Panchayati Raj and decentralized planning UPSC |Regional Development and Planning | Geography of India

After independence, we opted for centralized planning in India through five-year plans. The planning commission was the highest policy-making body. The policy was formulated centrally and implemented at lower levels like state, district, block, village levels.

The implementation approach was top-down as direction comes from the top.

Drawbacks of centralized planning;

  • The local need was not included or it gets missed.
  • During planning time, local resources could not be mobilized 
  • Local environment concern was also neglected


Decentralized planning removes these drawbacks by formulating and implementing schemes at a local level. In decentralization, planning, formulating, adoption, execution is done locally at the local level.

Decentralization planning has four components:

  • Functional decentralization
  • Financial Decentralization
  • Administrative Decentralization
  • Political Decentralization

Function Decentralization:

  • Function and power should be well divided from the center, state, and local levels.
  • Random function transfer or unplanned function will lead to inefficiency.

Financial Decentralization:

All the planning levels should be financially independent or there would be some mechanism for the distribution of money. In the case of India:

  • Finance Commission distributes finance between center and state.
  • The state finance commission distributes finance between state and local body.

There are different criteria for finance distribution:

  • Areas
  • Population size
  • Degree of relative backwardness
  • Tax effort
  • Commitment to scheme

Administrative decentralization:

  • The regional office should be set up closer to people.

Political or democratic decentralization:

  • If all people take of the planning process, it is called fully decentralization. If part of the people or only elected people participate in the planning process, it would be partial decentralization.


Sign of decentralization planning can be seen from the community development program that was started in the first five-year plan, but real decentralized planning is done after the 73rd constitution amendment.

Evolution of decentralized planning in India;

Community development program in first 2 five year plans:

  • The community development program was based on the Gandhian ideas of a self-reliant village where communities can prioritize the local need.
  • Community development could not get succeeded because it was dealt with by a top-down approach. Direction comes from the top and later communities were not interested in the part of it because local communities did not have power.

Panchayati Raj Phase from 1960;

Balwant Rai Committee was set up to study the community development program and it recommended the three-tier Panchayati Raj System. Three-level were a village, block, and District level. It recommended elected head of village and block level and advisory head at the district level comprised of District Collector, MP, MLA, and expert person.

Evaluation of Panchayati raj system:

  • Many states followed but neglected the district-level body.
  • The whole process was dominated by the political leader
  • Development decisions were largely taken by central and state authority
  • Negligence of lower-level need
  • The importance of the system gets declined in the 1970s.

In 1977, Ashok Mehta Committee appointed to evaluate the Panchayati raj system and it recommended a two-tier system.

In 1986, L.M Singhvi Committee appointed and recommended the following two mains points:

  • Local government should be three tiers and it should be constitutionally recognized.
  • Political parties should not part of the Panchayati election.

1993, Panchayati Raj revived by giving constitution validity through the 73rd Constitutional amendment with the following characteristics:

Panchayati Raj system is the third tier of the Indian federation after the Centre and states. It is the system where people participate in their own government.

It has also three levels;

  • Gram Level; Called Gram Panchayat
  • Block Level; called Janpad Panchayat or Panchayat Samiti.
  • District Level called District Panchayat or Zila Parishad.

Gram Panchayat; 

  • Village Panchayat divided into wards. Elected ward head called Panch. The Head of the village is called Sarpanch or Pradhan, elected for five years.

Village Secretary; 

  • Appointed by the government and responsible for calling the meeting and keep the record of the proceeding.

Works of Gram Panchayat;

  • Construction and Maintenance of water sources, roads, drainage, school building, and other common property.
  • Collecting and lying local taxes such as house tax, market place tax.
  • Executing a government scheme related to employment


For a detailed explanation, watch the below video:



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