Local self government in India
The term Panchayat literally means an assembly of five elders elected by villagers. Panchayati Raj is a system and process of governance. The term was coined by Jawaharlal Nehru. It is distinct from Panchayat, which connotes government of a local body limited to a geographical area.
Jawaharlal Nehru did not like the phrase democratic decentralisation for, according to him:
Democracy means power springing from the people. By Panchayati Raj what was being envisaged was not a territorial government or administration; but rather an approach to administration guided by and vested in the people themselves”.
There is still truth in the saying that India lives in her villages. Therefore, in the Indian context true democracy that can sustain itself and function effectively, is democracy at the village level itself. This is because village communities have been the basic units wherein individual’s happiness, fieedom and independence were realised since ancient times. In the words of S. K .Dey, “If we were to rebuild India work must start from the villages.
Villages have always been the basic units of administration in India since ancient times. Their importance was naturally very great when communications were slow. The question now rises, what will be the form of that society in which it will be possible for the people to run their affairs directly and develop all those values of life that characterise a socialist society, co-operation, self-discipline, sense of responsibility? The answer will be the ‘Panchayats’.
Panchayati Raj in Independent India
The task of strengthening panchayati raj system fell on the Indian government formed after independence. It was clear that India a country of villages had to strengthen village panchayats to strengthen democracy. Mahatma Gandhi who strongly believed in Ggrama Swaraj pleaded for the transfer of power to the rural masses. According to him the villages should govern themselves through elected panchayats to become self-sufficient.
But surprisingly, the draft Constitution prepared in 1948 had no place for Panchayati Raj Institutions. Gandhi severely criticized this and called for immediate attention. It is thus, that panchayat finds a place in the Directive Principles of the State Policy.
Article 40 of the Directive Principles of the State Policy states that ‘the states shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them function as units of self-governments’. The most important aspect to strengthen grass root democracy was neglected by the Constitution makers as Directive Principle of State Policy is not legally binding on the governments.
The first organized effort to tackle the problem of rural India was made through Community Development Programme in 1952 and National Extension Service in 1953. The programme was based on an integrated approach to the various aspects of rural development.
The objectives were to promote self-help and self-reliance among the rural people, to generate a process of integrated social, economic and cultural change with the aim of transforming social and political life of the villagers. Community Development Programme was launched in 55 selected blocks.
The programme was based on an integrated approach to the various aspects of rural development. The programme made provisions for appointing Block Development Officers (BDO) and Village Level Workers (V.L.W). This programme was intended to bring socio economic development of the rural masses on democratic lines, but failed to take off along the expected lines due to the absence of an effective instrument for people’s participation.
73rd Amendment Act, 1992
Following these circumstances, Rajiv Gandhi the then Prime Minister of India, introduced the 64th Amendment bill on local government on the 15th May, 1989 in the Parliament, but it failed to get the required support. A second attempt was made in September 1990 to pass the bill in the Parliament. The bill however was not even taken up for consideration. In September 1991, a fresh bill on Panchayati Raj was introduced by the Congress government under P. V Narasimha Rao, the then Prime Minister. It was passed in 1992 as the 73rd Amendment Act 1992 with minor modifications and came into force on 24th April 1993.
The Panchayati Raj in India is a system established from the time immemorial, from the above research we see that the traces of the panchayati raj found in the Ramayan and Mahabarta period. We also see from the Chanakya Arthasastra which mention about the Local Self-government and its functions. During the British period the first time the three tire system of panchayati raj institution was established by the lord Repon’s.
During the British period the Panchayati Raj institution was created only to collect the revenue and the power was actually was not transferred to the institution. After independence the draft constitution assembly was formed for the preparation of the Constitution of India but local self-government did not find its place in the Constitution. This was criticized by leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and at last there a provision was inserted under Article 40 of the constitution.
Thereafter also there was no heed was paid regarding the local self-government. In the year 1957 Balwantrai Mehata Committee in its report laid down certain provision regarding the local self-government. Thereafter on the said recommendation of the Balwantrai Mehata Committee certain state established the panchayati raj institution in its state but its only works for few years. In 1977 when janta dal Government comes in power it also formed a committee and the committee recommended the two tire system but before it was implemented the janta party government was fall and the new government comes in power and it never thought to implement this programme.
Then after Rajive Gandhi the then prime minister formed a committee which first time in its report mention that the local self-government given constitutional recognition by inserting the separate chapter and the Rajive Gandhi government introduce constitutional 64th amendment act and it was passed in loksabha but due to majority in Rajya sabha the bill fails and the local self-government again not find its place in the constitution.
But in the year 1992 the Bill was again introduce in Parliament by doing minor amendment and this time bill was passed and the Panchayati Raj Institution finally find its place in the Constitution of India.