The Panchayati Raj system is a unique form of rural local self-government. It gives considerable power to the villages and ensures that they remain an integral part of the total structure of the government. It enables them to function as units in their own right, with a measure of autonomy at the grass roots level.
Essay on Panchayat Raj System | Objectives, Functions, Composition, Advantages & Disadvantages
Panchayats are local government bodies in villages and small towns of India. Historically, the Panchayat Raj system has its origins in the pre-independence era and was revived by Mahatma Gandhi under the Chalawadi System during 1921–1948 to promote local self-government and participatory development at the village level.
The main objective of Panchayat Raj is to encourage the village folk to participate in local self-government. It ensures that there is proper development at the grass root level by incorporating public participation, which also strengthens people’s participation in politics. The panchayat system employs an informal village leadership and decision making bodies at all levels with the main objective of promoting the spirit of democracy at the grassroots level.
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The objectives are as follows-
To provide opportunities to people for participation in the development process of the villages. The objective is to promote social, economic and political justice.
The panchayats are governed by several levels of elected councils at various levels depending on the size and population of the village. These elected councilors, also known as Panchs, along with other members constitute a number of important bodies.
The panchayat samitis look after the matters that need to be taken care of at zila or district level. The zila parishad is a body consisting of all the Panchayat Samiti chairmen in a district and it looks after the development activities taking place throughout the district.
The Gram Sabha, or village assembly, is the most important of these bodies as it is responsible for both development and general well-being of the entire population. It is also authorised to make laws by passing resolutions called dastoor which become binding as soon as they are passed.
Panchayats have three arms i.e. executive, judiciary and legislature. The executive is the bureaucratic system that implements the development programmes and policies formulated by the state legislature. It consists of a chief elected officer along with other elected members who work as per rules laid down in schedule XII of Indian constitution.
The judiciary is headed by a judge from middle or high court-appointed to the area. A judicial magistrate is then appointed to each panchayat village. The legislature consists of the gram sabha that is responsible for making rules and regulations governing the villages. The panchayat samitis are also major constituent units of the Panchayati Raj system. It is headed by a chairman who is elected either directly or indirectly by the people of that particular area.
Importance of Panchayat Raj System
Panchayat Raj system is a decentralized form of government;
It ensures the participation of people in local governance and it establishes a link between officials, politicians and common people. Panchayats were established to ensure that grass-roots level problems are addressed by concerned authorities through a democratic set up where elected representatives from panchayats would decide development issues in the villages.
The decentralized approach of panchayat raj system has helped to address local problems and centre’s role is mostly limited to planning and resource allocation. Panchayats also ensure that grass-root level problems are resolved and it can carry out its functions without any external interference due to its elected representatives.
Advantages of Panchayat Raj System
The panchayat raj system has the following advantages; It ensures grass root level participation in development process. Since panchayats are elected bodies, their work is more result oriented and transparent. People also feel that they have a right over the decision making process.
Panchayats don’t face any interference from local self-government bodies: Panchayats are more unbiased while executing works related to development programmes because there is no scope for regional, religious or class based discrimination while implementing local development programmes.
Governance through elected representatives at panchayat level gives people right to question their representatives and force them to take up public causes which would not have been possible otherwise.
Few Disadvantages of Panchayat Raj System
No system is completely free of flaws and panchayat raj system has its share of disadvantages- The most important disadvantage is that no funds are allocated for local bodies, which may put them in a disadvantaged position as compared to bigger states with more resources, as part of communication. Panchayats work under constant guidance and supervision of state government which may lead to loss of autonomy.
Powerful elites try to influence panchayat representatives in their respective areas. Elections for local bodies are expensive and time-consuming as local body elections are based on adult franchise, where every citizen above the age of 18 is eligible to cast his or her vote. In spite of shortcomings, panchayat raj system is a form of government which leads towards decentralization and local participation in governance process.
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Panchayat raj system is an important part of local self-governance. It gave people the right to question their representatives and force them to take up public causes which would not have been possible otherwise. Local problems are addressed by concerned authorities through a democratic set up where elected representatives from panchayats would decide development issues in villages. Panchayat raj system ensures grass-root level participation in development process.
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