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” of five wise and respected elders chosen and accepted by the local community. These assemblies settled disputes between individuals and villages.
Panchayati Raj is a system of governance in which gram panchayats are the basic units of administration. It has 3 levels: Gram, Janpad (taluka or block) and Zilla.
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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 or sarpanch, a position which is elected.
The Vision of Panchayati Raj is to attain decentralized & participatory local self-government through Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). The Mission of the Panchayati Raj is Empowerment, enablement & accountability of PRIs to ensure inclusive development with social justice, and efficient delivery of services.
Panchayats at village levels are expected to perform certain obligatory functions to provide basic services to all the people living in the area. They as constitutional bodies represent the model of community participation and social empowerment. Basic services among others include:
- Primary education
- Primary health·
- Safe Drinking water
- Sanitation and street lighting·
- Environment protection
- Common property resources (CPR) management
The prime objectives of the three tiers Panchayati Raj System are to eradicate poverty, uplift standard of living of people in the rural areas and bring about a healthy society by creating awareness for hygiene, sanitation, and eradication of illiteracy. The state has established a State Election Commissioner to conduct the election of PRIs.
Must Read: Schedules in Constitution of India
Panchayati Raj Institutions have emerged as the powerful institutions in bringing about rapid and sustainable development and socio-economic transformation in rural areas. It has an integrated perspective towards improving the quality of lives of rural people and ensuring equity and effective peoples’ participation. Amendment of the Constitution has conferred constitutional status to Panchayati Raj Institutions.
The amendment of the Constitution mandates Government to endow the Panchayati Raj Institutions with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-Government. It also provides that powers and responsibility to the preparation of plans for economic development and social justice and implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice as may be entrusted to them including those listed in the 11th Schedule.