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The rise, decline and stagnation of Panchayati Raj in India

The raise: The establishment of first Panchayat in the country in Nagaur in Rajasthan in the year 1959 gave impetus to the Panchayati Raj movement  in the country. More States took initiative for establishment of Panchayati Raj Institutions in their respective stats under Article 40 of the Constitution.

The decline and stagnation: However, after raise during the 60s, the Panchayats witnessed gradual decline and stagnation by early seventies. A Committee under the Chairmanship of Ashok Mehta was formed in the year 1978 to study the functioning of the Village Panchayats. One of the important recommendations of the Ashok Mehta Committee was that the Panchayati Raj be made Constitutional bodies. Some stats like West Bengal, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh under took serveral new initiatives to endow more powers to the Panchayats as recommended by the Ashok Mehta Committee.

The inherent weaknesses of the Panchayati Raj System: Most of the states in India have established the Panchayati Raj System in their respective stats under Article 40 of the Constitution. However, the Panchayats in the stats were not able to function effectively for different reasons. Some of the reasons of weak functioning of the Panchayati Raj Institutions ware as below:

  • The Village Panchayats is in Article 40 of the Constitution under 'Directive Principles of State Policy' therefore, it is left to the discretion of the states to implement Article 40 of the Constitution for establishment of village Panchayats in their respective states.
  • There was no Constitutional obligation to the state Government to endow the Panchayats with power and authority to enable them to function as Institutions of self government.
  • The tenures of the village Panchayats were not fixed. It was left to the state Government whether to conduct election or to extend its tenure or dismiss it before expiry of the tenure.
  • There was no independent Body in the states to conduct regular and independent Panchayat Elections.
  • The Panchyats were dominated by rich landlords and high caste people. There was no representation of SC/ST or Women in the village Panchayats.
  • The Panchayats were financially weak and there was no Government mechanism to help improve the financial position of the Panchayats.