Panchayat is the basic unit of three-tier structure. In democracy, it is also known as the first step, the people of the village directly elect the representatives of the village. that People also known as Sarpanch are registered as voters and do not hold any office of profit under the government, they are eligible for panchayat elections. Due to the jurisdiction of the state government, the state government can also make changes Panchayat is responsible for the development of the village.
What is a Panchayat
Panchayati Raj is the oldest system of local government in the Indian subcontinent. Panchayati Raj Institutions as units of local government have been in existence in India for a long time, in different permutations and combinations. However, it was only in 1992 that it was officially established by the Indian Constitution as the third level of India’s federal democracy through the 73rd Amendment Act.
The Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) consists of three levels:
- Gram Panchayat at the village level.
- Block Panchayat or Panchayat Samiti at the intermediate level
- Zilla Panchayat at the district level
Gram Panchayat consists of a village or a group of villages divided into smaller units called “Wards”. Each ward selects or elects a representative who is known as the Panch or ward member. The members of the Gram Sabha elect the ward members through a direct election. The Sarpanch or the president of the Gram Panchayat is elected by the ward members as per the State Act. The Sarpanch and the Panch are elected for a period of five years. Gram Panchayat is governed by the elected body and administration. The secretary is normally in charge of the administrative duties of the Gram Panchayat.
Panchayat Samiti (also called Taluka Panchayats or Block Panchayats) is the intermediate level in Panchayati Raj Institutions. The Panchayat Samiti acts as the link between Gram Panchayat (Village) and District Panchayat (Zilla). These blocks do not hold elections for the Panchayat Samiti council seats. Rather, the block council consists of all of the Sarpanchas and the Upa Sarpanchas from each Gram Panchayat along with members of the legislative assembly (MLA), members of parliament (MPs), associate members (like a representative from a cooperative society) and members from the Zilla Parishad who are a part of the block. The Gram Panchayat members nominate their Sarpanch and Upa Sarpanch amongst their ranks, which extend to the selection of the chairperson and vice-chairperson as well. The Executive Officer (EO) is the head of the administration section of the Panchayat Samiti.
The District Panchayat also known as the District Council or Zilla Parishad is the third tier of the Panchayati Raj system. Like the Gram Panchayat, the District Panchayat is also an elected body. Chairpersons of Block Samitis also represent the District Panchayat. Like the Block Panchayat, the MP and MLA are also members of the district panchayat. The government appoints the Chief Executive Officer to carry out the administration of the district Panchayat along with the the Chief Accounts Officer, the Chief Planning Officer and one or more Deputy Secretaries who work directly under the Chief Executive Officer and assist him/her. The Zilla Parishad chairperson is the political head of the district panchayat.
The primary objective of establishing the third tier of the government is to increase democratic participation, better articulate local needs and priorities, and to ensure a more efficient use of local resources along with greater accountability and transparency. Accordingly, 29 functions have been proposed to be transferred to local governments in the rural area. These institutions have been playing an important role in several flagship programmes of the central and state governments, perhaps more role in implementation and monitoring.
PRIA’s involvement with Panchayati Raj
PRIA has been involved with Panchayati Raj ever since the first Panchayati Raj elections took place in 1995/96. By focusing on Capacity Building, Knowledge Building and Policy advocacy, PRIA sought to engage and inform the voter into making the decision that works best for them, along with giving them information on the election process specifically and the voting process in general. To this end, PRIA organised many events and functions such as PEVAC (Pre-election Voters’ Awareness Campaign), radio dramas, exposure visits, promotion of women and Dalit leadership etc. PRIAs expertise in working with Panchayats of all levels led to PRIA joining various government committees for the Panchayat such as the Expert Committee on Planning and Decentralisation and the Task Force on the Gram Sabha.