Muhamma Panchayat office, Kerala

Panchayati raj (council of five officials) is the system of local self-government of villages in rural India[1] as opposed to urban and suburban municipalities.

It consists of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) through which the self-government of villages is realized.[2] They are tasked with "economic development, strengthening social justice and implementation of Central and State Government Schemes including those 29 subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule."[2]

Part IX of the Indian Constitution is the section of the Constitution relating to the Panchayats.[3][4] It stipulates that in states or Union Territories with more than two million inhabitants there are three levels of PRIs:

In states or Union Territories with less than two million inhabitants there are only two levels of PRIs. The Gram Panchayat consists of all registered voters living in the area of a Gram Panchayat and is the organization through which village inhabitants participate directly in local government. Elections for the members of the Panchayats at all levels take place every five years. By federal law, the Panchayats must include members of Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the same proportion as in the general population and at least one-third of all seats and chairperson posts must be reserved for women. Some states have increased the required minimum proportion for women to one-half.[2]

Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated Panchayat at Nagaur on 2 October 1959. The day was selected on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's birthday. Gandhi wanted Gram Swaraj through Panchayati Raj.[5][6] The system was modified in 1992 with the 73rd constitutional amendment.[7][8][9]

In India, the Panchayati Raj now functions as a system of governance in which gram panchayats are the basic units of local administration. Currently, the Panchayati Raj system exists in all states except Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, and in all Union Territories except Delhi.


Panchayati raj has its origins in India since Vedic period (1700 BCE). Since Vedic times, the village (gram) in the country is considered as the basic unit for regional self-administration.[10]

Open Panchayat near Narsingarh, Madhya Pradesh

Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayati Raj as the foundation of India's political system, as a decentralized form of government in which each village would be responsible for its own affairs.[11][12] The term for such a vision was Gram Swaraj ("village self-governance"). Instead, India developed a highly centralized form of government.[13] However, this has been moderated by the delegation of several administrative functions to the local level, empowering elected gram panchayats. There are significant differences between the traditional Panchayati Raj system, that was envisioned by Gandhi, and the system formalized in India in 1992.[8]

Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated Panchayati at Nagaur on 2 October 1959. The day was selected on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's birthday. Gandhi wanted Gram Swaraj through Panchayati Raj.[5] Rajasthan was the first state to implement it. Nehru inaugurated Panchayat Raj in Andhra Pradesh on 11 October 1959 on the occasion of Dussehra. The system was gradually established all over India.[6] The system was modified in 1992 with the 73rd constitutional amendment.[8][9]

The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee, headed by the Member of Parliament Balwantrai Mehta, was a committee appointed by the Government of India in January 1957 to examine the work of the Community Development Programme (1952) and the National Extension Service (1953), to suggest measures to improve their work. The committee's recommendation was implemented by NDC in January 1958, and this set the stage for the launching of Panchayati Raj Institutions throughout the country. The committee recommended the establishment of the scheme of ‘democratic decentralization’, which finally came to be known as Panchayati Raj. This led to the establishment of a three-tier Panchayati Raj system: Gram Panchayat at the village level, Panchayat Samiti at the block level, and Zila Parishad at the district level.

On 24 April 1993, the Constitutional (73rd amendment) Act of 1992 came into force in India to provide constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj institutions. This amendment was extended to Panchayats in the tribal areas of eight states, namely: Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Rajasthan beginning on 24 December 1996. This amendment contains provisions for the devolution of powers and responsibilities to the panchayats, both for the preparation of economic development plans and social justice, as well as for implementation in relation to 29 subjects listed in the eleventh schedule of the constitution, and the ability to levy and collect appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees.[14] The Act aims to provide a three-tier system of Panchayati Raj for all states having a population of over two million, to hold Panchayat elections regularly every five years, to provide seats reserved for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women, to appoint a State Finance Commission to make recommendations regarding the financial powers of the Panchayats, and to constitute a District Planning Committee.[15]

4 - tier panchayat system

The 4-tier panchayat system [bn] was inaugurated in West Bengal on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday (2 October) in the year 1964 by the passage of the West Bengal Zilla Parishad Act in 1963. It consisted of

  1. Gram panchayats composed of representatives directly elected by villagers for a term of 4 years
  2. Locality panchayats composed of elected sarpanches and representatives elected directly by the villagers for a term of 4 years,
  3. Locality councils composed of the block development officer of that community development block, all heads of the locality panchayats under jurisdiction of that block, persons representing the locality panchayats elected by the members of each locality panchayat falling under that block, the local Lok Sabha MP who does not hold any ministerial portfolio, local MLA who does not hold any ministerial portfolio, a Rajya Sabha MP who is domiciled in that block and does not hold any ministerial portfolio, an MLC who is domiciled in that block and does not hold any ministerial portfolio, 2 female members nominated by the state government, 2 members representing the SC, ST and OBC population nominated by the state government and 2 social workers experienced in rural development elected by the aforementioned members for a term of 4 years
  4. District councils composed of the sub-divisional officers in charge of the sub-divisions of that district, a district panchayat officer appointed by the state government, a civil servant nominated by the state government, chairpersons of all locality councils under that district, 2 members elected by the sarpanchs of each sub-division of that district, a local municipality chairperson or mayor nominated by the state government, chairperson of the district school board, 2 female members nominated by the state government and MLAs and MPs (both representing the district and domiciled in that district) who do not hold any ministerial portfolio for a term of 4 years.

3 - tier panchayat system

The 3 tier panchayat system was inaugurated in June 1973 by the West Bengal Panchayat Act passed that year. It consists of

  1. Gram panchayats
  2. Panchayat samitis and
  3. Zilla panchayats


In different parts of India, the levels of panchayati raj institutions might have different names because of the various languages spoken and cultural differences. However, they usually represent the village, block, and district levels and similar in nature.[16]

District Council;

Zilla Parishad, Zila Parishad, Zilla Panchayat, District Panchayat, etc.

Block Panchayat;

Panchayat Samiti, Panchayat union, Mandal Parishad, Mandal Praja Parishad, Anchalik Panchayat, Janpad Panchayat, Kshetra Panchayat, Taluka Panchayat, etc.

Village Panchayat

Gram Panchayat, Gaon Panchayat, etc.


The members at all levels of Panchayati Raj are elected directly, and the chairpersons/presidents at the intermediate and district levels are elected indirectly from among the elected members. At the village level, the chairperson/president is elected as determined by the state government. Some states use direct elections, while others use indirect elections (elected from among the members) to choose the chairperson of the gram panchayat.

For the purpose of representation, the village panchayat, block panchayat, and district panchayat are divided into constituencies/wards, each represented by an elected member. These members constitute the panchayat council. In some states, there are ex-officio members at the block or district level who are not elected members, such as MLAs, MPs, etc.[17]


The term of Panchayati Raj Institutions at all levels is 5 years, and elections to these are conducted by the respective State Election Commission.

Reservation of seats

Reservation of seats in Panchayati Raj Institutions is a mechanism to ensure representation of marginalized and underprivileged sections of society. These reservations typically include seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and women. The percentage of reserved seats varies from state to state based on demographic factors and social considerations.

Gram panchayat sabha

The sarpanch (head of five) is its elected head. The members of the gram panchayat are elected directly by the voting-age village population for a period of five years.[18] The Gram Panchayat President, also known as Sarpanch often presides over the Sabha meetings.

Elected standing committees operate in the panchayat, focusing on specific areas like finance, development, education, health, and welfare. Each committee, headed by a chairperson, comprises three to five members, ensuring representation and expertise in their respective domains.

Block level panchayat or Panchayat Samiti

Main article: Panchayat Samiti (Block)

Elected panchayat president in Kottayam district.[19]

Just as the tehsil goes by other names in various parts of India, notably mandal and taluka, there are a number of variations in nomenclature for the block panchayat. For example, it is known as Mandal Praja Parishad in Andhra Pradesh, Taluka Panchayat in Gujarat and Karnataka, and Panchayat Samiti in Maharashtra. In general, the block panchayat has the same form as the gram panchayat but at a higher level.


Membership in the block panchayat is mostly ex-official; it is composed of: all of the Sarpanchas (gram panchayat chairmen) in the Panchayat Samiti area, the MPs and MLAs of the area, the Sub-District Officer (SDO) of the sub-division, co-opt members (representatives of the SCs, STs and women), associate members (a farmer from the area, a representative of the cooperative societies and one from marketing services), and some elected members. However, in Kerala, block panchayat members are directly elected, just like gram panchayat and district panchayat members.

The Panchayat Samiti is elected for a term of five years and is headed by a chairman and a deputy chairman.[20]

System in practice

The Panchayats, throughout the years, have relied on federal and state grants to sustain themselves economically. The absence of mandatory elections for the Panchayat council and infrequent meetings of the Sarpanch have decreased the spread of information to villagers, leading to more state regulation.[21] Many Panchayats have been successful in achieving their goals, through cooperation between different bodies and the political mobilization of previously underrepresented groups in India. There is an obstacle of literacy that many Panchayats face for engagement of villagers, with most development schemes being on paper. However, homes linked to the Panchayati Raj System have seen an increase in participation for local matters.[22] The reservation policy for women on the Panchayat councils have also led to a substantial increase in female participation and have shaped the focus of development to include more domestic household issues.[23]

In 1992, the 73rd amendment was passed, transforming the role of women in Panchayati raj.[24] The 73rd amendment established reservation of one-third of seats for women in basic village councils. This reservation had led to a significant increase in women's participation in local governance. Women are now serving as elected representatives in various positions, including as sarpanch (village head) and panchayat members. Women also demonstrated their positive and enlightened thinking in the panchayat to respond to the government's expectations of women. The supportive actions from their families are encouraging women to attend every PRI (Panchayati Raj in India) meeting. Even though the bureaucracy was all male dominated, Gandhi hoped that Panchayati raj could be the framework for a free Indian political order. As a promoter of liberalism, he proposed gram swaraj, or self-contained and autonomous villages, to give women the most rights.[25] The 73rd amendment  was also resisted because reservation of seats meant that high caste people had to accept marginal caste women into the political empowerment system. Indirectly, this leads to corruption when the government devotes funds to the grassroots panchayat where resources and funds are exploited by bureaucratic channels.[26]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Panchayati Raj Institutions in India".
  2. ^ a b c d "Basic Statistics of Panchayati Raj Institutions" (PDF). Ministry of Panchayati Raj. 2019. Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 April 2024. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  3. ^ Renukadevi Nagshetty (2015). "IV. Structure and Organisational Aspects of Panchayati Raj Institutions in Karnataka and Gulbarga District". Problems and Challenges in the Working of Panchayat Raj Institutions in India. A Case Study of Gulbarga Zilla Panchayat (PhD). p. 93. hdl:10603/36516. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 October 2017. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  4. ^ "Record of Proceedings. Writ Petition (Civil) No. 671/2015" (PDF). Website "India Environment Portal" by the Centre for Science and Environment. Supreme Court of India. 2015. p. 3. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 October 2020. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  5. ^ a b Sharma, Shakuntla (1994). Grass Root Politics and Panchayati Raj. Deep & Deep Publications. p. 131.
  6. ^ a b Singh, Surat (2004). Decentralised Governance in India: Myth and Reality. Deep & Deep Publications. p. 74. ISBN 978-81-7629-577-2.
  7. ^ "Structure of Rural Local Government of India". Retrieved 3 January 2022.
  8. ^ a b c Singh, Vijandra (2003). "Chapter 5: Panchayate Raj and Gandhi". Panchayati Raj and Village Development: Volume 3, Perspectives on Panchayati Raj Administration. Studies in public administration. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons. pp. 84–90. ISBN 978-81-7625-392-5.
  9. ^ a b "Living in the villages | D+C - Development + Cooperation".
  10. ^ Panchayati Raj: The Grassroots Dynamics in Arunachal Pradesh, p. 13, APH Publishing, 2008, Pratap Chandra Swain
  11. ^ Sisodia, R. S. (1971). "Gandhiji's Vision of Panchayati Raj". Panchayat Aur Insan. 3 (2): 9–10.
  12. ^ Sharma, Manohar Lal (1987). Gandhi and Democratic Decentralization in India. New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications. OCLC 17678104. Hathi Trust copy, search only
  13. ^ Hardgrave, Robert L. & Kochanek, Stanley A. (2008). India: Government and Politics in a Developing Nation (seventh ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Thomson/Wadsworth. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-495-00749-4.
  14. ^ India 2007, p. 696, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India
  15. ^ "Panchayati Raj System in Independent India" (PDF). Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  16. ^ "Number of Panchayats". Retrieved 15 May 2024.
  17. ^ "An overview to the Panchayati Raj Institutions in India" (PDF).
  18. ^ Seetharam, Mukkavilli (1990). Citizen Participation in Rural Development. Mittal Publications. p. 34. ISBN 9788170992271. OCLC 23346237.
  19. ^ "Mani nominee is Kottayam district panchayat president". The Hindu. 25 July 2019.
  20. ^ "Panchayati Raj System and Article 243 – Bodhivriksh". Archived from the original on 20 September 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  21. ^ Dwivedi, Ritesh; Poddar, Krishna (1 December 2013). "Functioning of Panchayati Raj Institutions in India: A Status Paper". Adhyayan. 3 (2). doi:10.21567/adhyayan.v3i2.10183.
  22. ^ Singhal, Vipin (17 November 2015). "Dynamics of Panchayati Raj Institutions – Problems and Prospects". Rochester, NY. SSRN 2692119. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  23. ^ Billava, Nnarayan; Nayak, Nayanatara (1 January 2016). "Empowerment of Women Representatives in Panchayat Raj Institutions: A Thematic Review". Journal of Politics and Governance. 5 (4): 5. doi:10.5958/2456-8023.2016.00001.2.
  24. ^ Kaul, Shashi; Sahni, Shradha (1 July 2009). "Study on the Participation of Women in Panchayati Raj Institution". Studies on Home and Community Science. 3 (1): 29–38. doi:10.1080/09737189.2009.11885273. ISSN 0973-7189.
  25. ^ Kaushik, Anupma; Shaktawat, Gayatri (December 2010). "Women in Panchayati Raj Institutions: A Case Study of Chittorgarh District Council". Journal of Developing Societies. 26 (4): 473–483. doi:10.1177/0169796X1002600404. ISSN 0169-796X.
  26. ^ Tiwari, Nupur (January 2008). "Women in Panchayati Raj". Indian Journal of Public Administration. 54 (1): 34–47. doi:10.1177/0019556120080103. ISSN 0019-5561.


Further reading