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II.5.3.5 Panchayati raj and social change

Evolution of Panchayati raj

  • 1882 The Resolution on Local Self-Government.
  • 1907 The Royal Commission on Decentralisation.
  • 1948 Constitutional debates between Gandhi and Ambedkar on Gram Swaraj, ‘self-rule’.
  • 1957 Balwantrai Mehta Commission – an early attempt to implement the Panchayat structure at district and block (Samithi) levels.
  • 1963 K. Santhanam Committee – recommended limited revenue raising powers for Panchayats and the establishment of State Panchayati Raj Finance Corporations.
  • 1978 Asoka Mehta Committee – appointed to address the weaknesses of PRIs, concluded that a resistant bureaucracy, lack of political will, ambiguity about the role of PRIs, and élite capture had undermined previous attempts at decentralisation, recommending that the District serve as the administrative unit in the PRI structure. Based on these recommendations, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal passed new legislation to strengthen PRIs.
  • 1985 G.V.K. Rao Committee – appointed to address weaknesses of PRIs, recommended that the block development office (BDO) should assume broad powers for planning, implementing and monitoring rural development programmes.
  • 1986 L.M. Singvhi Committee – recommended that local self-government should be constitutionally enshrined, and that the Gram Sabha (the village assembly) should be the base of decentralized democracy in India.
  • 1993 The 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution – PRIs at district, block and village levels are granted Constitutional status. The Gram Sabha is recognised as a formal democratic body at the village level. The 74th Amendment, granting Constitutional status to municipal bodies, is passed soon after.
  • 1996 The Adivasi Act – Powers of self-government are extended to tribal communities living in ‘Fifth Schedule’ areas.

Panchayati raj have brought the changes in social, cultural, economic and political spheres-

Cultural sphere : Women empowerment, upliftment of SC, ST, OBC

Social sphere:  Abolition of untouchability, Health, Education, lower caste upward mobility

Economic sphere : Employment Generation, Poverty allieviation, Hunger eradication, Land reforms

Political sphere: Representation, Reservation, empowerment of weaker section, emergence of newer dominant caste



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