After independence, inspired by Gandhi’s vision of “Ram Rajya” and realizing the practical significance of Panchayats, the leadership tried to revive the institution. They regarded it as the self-governing institution at the local level to ensure the effective participation of people in the process of growth and development. However, the history of Panchayati Raj system has not been uniform. It has witnessed many twist and turns, ups and downs.
2. Constitutional Provisions and Major Landmarks in the Development of Panchayati Raj Institutions:
i. Article 40 provides that “The state shall take steps to organise village Panchayats and to endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.”
ii. In 1952 Community Development Programmes were started (first in Rajasthan) to bring people within the ambit of planning.
iii. In 1957 Balwant Rai Mehta Committee was appointed to review the working of Community Development Programme. Its recommendations had far reaching consequences for the Panchayati Raj institution.
a. Democratic decentralization
b. Democratically elected bodies at three levels (village, block and district)
c. Planning and development tasks to be assigned to local bodies.
iv. In 1977 Ashoka Mehta Committee was constituted with members belonging to different political parties. It was first ever committee exclusively for PR bodies.
a. Preferred two tier system: Zila Parishad and Mandal Panchayat.
b. Participation of political parties in the elections.
c. While Zila Parishad would be policy making, Mandal Panchayat would be implementing agency.
d. Entrusted compulsory power of taxation.
e. Setting up a ‘social justice committee’ in every Zila Parishad.
v. 64th Constitutional Amendment Bill (1989) introduced by Rajiv Gandhi Government
vi. 74th Constitutional Amendment Bill (1990) introduced by V.P. Singh Government
vii. 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (1992)
3. Working of Panchayati Raj Institutions:
The basic idea underlying the PR bodies is to ensure participation of people in developmental activities. But, the experience showed contradictions.
1. No uniform system of organization of Panchayats. While some states had 3 tier structures, some had 2 tiers and some even had only one tier Panchayat. Moreover, there was wide variance in performance of functions.
2. Apathetic attitude on the part of leaders paralyzed the institution. The leadership was apprehensive of delegating powers.
3. Dominance of vested interest in PR bodies also contributed in its failures. Economically and socially privileged continued to have greater influence in these bodies.
4. Bureaucracy was not ready to share its power with the people.
5. Lack of economic resources at the hands of PR bodies also contributed to its failures.
4. Significance of Panchayati Raj Bodies:
Despite weaknesses and failure PR bodies had following significance.
1. Aroused public awareness in the area of governance.
2. Influenced participation of people in administrative tasks.
3. Prepared ground for emergence of a new leadership.
4. Made the exercise of planning more effective Panchayats after 73rd Amendment Act (1992)
The 73rd Amendment Act passed in 1992 and implemented in 1993 marked a new era in the history of PR institutions. It added a new Part IX consisting of 16 Articles and Eleventh schedule to the Indian Constitution.
By this amendment, Constitutional status has been conferred on PR bodies. The Bill was drafted by a committee under the Chairmanship of Nathu Ram Mirdha.