Panchayati Raj System

The Panchayati Raj is a South Asian political system mainly observed in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Panchayati Raj system can be best understood by gaining an insight to the the administrative structure of India. The word "Panchayat" means an assembly of 5 people (panch = 5; ayat = assembly) whereas “Raj” means "rule". Panchayati Raj system is a decentralized form of self governance wherein each village is responsible for its own affairs. The Panchayati Raj system in India has 3 tiers - Gram Panchayat at the village level, Panchayat Samiti at the block level, and Zila Parishad at the district level.

Gram Panchayat

Gram Panchayats are local self-governments at the village or small town level in India, headed by a Sarpanch. Gram Panchayat has the responsibilities of:

  • Maintaining street lights, construction and repair work of roads in villages and also the village markets, fairs, collection of tax, festivals and celebrations.
  • Keeping a record of births, deaths and marriages in the village.
  • Looking after public health and hygiene by providing facilities for sanitation and drinking water.
  • Providing free education

Composition: A gram panchayat consists of between 7 and 17 members elected from the village. The adult citizen voters of the village who elect Gram Panchayat members comprise Gram Sabha. Panchayat elections are held regularly every 5 years.

Source of income: The main source of income of the Gram Panchayat is the property tax levied on buildings and open spaces within the village. Other sources of income include professional tax, taxes on pilgrimage, animal trade, grant received from the State Government in proportion of land revenue and the grants received from the Zila Parishad.

Volunteers will get an opportunity to observe how a village panchayat functions, conducts its meetings and how decisions are made. Volunteers will also be able to observe the workings of a Nyaya Panchayat, a system of dispute resolution at village level in India. Nyaya Panchayat is a local body like Gram Panchayat except that it focuses on dispute resolutions among the village people. One Nyaya Panchayat represents 3 to 4 villages, wherein, its members are selected by Village (Gram) Panchayat members from those 3 to 4 villages. It hears minor civil and criminal cases such as minor thefts, tresspasses and can impose fines on the guilty.

This element will help Volunteers to understand and appreciate the various issues in villages and will make the volunteering experience even more meaningful.