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Panchayati Raj System- Role, Committees, Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) of 1996 | Indian Polity | General Studies II

 Table of Contents:

  • About the Panchayati Raj System
  • Committees related to the Evolution of the Panchayati Raj system
  • Features of The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) of 1996
  • Analyze the problems that have restricted the success of the Panchayati Raj System in India. How far has the seventy-third ( 73rd) Constitutional Amendment been successful in countering these problems? ( UPPSC 2021)

About the Panchayati Raj System:

The Panchayati Raj System is a decentralized form of government in India that aims to promote local self-governance in rural areas. It was introduced to empower local communities and ensure their participation in decision-making processes. 

73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (1992): 

The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act provided a constitutional status to Panchayati Raj institutions. This amendment mandated the establishment of Panchayati Raj institutions in all states and reserved seats for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and women.

74th Constitutional Amendment Act (1992): 

This act extended similar provisions to urban local bodies (Municipalities), creating a parallel system for urban areas.

The Panchayati Raj System consists of three tiers of elected local bodies:

Gram Panchayat: 

This is the lowest level, responsible for governing a village or a group of villages.

Panchayat Samiti (Intermediate Panchayat): 

The intermediate level oversees a block or a taluka consisting of several gram panchayats.

Zila Parishad (District Panchayat): 

The highest level is responsible for governing an entire district and coordinating the activities of the lower tiers.

The Panchayati Raj System aims to address local issues, plan and implement development projects, and promote social justice at the grassroots level. It plays a crucial role in rural development and decentralization of power in India.

Committee related to the Evolution of the Panchayati Raj system:
Balwant Rai Mehta is considered the "Architect of Panchayati Raj” in India. 24 April is celebrated as National Panchayati Raj Day. Rajasthan was the first state to adopt Panchayati Raj.

Committees related to Panchayati Raja are:
  • 1957: BR Mehta Committee
  • 1977: Ashok Mehta Committee
  • 1983: Hanumantha Rao Committee
  • 1985: G.V. K Rao Committee
  • 1986: L.M Singhvi Committee
  • 1989: Thungan Committee

Balwant Rai Mehta Committee (1957): 
The Panchayati Raj System, as it is known today, began to take shape with the recommendations of the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee. This committee proposed a three-tier structure of Panchayati Raj institutions at the village, block, and district levels to promote local self-governance.

Ashok Mehta Committee (1977): 
Ashok Mehta Committee reviewed and recommended reforms to the Panchayati Raj System. It emphasized the importance of democratic decentralization, women's participation, and financial autonomy for Panchayati Raj institutions.

Features of The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) of 1996:

The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) of 1996 is an important piece of legislation in India that aims to empower tribal communities in scheduled areas. 

Some of its key features include:

Local Self-Governance: 

PESA Act grants significant powers to local self-governing bodies, known as Gram Sabhas, in scheduled areas. These Gram Sabhas have the authority to make decisions on various aspects of local governance.

Land and Natural Resources: 

PESA Act gives the Gram Sabhas control over land and natural resources in their areas, allowing them to regulate and manage these resources by their traditional practices.

Customary Law: 

PESA Act recognizes the customary law and traditional practices of the tribal communities and allows the Gram Sabhas to govern based on these traditions, provided they are not in conflict with the Indian Constitution.

Dispute Resolution: 

The Act provides mechanisms for resolving disputes within the tribal communities and between tribes and non-tribal residents in scheduled areas.

Prior Informed Consent: 

PESA Act mandates that the Gram Sabhas must give prior informed consent for any development project or land acquisition in their areas.


The Act includes safeguards to protect the social, cultural, and economic rights of tribal communities, including their rights to resources, habitat, and customary practices.

Participation and Representation: 

PESA Act promotes the participation of tribal women and marginalized groups in local governance and ensures their representation in decision-making bodies.

Development Plans: 

Gram Sabhas are responsible for preparing and implementing plans for economic development and social justice in their areas.


The primary goal of the PESA Act is to empower tribal communities to manage their own affairs and promote their socio-economic development within the framework of the Indian Constitution.


Analyze the problems that have restricted the success of the Panchayati Raj System in India. How far has the seventy-third ( 73rd) Constitutional Amendment been successful in countering these problems?

 (UPPSC Mains General Studies-II/GS-2 2021)


The Panchayati Raj System in India introduced through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act in 1992, aimed to decentralize power and enhance grassroots democracy by empowering local self-government institutions. While the Panchayati Raj System has seen some successes, it has also faced several challenges that have restricted its full potential. 

Let's analyze the problems that have hindered the success of the Panchayati Raj System and the extent to which the 73rd Constitutional Amendment has addressed these issues:

Inadequate Financial Autonomy: 

One of the significant challenges faced by Panchayati Raj institutions is the lack of financial autonomy. They heavily rely on funds transferred from higher levels of government, which restricts their ability to undertake independent development initiatives.

73rd Amendment's Impact: 

The amendment has mandated the creation of a State Finance Commission to recommend the distribution of financial resources to Panchayati Raj institutions. It aims to ensure a fair share of resources for them and enhance their financial autonomy to some extent.

Political Interference: 

Local self-government institutions often face political interference from higher levels of government or local political actors, undermining their decision-making powers and effectiveness.

73rd Amendment's Impact: 

The amendment seeks to ensure regular elections and fix the term of Panchayati Raj institutions to minimize political interference. It also provides for the disqualification of members in case of defection to curb such interference.

Uneven Capacity and Resource Constraints: 

Many Panchayati Raj institutions lack the capacity and resources to effectively perform their functions. They may face challenges in implementing programs and developmental projects.

Limited Participation of Marginalized Sections: 

Despite the reservation of seats for women, Scheduled Castes (SC), and Scheduled Tribes (ST), the actual participation and representation of these marginalized sections in Panchayati Raj institutions remain inadequate in some regions.

73rd Amendment mandates the reservation of seats for women and SC/ST communities in Panchayati Raj institutions, aiming to enhance their representation and participation in decision-making.

Overemphasis on Administrative Issues:

In some cases, Panchayati Raj institutions may focus more on administrative and implementation aspects rather than engaging in policy formulation and planning.

73rd Amendment emphasizes the need for decentralization of planning and implementation functions to Panchayati Raj institutions, allowing them to play a more active role in local governance and policy-making.

Disparities in Capacity and Functioning: 

There are significant variations in the capacity and functioning of Panchayati Raj institutions across different states and regions.

73rd Amendment provides a common framework, its implementation and effectiveness vary from state to state. State governments' commitment and support are crucial in realizing the full potential of the amendment.

Overall, the 73rd Constitutional Amendment has been successful in addressing some of the problems restricting the success of the Panchayati Raj System in India. It has introduced several progressive provisions to enhance the autonomy, representation, and functioning of local self-government institutions. 

However, challenges like financial constraints, political interference, capacity-building, and uneven implementation still persist. The success of the Panchayati Raj System ultimately depends on sustained efforts by both central and state governments to empower and strengthen these institutions, ensuring a more inclusive and effective democratic governance at the grassroots level.

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