Panchayati Raj System of India.
The Panchayati Raj System of India’s has a long past. During Hindu period as long as the villages paid the taxes the state did not interfere in their working and thus, the villages enjoyed considerably autonomy. Each village Panchayat decided its own cases and hardly a matter was referred to the central government. The Idea of Panch Parmeshwar i.e. God resides among the five village Panchs was quite common. The same position continued under the Muslim rules.
But the British wanted to change the situation. Instead of decentralization, they followed the policy of centralization, but found that unsuitable for India. Many healthy village institutions got decayed during British rule in India due to loss of cottage industries. Lord Rippon during British rule introduced local self-government.
During freedom struggle national leaders in India assured the people that in free India Panchayats will get back their lost power and glory. Mahatma Gandhi, strongly believed in the establishment of panchayati Raj and in decentralization. rather than centralization of power and authority. Accordingly to our Constitution makers, in the Directive Principles of State Policy, enjoined upon the government, both in the center as well as the states, that the Panchayati Raj Institutions should be established as quickly as possible.
The system of community development as a first step was started in 1952. Under the system each state was divided into blocks under the supervision of a Block Development Officer. But somehow the system did not work well because the desired co-operation of the villagers to the whole programme was not forthcoming. In 1957, Balwant Rai Mehta Committee was set up to review the working of Community Development Program. The Committee had wide terms of references. It was to suggest arrangements for the execution of the program with special reference to intensification of activities in the sphere of agricultural production and measures of coordination between different Ministries at the center.
The Committee was given full liberty to suggest any measures for improvement of the scheme. It submitted its report by the end of the year 1957. The Committee recommended establishment of Panchayati Raj System. It suggested that system should be so organized that the villagers participated in their own and the rural people developed a capacity for taking decisions. The Committee also recommended that there should be elected bodes at village, block and district levels. The government should also try to surrender some department completely to the villages. It recommended a three tier system namely,
- Village Panchayat,
- Panchayat Samiti, and
- The Zila Parishad.
It suggested that adequate financial resources should be provided to these bodies to discharge their obligations. These institutions should also be made channel for all programs of social and economic development.