The characteristics and salient feature of the Panchayatraj system in India

Gandhiji's belief that Self-reliance of villages is the only solution for their prosperity was the main foundation to this idea of a 3-tier working system of the Panchayat Raj in India. A pen picture of its working style and the benefits are just narrated here and this essay is just a refresher to recall what we have studied in the school.


The visionary Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru gave birth to the idea of Panchayat Raj system way back in 1958 which was in line with the Gandhian thoughts and ideology. The implementation of the Community Development Programme in 1952 and the National Extension Service (1953) made a base to this thought of rural development with a proper delivery mechanism at village level by involving its own people. Gandhiji's belief that Self-reliance of villages is the only solution for their prosperity was the main foundation to this idea of a 3-tier working system of the Panchayat Raj in India.

In this the people are involved and accountable for developmental activities. It helps in development of the Rural part of the country which is always been neglected by everyone including the masses who dwell in it.

The system helps in taking democracy to the village level with certain delegated powers to the people at the grass roots level. Thus it deeply penetrated into the rich soil of our great democracy and gave foundation with mighty pillars by making every Indian to be proud of our democracy. Rajasthan was the first state to adopt Panchayat Raj in 1958.

The three-tier Panchayat system

The Indian rural administration consists of a three tier system with Gram Panchayat at a village level, Panchayat Samiti at a block level, and Zila Parishad at a district level. Some states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have named the Panxhayat samiti as mandal praja parishad and Zila parishad as Zila praza parishad.

Gram Panchayat, which is considered as the "cornerstone" of the Panchayati Raj system, operates at the village or small town level. It is incumbent upon the elected head (commonly referred to as a Sarpanch) to take stock of the infrastructural development of the region, tax collection, and public health and hygiene. The head of the Gram Panchayat regularly convenes meetings on pressing issues.

Block panchayat (Panchayat Samiti) is the replication of same style of governance at the tehsil level. It's a form of the Panchayati Raj that works for the villages of the tehsil that are called a Development Block. This governing body is composed of ex-MPs and MLAs of the area, and other elected members. Block Panchayat takes care of important departments such as Finance, Public work, Health, Education, and IT. Each department is headed by an individual officer. He/she is accountable before the Block Development Officer (BDO), who is at the helm of its administration. The panchayat is elected for five years. While the members of the Panchayats are elected directly by the people, the Panchayat Samiti members are elected by the Panchayats.

District level panchayat or the Zila Parishad has an IAS officer as the administrative head. The prime role of the panchayat is to ensure that the locals have access to essential services and facilities. Its focus remains on Education, Health, and Agricultural segments. Besides, Zila Parishad is also entrusted with the duty of inspiring entrepreneurial spirit and implementing employment schemes. The members of Zila Parishad mainly comprise of MPs elected from that particular district. The major chunk of their revenue comes in the form of grants from the State Government panchayat, along with the earnings from taxes on water, tourism and markets.

How the system made the difference?

Few benefits of this system include:
  • It has helped in the rural development and managing the available natural resources in their surroundings.

  • With proper delivery mechanism, it ensured efficient delivery of services and checks that the benefits are recieved by the end user.

  • The Panchayati Raj has served as bridege between the central government and the people in the rural areas.

  • The people can see a transparent system and ensure accountability.

  • The Panchayat system helped everyone to understand their their rights and responsibilities and made the common man as a stakeholder.

  • Capable of taking a more informed decision in favour of the people of their village or tehsil. Moreover, this mechanism of local self-governance acts as a force to counter the dominance of a particular group or caste in a village.

  • Each village has its own set of issues, which only the locals can understand. Members of a Panchayat are far more cognizant of the region-specific problems, and thus they are According to experts, the evolution of Panchayats is seen as a boon by the villagers, as they can now discuss about their issues with confidence, and even seek solutions through the Panchayat in their region.

Sum up

Unfortunately the working environment of the Panchayatraj system has been diluted due to political opportunism by the political parties and many Villages or Blocks or ZPs are being manned by so called Special Officers instead of allowing the people to elect their representatives. States like Odisha, Punjab and Chattisgarh still following the election schedule and good that the system is working well in these states.

Article by Jagdish Patro
Jagdish Patro is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to ISC and other websites. Fond of reading books, novels and spends his leisure time by listening to music. He did his B.Sc in Applied Chemistry and his M.Sc in Resource Development Technology. He edited and published an in-house monthly journal by name ‘Srujana’ during 2009-2011 which was totally a private circulation.

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Author: Gaurav Singh25 Aug 2017 Member Level: Gold   Points : 1

The author has well defined the working of Panchayati Raj system in our country. This system of administration has helped a lot in bringing political awareness among people. Through Panchyati Raj system people can choose their own representative at local level to work for their interest and welfare. But the dark side of this system can not be ignored. Being head of a village is considered to be the first stage from where a person can enter into main stream politics. In last few years corruption has been at the climax in Panchayati Raj and several cases of scam in MNREGA, distribution of rice, wheat and oil, Indiara Awaas Yojna etc. prove it.
Common people are not getting the benefit as they should because of the corrupt headmen and officers at block level and district level. They are fulfilling their own packet. Many programs are running only on paper. Several schools, hospitals, small bridges, roads have been constructed on paper only.

There is a need of vigilance on the working of Panchayati system and those who are involved in any type of fraud activities should be brought to book immediately.

Author: Partha K.25 Aug 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 8

An excellent article from Mr. Jagdish Patro on the Panchayati raj system in India. Mr. Patro has provided the structural details of India's three-tier Panchayati Raj system. He has also provided the advantages of Panchayati Raj system. I don't have any doubt that this brilliant article would help many Civil Services aspirants both at Central level and State level.

The system finally came into existence in December,1993 when both the Houses of the Parliament passed and seventeen states ratified 73rd Constitutional Amendment Bill and it became an Act. In my response, I would deal with the drawbacks of the system.

1. The system is defective because the distribution of functions among the three structures has not been done rationally. The line has not been properly demarcated.
2. The three tiers, i.e., district panchayat, panchayat samiti and gram panchayats don't operate as functional authorities. The upper structures demonstrate tendencies to treat the lower structures as subordinates.
3. The inadequacy of funds always create problem in implementation of schemes. The earning capacity of the gram panchayats is very less. The entire system depends upon the state governments for financial assistance.
4. The lack of cordial relationship between people and the office-bearers of the panchayts always hinders the progress and development as well as implementation of schemes.
5. There is lack of clarity about the power, role and structure of the system among the elected members. As a result, they depend heavily on bureaucrats.
6. The ex-officio members like MPs, MLAs, Collectors, BDOs, etc. unduly influence the functioning of Panchayats.
7. In some cases, there is excessive politicization of panchayats which hampers the work. The panchayats of West Bengal can be mentioned as an apt example of this unfortunate phenomenon.
8. Panchayat members are administratively inefficient. As a result, corruption starts raising its ugly head.

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