PANCHAYATI RAJ SYSTEM IN INDIA (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Polity)

News-CRUX-10     15th June 2024        
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Context: Even after thirty years of this seminal change, if we look at the status and the functioning of PRIs, the much touted three Fs — Functions, Functionaries and Finances — are still in varying stages of devolution in different Indian states.

Panchayati Raj System in India

  • About: Panchayati raj is the system of local self-government in rural India, focused on villages, distinct from urban and suburban municipalities.
  • Components: The system comprises Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), facilitating village self-government, with responsibilities including economic development, social justice, and implementing government schemes.
  • Tenure: 5 Years
  • Panchayat Election by: State Election Commission.
  • Legal Provision:

oConstitutional Provision: Article 40 (Directive Principle for State Policy) - The state shall organise village panchayats.

o73rd Constitutional Amendments Act: Added 11th Schedule and a Part-IX to the Constitution and consists of provisions from Articles 243 to 243 O.

oNon-Applicability to Certain Areas

üThe act does not apply to Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, as well as certain other areas. These areas include:

üThe scheduled areas and tribal areas in the states.

üThe hill areas of Manipur with district councils.

üThe Darjeeling district of West Bengal with the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

üExtension to Scheduled and Tribal Areas

üHowever, subject to the exceptions and modifications specified by the Parliament, the provisions of this Part may be extended to scheduled areas and tribal areas.

  • Three-Tier Structure: In states or Union Territories with populations exceeding two million, PRIs operate across three levels: gram panchayats (village level), panchayat samiti (block level), and district council (district level).
  • Functions: 11th Schedule contains 29 functional items of PRIs and the 12th Schedule to the Constitution contains 18 functional items of Municipalities.

Panchayat Empowerment & Accountability Incentive Scheme (PEAIS): To gauge the performance of states in empowering PRIs. 

oThe objective of PEAIS was to arrive at a Devolution Index (DI) to assess the extent of devolution of 29 subjects to PRIs on framework, functions, finances and functionaries.

oThe assessment under this scheme was carried out by reputed independent organisations like National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) from 2006-07 to 2008-09, and the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) from 2009-10 to 2012-13. The DI of most states in all these assessments were not very encouraging.