Here is a compilation of essays on ‘Panchayats’ for class 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘Panchayats’ especially written for school and college students.
Essay on Panchayats
- Essay on the History of Panchayats
- Essay on the Recommendations of Congress Village Panchayat Committee, 1954
- Essay on the Panchayats and Five-Year Plans (1954-59)
- Essay on the Composition of Panchayats
- Essay on the Committees of Panchayats
- Essay on the Function of Panchayats
- Essay on the Powers of Panchayats
- Essay on the Working of Panchayat
- Essay on the Sarpanch of Panchayats
- Essay on the Panchayat Budget
- Essay on the Control of State Government over Panchayats
Essay # 1. History of Panchayats:
Restoration of Panchayats to their pristine glory had been accepted as an article of faith during our incessant struggle for political emancipation. With the ushering in of independence era, establishment and promotion of village panchayats was apt to be given top priority.
A permanent status was accorded to the panchayats in the political framework of the country through incorporation of the Directive Principles pertaining to panchayats in the constitution.
Article 40 of the constitution ran as follows:
“The state shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.” The significance of this article has been very well defined by Dr. Jam in the words; “It is rather an embodiment of the most cherished dream of the constitution makers and an objectification of the most widely held consensus. So long as the constitutional tradition remains alive in the mind of the citizens and is respected by their leaders, this would continue to guide the course of Panchayati Raj in this country and endow every step in the progressive realization of the idea with the necessary sanctity and sanction.”
Article 40 did not remain a mere ideal. Within four years of the framing of the Constitution of India, Madras, Travancore-Cochin, Jammu and Kashmir, Hyderabad, Madhya Bharat, Saurashtra, P.E.P.S.U., Mysore, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh established village panchayats on statutory basis whereas Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh introduced amendments to further consolidate them.
The pattern of legislation varied from state to state.
However, the basic principles-village panchayats to be popularly elected bodies with an elected President, representation to scheduled castes, vesting them with a wide range of municipal, judicial and developmental functions, assigning them a distinct source of income and specifying a large measure of central control over them-were adopted practically by all these acts.
A trend towards increased democratization and autonomy was discernible in all the states. The structural variations were, however, quite evident. The population per Panchayat varied between 500 and 10,000. The size of Panchayat membership varied between 30 and 51 in U.P. and 5 and 9 in Punjab and erstwhile Pepsu.
In most of the states, membership ranged between 5 and 15. The tenure of the Panchayats was three years in most of the cases. The term of Panchayats in Mysore and Bengal was four and five years respectively. The system of nomination was replaced by direct election. Nomination and co-option was provided only for scheduled castes and women.
The mode of election of the President of the Panchayats also differed from state to state. Rajasthan, Saurashtra, Travancore- Cochin opted for direct election by the electorates. Assam, Bihar and Delhi stood for direct election by Gram Sabha. In the rest of the states more or less indirect election by Panchas was adopted.
Another significant variation in the constitution of the Panchayats related to the pattern of Nyaya Panchayats. West Bengal did not form any Nyaya Panchayat at all. In Madras, Bombay, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Mysore, the village panchayats performed the function of judicial panchayats. In Madhya Pradesh, there was one judicial Panchayat for eighteen Gram Panchayats.
In other states, the Nyaya Panchayats were distinct bodies but their jurisdiction and mode of constitution varied from state to state. In most of the Part C states their jurisdiction comprised of three to five village panchayats.
The general mode of constituting the judicial panchayats was through indirect election amongst the Panchas. In Travancore-Cochin, the members were nominated by the government on the basis of selection by the villagers themselves. In Delhi, the Gram Sabha sent representatives for Panchayati adalats directly.
A considerable improvement was effected in the powers of the judicial panchayats. They could try civil suits involving a subject-matter between Rs. 50 and Rs. 200. However, this power could be increased to Rs. 500.
Punjab, Delhi, P.E.P.S.U. and Madhya Bharat enjoyed the maximum power whereas Hyderabad, Travancore-Cochin, U.P. and most of the Part C states empowered the panchayats to hear civil suits of value of Rs. 100 with a provision for extension up to Rs. 500. In Bihar and Rajasthan this power was restricted to Rs. 50 whereas in case of Bombay up to Rs. 25. The Panchayats could impose fines ranging from Rs. 25 to Rs. 100.
During this period, specific functions were assigned to the Gram Panchayats and independent sources of income were earmarked for them. The State Governments supplemented these resources by their grants.
In order to avoid confusion and disparities of standards caused due to diversities of pattern, the Congress Village Panchayat Committee laid down guidelines in 1954 for working out the future pattern of the panchayats.
Essay # 2. Recommendations of the Congress Village Panchayat Committee, 1954:
The recommendations of the said committee were as follows:
(1) As far as possible, the panchayats should be kept out of politics. Unanimity of election should be encouraged by providing incentives as bestowing of greater powers and authority upon those units which return their panchas unanimously.
(2) The size of panchayat unit should be 1500 to 2000 heads of population.
(3) Adult franchise should be the basis of constituting the Panchayats. If adults are too many in a village, representation according to the family might be accepted.
(4) Panchayats must be vested with social and economic functions besides civil and judicial already entrusted to them.
(5) The judicial panchayats should be separate from the village panchayats.
(6) Panchayats should be allowed share of land revenue to the extent of 13 to 20 per cent of the total revenue. They should be assigned revenue collection work. They should be allowed to levy labour tax.
(7) Panchayats and village co-operatives should be kept separate.
The Local Self-Government Ministers at a meeting in Shimla endorsed all these recommendations. During the next five years, there was a rapid expansion of the Panchayats and creation of the conditions necessary for the proper working of the new institutions.
The question of augmentation of finance of panchayats was accorded expert attention. The Local Finance Inquiry Commission’s Report (1951) and the Taxation Inquiry Commission’s Report (1953-54) had great impact on the pattern of local finances till 1959.
Essay # 3. Panchayats and Five-Year Plans (1954-59):
During this period, the panchayats were associated with the rural-community development programme. They were represented on the Block Development Committee. They were made the agencies for implementing local development works costing up to Rs. 300.
The Bombay Government, for example, made the provision of Rs. 415 lacs for water supply works to be executed through the panchayats in its first five-year plan.
The panchayats were deemed as the base agency for implementation of social and economic transformation.
According to the Draft of the first five-year plan, “Unless a village agency can assume responsibility and initiative for developing the resources of the village, it will be difficult to make an impression on rural life, for only a village organisation representing the community as a whole can provide the necessary leadership.”
The second five-year plan reiterated the significance of the panchayats in bringing about a more just and integrated social structure in rural areas and in developing a new pattern of rural leadership. There is no denying the fact that the vigorous drive for increasing association and participation of village panchayats in development work started bearing fruits.
However, despite rapid expansion of panchayats and marked improvement in their administrative set up and allocation of resources on a more liberal scale, the rural bodies could not be considered to be on sound footing as yet. Paucity of finances was, in particular, a serious malady of rural local bodies.
Essay # 4. Composition of the Panchayats:
It is the lowest rung of the three-tier system and consists of the elected representatives of the people. Its structure and composition differs from state to state. Its membership varies from five to thirty-one. In U.P., the Panchayats consist of 16 to 31 members. In Orissa, the number goes up to 25.
In Gujarat, the maximum number has been 31 whereas minimum is 15. In rest of the states membership ranges between 5 and 15, depending upon the size of the Panchayats. In addition to elected members, seats have been kept reserved in the Panchayats for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled tribes and Female citizens.
These seats are filled by co-option as otherwise, on account of their small number, and other social reasons, they may remain unrepresented. Panchayat is headed by a Sarpanch who may be elected directly or indirectly.
In certain states like Rajasthan, Bihar; Assam, U.P. and Himachal Pradesh, the Sarpanch is elected directly either by the Gram Sabha through the show of hands or by the electorates through secret ballot. In others states, the Panchas elect the Sarpanch. A directly elected Sarpanch can prove more effective.
In fact, direct election of the Sarpanch is essential to enforce popular responsibility and ensure responsiveness. Moreover, direct election method is comparatively though not fully immune, from corrupt and blackmailing practices. Direct election of the Sarpanch does, however, kill the initiative and curtails considerably the controlling power of Panchas.
The average population per Panchayat on All-India basis is approximately 1,400.
Inter-State variations regarding the population, size of the village Panchayat get evident from the following table:
Kerala is at the bottom in terms of villages per panchayat whereas Orissa, Himachal Pradesh have the largest number of villages per panchayat.
The Panchayat is elected generally for a period of five years, but some variations are there. It is four years in Assam, Karnataka and West Bengal, whereas in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa it is three years and in Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, it is five years.
It may be pointed out that panchayat elections are not held regularly with the result that the Panchayats far outlive their normal term. The Panchayat can also be superseded. Ashok Mehta Committee had recommended a uniform term of four years for all the elected tiers of Panchayati Raj and suggested that elections to all bodies should be held simultaneously.
Essay # 5. Committees of Panchayats:
No doubt, a few bodies like Vikas Mandals, Youth Clubs, Mahila Mandals, co-exist with Panchayats in some of the states but they are not organically linked up with the Panchayat Structure. A sound committee system is conspicuous by its absence.
The Panchayats should evolve a functional and territorial committee system. The former should take up production programmes and social services while the latter may be ward or village development committees.
These committees will have to be delegated some sources. Dr. Jain correctly opines; “The virtual absence of the committee system, however, does come in the way of the people. The situation must be remedied in time.”
A ward or village development committee appointed by the Gram Sabha, can be entrusted the function of drawing up the development plan for the ward of the village in consultation with the families and local organisations.
It can seek assistance from the Panchayat Secretary, village level worker, Patwari, teacher, block technicians and the Sarpanch concerned for coordinating the thinking on the village plan. The said committee may supervise the execution of works and serve as the proper agency for chaimelizing the grants. It may also perform conciliative function in certain disputes.
Essay # 6. Function of the Panchayats:
Statutorily two types of functions – obligatory and optional – were entrusted to the Panchayats. With the passage of time and occurrence of new developments, such a division of functions has become obsolete.
The functions of the Panchayats can be divided into following groups:
Municipal functions can be further subdivided into:
(a) Public Health,
(b) Social Education,
(c) Public Safety,
(d) Public construction
Thus these functions include lighting, sanitation, medical relief, refuse disposal, safe drinking water supply, street drainage, public recreation, registration of birth, death, control of epidemics, registration of cattle, maintenance and repair of public roads, inns and buildings, tree plantation, celebration of public festivals, providing reading rooms and other items of further education, public latrines and allotment of manure pits.
(ii) Development and Production Planning:
It comprises of two broad functions:
(a) Construction of amenities.
(b) Preparing village plans regarding the development of agriculture, animal husbandry, co-operatives, cottage industries, small savings etc. and watching their execution, maintaining grain funds and purchasing agricultural tools for common use.
(iii) Physical Planning of the Village:
Control over common land and control over the site land fall in this category of functions.
(iv) Social Welfare:
Social Welfare functions include famine or emergency relief, aid to the handicapped children women and youth welfare programmes and also welfare programmes for the backward classes. The enforcement of Early Child Marriage Prohibition Act or of similar other social laws can also be included in this group.
Airing local grievances, representing constituents in Panchayat samiti through the Sarpanch, expressing opinions upon the cases of loans and grants-in-aid to be distributed by the Panchayat samiti and associating in the execution of land legislation comprise this group.
(vi) House Keeping:
It includes electing up-Sarpanch, collecting Panchayat revenues, budgeting, accounting, appointing and controlling staff, maintaining records, supervising schools, managing panchayat enterprises, and disposing case work concerning municipal disputes.
The Panchayats have been empowered to conciliate the disputes before they are sent to the Nyaya Panchayat, of course with the mutual consent of both the parties.
(viii) Civil Defence and Others:
The Panchayats may undertake the organisation of village volunteer force and also the maintenance of watch and ward services.
(ix) Agency Functions:
They may be entrusted agency functions such as small savings, insurance and revenue collection. It will not be out of place to point out that some of the development functions have also been entrusted to Panchayat Samiti. This overlapping of functions has caused confusion to the voters regarding area of responsibility.
Essay # 7. Powers of the Panchayats:
In order to enable the Panchayats to perform these functions, they have been given some specific powers which are as follows:
(a) The Panchayat may prevent the use of water from a well or a tank which is considered unhealthy by it.
(b) It may order the resident or the owner of a house to remove a nuisance from a public road or drains or remove a danger arising from the bad conditions of a house.
(c) It may regulate the refuse disposal and deepen a water channel.
(d) It may punish the defaulter by imposing a fine not exceeding Rs. 15 which may further rise by Re. 1 per day for continued defiance.
(e) It may reserve a well or a tank exclusively for drinking purposes.
Where Nyaya Panchayats have not been kept separate from the Vikas Panchayats, Panchayats hear civil and criminal suits:
(a) They can impose fines up to Rs. 50.
(b) The power to hear civil suits to a certain extent varies from state to state. The panchayats in Rajasthan for instance hear civil suits up to Rs. 250.
(c) They can impose fines up to Rs. 15 for committing the breach of their execution regulation.
(d) In some states they have other powers of a court of law as well viz., summoning witnesses, calling for records, maintaining dignity of court, judicial immunity, etc.
Panchayats can levy taxes prescribed under the statute with due regard for rules and regulations framed by the State Government.
(a) The Panchayat appoints its own secretary in concurrence with the panchayat samiti, conforming with the standards of the qualifications laid down by the State Government.
(b) It may take disciplinary action against the secretary.
(c) It has full control over class IV staff.
The separation of Nyaya Panchayats from panchayats has very adversely affected the capacity of the Panchayats in obtaining local contributions though it has helped in removing the feeling of suspicion and distrust against the panchayats equipped with too many coercive powers.
Essay # 8. Working of Panchayat:
Panchayat holds its meeting once a fortnight at a fixed place. One-third of its members constitute the quorum. Sarpanch or in his absence, up-Sarpanch presides over the Panchayat meetings. A Secretary maintains the records of the decisions and communicates the agenda along with other relevant information.
Decisions are arrived at by majority vote, though a special majority of 2/3 of the members is required when some decision regarding the construction of amenities is to take place. The village level worker usually attends its meetings. He communicates to the members a new scheme transmitted to him by the Block headquarters.
He can suggest fixing of targets for the various items of village plan or place before them the progress of work for review or point out shortfalls against the planned targets. There is a lot of informality regarding the transaction of business.
The order of business generally is reading of minutes; municipal case work; forwarding of some loan application or application for grants-in-aid; discussion of some circular sent by the Block or a matter initiated by the village level worker; approval of some housekeeping matter, such as panchayat budget accounts or an application from a Panchayat employee.
Essay # 9. Sarpanch of Panchayats:
Sarpanch holds a pivotal position in the panchayat. He combines in himself the functions of a chairman, executive, chief judge and representative. He presides over the meetings of Panchayat and announces decisions on behalf of the Panchayat. He serves as a spokesman of the panchayat in the panchayat samiti. He is responsible for the safe custody of panchayat funds.
Accounting for all receipts and payments is authenticated by him. He maintains panchayat records under his safe custody and gets all reports prepared as required by the various lawful authorities. He supervises and controls the employees of panchayat and discharges duties as authorized by the State Government.
He is the ex-officio member of the Panchayat samiti. He participates in the election of the Pradhan and the members of the other standing committees. As a member of the Panchayat samiti he participates in decision-making.
The multifarious functions of the Sarpanch have not only made the Sarpanch very dominant but have resulted in the apathy and inactivity of panchas. The process of his removal in most of the states has also contributed a great deal in strengthening his position.
Three-fourth majority of total members of Gram Sabha, is required to remove him from the office of Sarpanch. Such a majority is not easily obtainable. Hence practically speaking, he is not removable till of course the State Government itself takes the initiative of ousting him for the gross misuse of powers.
Essay # 10. Panchayat Budget:
The Panchayat Acts allocate large number of taxes, and other sources of income for the panchayats.
The sources of income of panchayats can be classified as follows:
(i) Raised by Panchayats:
They include house tax, land cess, sanitary cess, lighting rate, vehicle tax, grazing tax, labour tax, octroi, water tax, and marriage tax, tax on trade and callings and tax on commercial crops.
(b) Fees and Fines:
Proceeds or share of fees and fines from case work, registration of animals and cattle pond.
(c) Other Revenues:
Income is derived from the management of common land, disposal of panchayat property, fruit trees, fisheries, tanks and sale of Abadi land.
(ii) Government and Panchayat Samiti Grants:
Matching grants, ad hoc lump sum grants or per capita grants constitute this source of income.
(iii) Other Sources of Income:
Income from agency functions, donations and other types of voluntary contributions comprise this source of income. It will be relevant to point out that in some states certain taxes are obligatory whereas in others, they are optional. For example, Professional tax is compulsory in Andhra, Madhya Pradesh, Madras, Mysore and Kerala.
Likewise House tax is compulsory in all the above States as well as in Maharashtra and Punjab. In Gujarat, Assam, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, all taxes are optional.
The income of the Panchayat varies from state to state and from panchayat to panchayat within the same state. The average income of Panchayats in Bihar and U.P. is about 25 paise per capita whereas in Gujarat it is Rs. 3 and Rs. 4 per capita.
The highest per capita income was recorded at Rs. 17.86 per capita in Takhatgarh Panchayat of Rajasthan whereas the lowest per capita income was recorded at Rs. 0.80 in some panchayats of Bihar.
Heads of Expenditure:
The paucity of funds leads to incurring of low expenditure on obligatory and discretionary functions and high ratios of administration costs to the total expenditure. The expenditure level also varies from state to state, from year to year and from panchayat to panchayat. The heads of expenditure are administration, civic amenities, social welfare, construction, maintenance and miscellaneous.
A study team on Panchayati Raj finances recommended an expenditure of Rs. 5 per capita as an immediate target. Keeping in view the civic developmental functions of the Panchayats this is hardly an ambitious target. The Panchayats are apt to lose prestige, if they do not perform all these functions satisfactorily.
At present, the highest chunk of the panchayat income is spent on administration. Less than 5% is spent on education, social welfare and public safety. Only one-ninth of the total expenditure is incurred on public health, sanitation and water supply.
Public works receive approximately one-fourth of the total. It is estimated that in majority of the Panchayats not more than 60% of the total (Panchayats) expenditure is devoted to municipal and developmental functions.
Essay # 11. Control of State Government over Panchayats:
(1) It can annex, separate or transfer a particular area under the Panchayat according to due process of law.
(2) It can frame rules and bye-laws in pursuance of the provision of the Panchayati Raj Acts particularly regarding creation of Panchayats, administration, maintenance and control of public property; appointment and control of panchayat personnel; maintenance of records; case work procedures; panchayat election; settlement of assets and liabilities in case of merger or dissolution of the panchayats; accounting and auditing procedures and other such matters.
(3) If a Panchayat fails to execute any legal obligation the State Government after getting its explanation in writing gets it done by an official appointed for the purpose and charge the cost to the Panchayat fund.
(4) The State Government might direct the Panchayat to carry out lawful duty under an emergency and charge the expenses from the panchayat fund.
(5) In the event of gross misuse of powers, illegal excesses, or persistent neglect of duties, the State Government after giving an opportunity for hearing supersedes a panchayat. However, a superseded panchayat is to be reconstituted within six months from the date of supersession.
(6) The government may ask for records and reports. It may inspect panchayats whenever it likes.
(7) Panchayat accounts are to be audited by the Government auditors.
(8) It can suspend or restrain the implementation of a Panchayat’s resolution which endangers public life, health or property or hinders or annoys a lawfully appointed person. ‘
(9) Some of the State Governments are empowered to suspend and remove a sarpanch or panch after proper enquiry. If the Sarpanch or panch has already retired, the State Government might declare him ineligible for election for three years after recording the adverse findings against him.
(10) While extending grants to the Panchayats, the State Government can impose restrictions upon the Panchayats as to the utilization of these grants.
It may, however, be said that the State Governments have been vested with rather excessive controlling authority over the Panchayats. The power of reconstitution, supersession and suspension is liable to be politically misused.
No doubt such an action can be taken after proper enquiry and consultation with Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad. Yet a revengeful politician at the helm of affairs can play havoc with local autonomy. Hence it is suggested that an impartial machinery may be devised to conduct enquiry against Panchayats for gross misuse of power, before any action is taken against them.