After the independence, Community Development Programme was started in 1952 AD. But because it was not attached with the people, therefore it couldn’t prove to be a success story. People took it as a burden put on them by the government. A team, under the leadership of Balwantrai Mehta tried to find out the cause for the failure of this programme and came up with the inference that there should be an organisation at village level, which would select the true beneficiaries and implement various Government programme and schemes.
This organisation would act as the representative of all the villagers and should ensure the development of the village as well as participation of villagers. In this way Balwantrai Mehta tried to achieve local self-government though Panchayats (the organisation). This concept of local self-government was the right step towards decentralized democracy. In this process, the State of Rajasthan for the first time adopted the three leveled structure of Panchayati Raj – Village Level, Intermediate Level and District Level.
In 1977 AD Ashok Mehta Committee was set up to review the working of Panchayats. The committee found out that Panchayati Raj is the soul of democracy and therefore it should be empowered with more authority. Those Panchayats which formed after 1977 AD are known as Second Generation Panchayats. In West Bengal, the Panchayats became more effective after accepting the suggestions made in this report.
During the decade of 1990, it was realized that without constitutional power, the self-government can’t be fruitful, therefore the Central Government passed the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act in 1992, which became effective from 20th April 1993 (from the date of publication in the Gazette of India).
Basic Concepts of Panchayati Raj
The basic concept of Panchayati Raj is that the villagers should think, decide and act for their own socio-economic interests. Thus Panchayati Raj Act is related to village self-governance, where the people in the form of an organisation will think, decide and act for their collective interest. Self-government allows us to decide about ourselves without hampering others interest. Whenever we talk about collective benefit one point is clear that there is no conflict between the villagers’ collective interest on one side and societal and national interest on the other, rather they are complementary. Where the Panchayats end their activities the state govt. takes them up. The state govt. plays their major roles.
- To support the village Panchayats
- To co-ordinate the village Panchayats
- To ensure the implementation of this system.
Besides these, once the democratic institution in the villages and towns becomes strong, the people’s representatives can express the problems of their constituency in a better way. This will help in policy determination for national interest. This plan for ‘Swaraj’ (Self-government) can’t be fulfilled only by making a new law. For the success of self-government self reliance is must. The self-reliance means: every village must produce according to its capacity and try to increase its capacity, which can be achieved in following ways:
- By identifying economic and human resources of the Panchayat area,
- By estimating the capacity of these resource,
- By making decision for utilizing these resources,
- By formulating plans,
- By implementing plans,
- By evaluating plans.
Thus we find that self-governance is a concept which is the base for success of democracy. And for self-governance Panchayati Raj System is a must.