance Directory have been rolled out. Six more applications except Geographic Information System (GIS) namely Area Profiler, ServicePlus,Asset Directory, ActionSoft, Social Audit and Trainings Management have also been launched on 24 April 2012 on the occasion of National Panchayat Day. Software Application used for PRIASoft an online cash-based double entry accounting software that implements the Model Accounting System for PRIs. PlanPlus Facilitates planning by Panchayats, Urban and rural Local bodies and line departments. Under the National Panchayat Portal over 2,36,500 dynamic websites have been created for Panchayats (95% adoption) and 30,000 of these websites are seeing an active content upload. Local Governance Directory captures details of local governments and assigns unique code to all Panchayats to ensure interopertability amongst all applications of Panchayat Enterprise Suite (PES). It also maps Panchayats with Assembly and Parliamentary Constituencies.

Reservation for women in PRIs in India

The Union Cabinet of the Government of India, on 27 August 2009, approved 50% reservation for women in PRIs (Panchayati Raj Institutions). The Indian states which have already implemented 50% reservation for women in PRIs are Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.[9] As of 25 November 2011, the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Maharastra, Orissa, Rajasthan and Tripura also reserve 50% of their posts for women.[10]

See also


  • Article 9374468,
  • Nepal glossary,
  • Article 333357,
  • Article India994-07,

Further reading

  • Subrata K. Mitra and V.B. Singh. 1999. Democracy and Social Change in India: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the National Electorate. New Delhi: Sage Publications. ISBN 81-7036-809-X (India HB) ISBN 0-7619-9344-4 (U.S. HB).
  • Subrata K. Mitra. 2001. Making local government work: Local elites, panchayati raj and governance in India, in: Atul Kohli (Ed.). The Success of India's Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Subrata K. Mitra. 2003. Politics in India, in Almond, Gabriel/Bingham Powell/Russell Dalton/Kaare Strøm (Eds.), Comparative Politics Today. 8th edition. New York: Addison-Wesley-Longman, pp. 634–684.

External links

  • Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India
  • Panchayati Raj
  • See the entry on Panchayat in Encyclopædia Britannica
  • International Museum of Women.

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