Panchayati Raj is a system of governance in which gram (village) panchayats are the basic units of administration. It has three levels: village, block and district. Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayati Raj, a decentralized form of Government where each village is responsible for its own affairs, as the foundation of India’s political system. State governments adopted this during 1950s and 60s as laws were passed to establish Panchayats in various states.
Through the 73rd Amendment in 1992 on April 23, 1993 the Institution of Panchayati Raj was accorded the Constitutional status. Thus Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 mandates provisions for:
- Establishment of a three-tier structure (Village Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti or intermediate level Panchayat and Zilla Parishad or district level Panchayat).
- Establishment of Gram Sabhas at the village level.
- Regular elections to Panchayats every five years.
- Proportionate seat reservation for SCs/STs.
- Reservation of not less than 1/3 seats for women.
- Constitution of State Finance Commissions to recommended measures to improve the finances of Panchayats.
- Constitution of State Election Commission, etc.
The Ministry of Panchayati Raj, which came into existence on 27th May 2004 looks after all the matters relating to Panchayati Raj. The Ministry is responsible for the work of advocacy for and monitoring of the implementation of Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 and the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, to ensure that the State Panchayati Raj Acts adhere to the provisions of the above mentioned two Acts and are implemented in letter and spirit. The Ministry attaches great importance to the capacity building of elected representatives and officials of PRIs as well as functionaries involved in the Rural Development Programmes.