By Lakhimi Dutta

The Three-Tier System of Panchayati Raj in India,MAHATMA GANDHIJI
The Panchayati Raj is a South Asian Political-system mainly; in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal The word "panchayat" literarily means "assembry" of five wise and a respectecd elders chosen and accepted-by the focal- community.

Panchayati Raj is a system of governance in which gram panchayat 

are the basic units of administration. Mahatma Gandhi advocated panchayati Raj, a decentralized form of government. It is the oldest system of local government in the Indian sub continent. This system was adopted by state governments during the 1950s and 60s as laws were passed to the establish panchayats in various states. It also found backing in Indian constitution with the 73rd Amendment in 1992 to accommodate the idea. In the history of Panchayati Raj in India, on 24th April, 1993, the constitutional (73rd Amendment) Act 1992 came into force to provide constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj institutions. Currently, the Panchayati Raj system exits in all the states except Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram and it all Union Territories except Delhi.

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The Three-Tier System of Panchayati Raj in India :

PANCHYATI RAJ SYSTEM LOGOThe states of Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Sikim have two-tier panchayats- one at the village level and the second at the Zila or District level. In Jammu and Kashmir, block is the second level. In all other states Panchayati Raj is a three-tier system- village as first level, block or janapad as second level and zila or district as the third level.

Village Level :

Village is the basic unit of Panchayati Raj Institutions. It is generally a revenue unit. The unit of local government here is called village panchayat. In the structure of the Panchayati Raj, the village panchayat is the lowest unit. 
The panchayat chiefly consists of representatives elected by the people of the village.

Only the persons who are registered as voters and do not hold any office of profit under the government are eligible for election to the panchayat. The persons convicted by the court for criminal offences are disqualified from election of the panchayat.

There is also provision for co-option of two women and one member of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, if they do not get adequate representation in the normal course.

The panchayat as a body accountable to the general body of the village known as Gram Sabha which meets at last twice a year. The Gram Panchayat must present its budget, accounts of the previous year and annual administrative report before the Gram Sabha. Furthermore, it has to secure the latter's approval of the village production plan, proposals for taxation and development programmes before they are enforced by the panchayat. 

Every panchayat elects a president or Sarpanch and a Vice-President or Up-Sarpanch. In some states, the Sarpanch is directly elected by the gram sabha either through the show of hands or through secret ballot.The sarpanch occupies a pivotal position in gram panchyat system.He supervises and coordinates the various activities of the panchyat.The panchyat secretary and the village level worker are the two officers at the panchyat level to assist the sarpanch in administration.

A gram panchayat fund has been created on the pattern of the consolidated fund of the state.

Functions of Panchayats

The panchayats have two types of functions: 

1. Mandatory 

2. Discretionary 

1. Mandatory Functions : Sanitation, conservancy and drainage, prevention of public nuisances, drinking water, construction and maintenance of village roads, construction and repair of public buildings, registration of births and deaths, opening and maintenance of cremation and burial grounds, rural electrification,
poverty alleviation programme, preparation of annual budget and development plans, construction and maintenance of cattle sheds, ponds etc. social farm forestry, fuel and fodder, slaughter houses, public parks and playgrounds, agriculture, poultry and fisheries etc.

2. Discretionary Functions: Agriculture, animal husbandry and dairy development, minor irrigation, small scale industries, housing, electricity and non-conventional energy, rural development programmes, education cultural affairs and heritage, public health etc. In additional, the village panchayats may be assigned additional functions by the state governments and Zila Parishads.

Sources of Revenue 
A gram panchayat fund has been created on the pattern of the consolidated fund of the state. All money received by the Gram Panchayat like contribution or grants made by the State Government, Union Government, Zila Parishad and all sums received by the panchayat in the form of taxes, rates, duties, fees, loans, fines and penalties, compensation, court decree, sale proceeds and income from panchayat property etc. go into that fund.

Village Panchayats have been empowered to levy taxes or fees on subjects like houses and buildings, professions, trades, callings and employments, fees on registration of vehicles, fairs and melas, sanitary arrangements, water tax, lighting tax, tax on sale of firewood, tax on slaughter houses, private fisheries, license fee on tea stalls, hotels or restaurants, carts, carriages, boats, rickshaws etc.
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Block Level 

Block or Union is the second or intermediate level of local self government in rural India. It has been named differently is different states. In Andhra Pradesh, it is known as Mandal Parsishad, in Assam, it is known as Anchalik Panchayat, in Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh,Tripura, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab and Rajasthan it is known as Panchayat Samiti and so on.

Usually, a Panchayat Samiti consists of 20 to 60 villages depending on area and population. The average population under a Samiti is about 80,000, but the range is from 35,000 to 1,00,000. 
The Three-Tier System of Panchayati Raj in India

The Panchayat Samiti generally consists of the followings :

1. About twenty members elected by and from the Panches of all the Panchayats falling in the block area.

2. Two women members and one member each from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to be co-opted. 

3. Two local persons possessing experience of public life and administration, which may be beneficial for the rural development.

4.Representatives of the co-operatives working within the jurisdiction of the block. 

5. One representative elected by and from the members of each small municipality lying within the geographical limits of a block.

6. The members of the State and Union legislatures representing 
the area are to be taken as associate members.

The President of the Panchayat Samiti is the Pradhan, who is elected by an electoral college consist of all members of the panchayat Samiti and all the Panchas of the Gram Panchayat falling within the areas. Besides the Pradhan, the Up-pradhan is also elected. The Pradhan convenes and presides over the Panchayat Samiti meetings. He guides the panchayats in making plans and carrying out production programmes. He ensures the implementation of the decision and resolutions of the Sammiti and its standing committees. He exercices administrative control over the Vikas Adhikari (BDO) and his staff. He is a member of the Zila Parishad by virtue of his office as a Pradhan. He is the ex-officio chairman of the standing committees 
of the Samiti.

As the Chief Executive Officer of the Panchayat Samiti, the Block Development Officer in entrusted with the responsibility for implementing the resolutions of the Samiti and its Standing Committees. He prepares the budget of the Samiti and places it before the Samiti for approval. Preparing the annual report of the Samiti and sending it to the Zila Parishad and State Government also comes within the purview of his responsibility. He is accountable to the president of the Samiti for his action.

Functions :
 The principal function of the Panchayat Samiti is to co-ordinate the activities of the various panchayats within its jurisdiction. The Panchayat Samiti supervises the work of the Panchayats and scrutinizes their budgets. It also reserves the right to suggest measures for improving the functioning of the Panchayats. The Samiti is charged with the responsibility of preparing and colon implementing plans for the development of agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries, small scale and cottage industries, rural health etc.

Sources of Revenue :
All State legislations provide for the creation of Panchayat/ Block Samiti Fund like the Consolidated Fund of the State. All money collected by the Samiti goes into that fund. These are grants given by the State Government or Union Government, donations received, income from properties owned by the Samiti, all taxes, fees, tolls etc. levied by the Samiti, any share of the land revenue or taxes levied by the State Government and assigned to the Samiti, part of the income of the Zila/ District Parishad assigned to the Samiti, all loans raised by the Samiti etc.


District Level :
Except in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the District / Zila Panchayat constitutes the apex body of the three-tier structure of the Panchayati Raj system. The Panchayat at the district level is called Zila Parishad in most of the States. But, in Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim and Uttar Pradesh it is called Zila Parishad and in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat its name in District Panchayat. Generally, the Zila Parishad consist of respresentatives of the Panchayat Samiti, all members of the State Legislative and the Parliament representing a part or whole of the district, all district level officers of the Medical, Public Health, Public Works, Engineering, Agriculture, Education and other development departments. 
There is also a provision for special representation of women, members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes provided they are not adequately represented in the normal course. The collector 
is also a member of the Zila Parishad.

The Chairman of the Zila Parishad is elected from among its members. There is a Chief Executive Officer in the Zila Parishad.
 He is deputed to the Zila Parishad by the State Government. There are subject-matter specialists or officers at the district level in all the states for various development programmes.

The term of each District Panchayat is five years unless dissolved earlier. In most of the States their meeting must be held at least once in three months. However, in Goa, Haryana and Karnataka their meetings must be called at least once in two months.

Functions :
The Zila Parishad, for the most part, performs co-ordinating and supervisory functions. It co-ordinates the activities of the Panchayat Samiti falling within its jurisdiction. In certain states the Zila Parishad also approves the budgets of the Panchayat Samitis. The Zila Parishad also renders necessary advice to the Government with regard to the implementation of the various development schemes. It is also responsible for the maintenance of primary and secondary schools, hospitals, dispensaries, minor irrigation works etc. It also promotes local industries and art.

Sources of Revenue : The legislations of all States provide for the certain of separate Zila Parishad / District Panchayat Fund which is like the consolidated Fund of the State. 

The source of income of the Zila Parishad / District Panchayat are :

1. Grants-in-aid given by the State Government and the Union Government (general or for any particular project)

2. Donations and incomes like rent or lease or sale proceeds of the properties of the Parishad.

3.Toll, fees or cess imposed on bridges, ferries, entertainment, fairs, haats etc.

4. Share of the land revenue assigned to the parishad.

5. Several States like U.P., Punjab, Manipur, Maharashtra etc. 
have empowered them to levy taxes on any matter on which Panchayats
 at the lower levels are empowered to do.

6. Loans raised by it against the security of its properties.

7. Loans raised by it against the security of its properties.

8.Contributions made by Panchayat Samitis or any other local authority.

Conclusion :
After the passage of the 73rd ' Constitutional Amendment in 1992, the States were expected to decentralize their authority to the institutions of self-government at the local level. The purpose was to take democracy to the grass-root level so that the people should manage their own affairs at that level. Only the people themselves know what is best for them and what needs to be done. The idea was not only to entrust the people with the power of decision-making but also to give them the authority and capacity of governing themselves.

The zila Parishad, for the most part, performs co-ordinating and supervisory functions. It co-ordinates the
activities of the Panchayat samiti falling within its jurisdication.


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