The Panchayat form of governance was practiced at the village level for several years after independence but the 73rd amendment made in the constitution gave the constitutional status to this system, to highlight the importance and need of decentralization.
Before this amendment the Panchayats had a vague institutional character. There was no procedure for their formation. State governments could dissolve them at their own will. There was no uniformity in their organizational structure and not much power was vested on them. Elections were rarely held and there was shortage of finances to carry out welfare schemes. Thus came the 73rd amendment which gave impetus to the Panchayati form of governance.
The amendment mandated the formation of a three tier structure in all states with exception to the states having population less than 20 lakhs, where one tier could be eliminated.
- The Gram Panchayat at the village level
- the Block Panchayat or Panchayat Samiti at the block level
- The Zila Panchayat at district level.
The Zila Panchayat keeps a watch on the block Panchayats which in turn take care of the gram Panchayats. The gram Panchayats are answerable to the Gram Sabha which is constituted of all voters in a village above 18 years. The amendment highlights that the Gram Panchayat shall have tenure of 5 years and can be dissolved by a majority vote in the gram sabha.1/3rd of seats in gram Panchayats are reserved for women and for the Schedule castes and Schedule tribes the seats are reserved in proportion to the population of the village.
The main aim of Panchayats is to plan schemes for social and economic welfare of the people and to check their implementation. They also impose taxes of small amounts for village improvement activities.
The amendment stresses that there shall be a finance commission to recommend the taxes to be imposed and the grant in aids to be charged on consolidated fund of India for the states and villages. Officers are appointed to check the correct use of funds and implementation of policies.
For example: A BDO (Block Development Officer) checks on village Panchayats. The elections in each Panchayat are held under the guidance and provisions of state election commission. Thus this Panchayati form of governance is a major step toward decentralization of power which helps in advancement in social and economic fields. Kerala and Karnataka are perfect examples of successful implementation of this system. These states handed over the control of health primary education agriculture animal husbandry etc to the village level functionaries like health workers etc
But rest of the states still have some catching up to do. The major issue that is of concern is of political interference and lack of independence.
States adhere to the constitutional guidelines but the part that has not been mentioned in the constitution is left taken no care of. Politicians do not want to lose their political hegemony to the Panchayat form of governance which asks for decentralization. Reservation for women is provided but no special training is given to them so that they can take care of tasks independently. These institutions have merely become implementing bodies of plans made by the state government.
The planning commission that was made by resolution of the government can be said as a means to enforce the will of the government. 73rd amendment required the panchayats to be the planning authority but the presence of the planning commission has weakened the institution which have thus failed to become institutions of self governance as per the spirit of the constitution.
Also the staff present in the panchayats is inadequate untrained and unqualified which hampers their influencing capacity.
Because of lack of funds panchayats cannot prepare and implement plans
Thus it can be seen that the State governments have only created a facade as mandated by the constitution but not converted these bodies into institutions of self governance I.e the people are the owner drivers and controllers of these institutions. It is required that the three Fs- funds functions and functionaries be effectively transferred to these institutions