Self-governing village communities
existed in India from earliest times.
They are mentioned in the Rig
Vedas which dates from 1200 B.C.
Existence of village „Sabhas‟ & „gramins‟
until 600 B.C.
Trace of „village assembly‟ & „elder‟s
council‟ & village headman „gramika‟ in
Maurayan / Gupta age.
Gradually village bodies took the form of
Panchayats (an assembly of five persons) &
elevated to a sacred position of authority.
They were vested with police & judicial
Characteristic of village Panchayats
Local affairs were regulated by the
Panchayats and village officers were
answerable to them.
Under the Mughals, their judicial
powers were curtailed, but local affairs
continued to be regulated by them.
British Colonial Period
With the advent of British, self-contained
village communities and their Panchayats
ceased to get sustenance.
In course of time they were replaced by
formally constituted institutions of village
The Local Self Govt. in India was the
creation of the British though village
panchayats were not their first priority.
British colonial period
They were mainly concentrated around the
trading centres, so their interest was limited
to creation of local bodies of nominated
members in major towns.
Municipal Corporation was first formed in
Madras in 1687 on the British model of a
It was empowered to levy taxes for building
a guild hall and schools.
Formation of Local Bodies
With the passage of time similar bodies
were set up in other major towns and their
taxation powers were widened.
But they continued to comprise nominated
members only with no elective element.
The revolt of 1857 put imperial finances
under considerable strain. It became
necessary to finance local services out of
Lord Mayo‟s Resolution
In 1870 the Viceroy Lord Mayo got a
resolution passed by hi council for
decentralization of power was passed in
Objective was to bring about efficiency in
administration to meet the demands of the
people & to mobilize further fund for the
growing wants of the country.
The revolt of 1857 had put imperial finances
under considerable strain, so it was found
necessary to finance local services out of
The Bengal Chowkidari Act,
In the wake of this resolution “The Bengal
Chowkidari Act, 1870” was passed to revive
traditional village panchayat system in
This Act empowered D.M. to set up
panchayats of nominated members (not
less than five members) in the villages.
These nominated Panchayats could levy
and collect taxes to maintain Chowkidars.
This Act did not create any local authority in
the village to take care of local
sanitation, communication, education or
The Bengal Local Self-Govt.
The resolution of the liberal Viceroy
heralded the dawn of a new era in the
history of Indian administration.
The Bengal Local Self-Govt. Act,1885 was
passed to establish a net work of rural local
bodies at two levels - district and
The Act also established Union Committees
to perform municipal functions in rural
These bodies were constituted by the Govt.
on the basis of informal election.
Instrument of political education
In most cases the names of persons
nominated by the Govt. were made known
to the village folk in a meeting presided
over by the Sub-divisional Officer and
People were expected to approve those
Within a few years the experiment failed.
The Royal Commission on Decentralization
in India (1907) recommended merger of
Chowkidari function and welfare function in
the locality and placing them in the hands of
same local body.
Fusion of Chowkidari & Municipal
Govt. of India‟s Resolution, 1918 endorsed
the view of the Commission and wanted to
make village panchayats living units by
giving villagers an interest in and some
control over local village affairs.
The Bengal Village Self-Govt. Act, 1919
was passed which achieved the fusion of
Chowkidari & Municipal functions into a
newly created body - known as the Union
Board. Other two bodies at District and
Sub-division levels remained unaltered.
Functions of Union Board under the
Bengal Village Self-Govt. Ac,1919
Union Board was vested with, apart from
police function, powers & functions
necessary for village community affairs,
minor roads, water works, public health &
It had powers of taxation necessary for
discharging the duties assigned to it.
The staple of the Union Board‟s finance
was Chowkidaricess which had been levied
for half a century and provided a secure
Local Board & District Board
Post of Circle Officer was created to serve as
a link between the village administration and
the Sub-divisional administration.
Local Board at the sub-division level and
District Board at the district level had no
organic linkage with the Union Board.
Local Board had no power to raise money on
its own account. It was designed to act as
agent of District Board for undertaking the
public works and duties assigned to it.
All powers were vested in the District Board.
Its 2/3 members were elected by members
of Local Boards & 1/3 members were
nominated comprising both officials & nonofficials.
The nomination was to be done by
Divisional Commissioner; but under
amendment of the Act in 1932 it was given
to the MIC of LSG
Up to 1921, D.M. used to be Chairman;
thereafter Dist. Board elected its own
Still Govt. exercised a good control over
election from Local Boards.
Govt. of India Act, 1935
Inauguration of Provincial autonomy under
the Act marked another important stage in
the evolution of Panchayats.
Popularly elected Govts. in Provinces felt
duty bound to enact legislation for further
democratization of LSG Institutions
including village Panchayats.
But due to declaration of Second World War
in 1939 the position remained unaltered.
Four tier PRI in West Bengal
3-tier PRI was first adopted by Rajasthan
on 2 October 1959.
The West Bengal Panchayat Act,1957 introduced Anchal Panchayat at cluster level &
Gram Panchayat at village level.
The West Bengal Zilla Parishad Act,1963
introduced Zilla Parishad at district level &
Anchalik Parishad at Block level.
Thus 4-tier PRI was established in W.B. on
October 2, 1964.
Implementation of 3-tier PRI
The Left Front came to power in the State in 1977
& the State Govt. immediately decided to go in for
Direct elections were held in June, 1978 to Zilla
Parishads at district level, Panchayat Samitis at
block level & Gram Panchayats at cluster level
with open participation of political parties.
Term of a panchayat body was five years &
elections were held regularly after every five years.
Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act,1992
L.M.Singhvi Committee recommended
constitutional status for panchayats in 1986.
Lok Sabha passed Constitution (Seventy-third
Amendment) Act, 1992 (known as Panchayati Raj
Act) which inserted Art.243 & Eleventh Schedule.
The Act provides constitutional status to PRIs & all
States/U.Ts are to constitute three/two tier PRIs
depending on their total population.
Salient points of Constitution Amendment Act, 1992
Every Panchayat shall constitute Gram Sabha
comprising all registered voters of the area.
In every tier seats shall be reserved for SC/ST
members in proportion to their population in the
Not less than one-third of the seats in all tiers shall
be reserved for women.
The offices of chairpersons in each tier shall be
reserved for SC/ST members in proportion to their
population in the area.
Not less than one-third offices of chair-persons in all
tiers shall be reserved for women.
Every panchayat shall continue for five years from
the date appointed for its first meeting & no longer.
Devolution of powers & responsibilities upon
Panchayats at the appropriate level for (a) preparation of plans for economic develop-ment &
social justice, (b) implementation of schemes for
economic development & social justice as may be
entrusted to them.
Authorizing powers to impose taxes by the
Assigning to panchayats such taxes, duties, tolls &
fees levied/collected by the State Govt.
Providing grants-in-aid to the Panchayats from the
Consolidated Fund of the State
Constitution of Finance Commission to review
financial position of the Panchayats.
Maintenance of accounts by the Panchayats &
auditing of such accounts.
Constitution of State Election Commission for
conduct of all elections to the panchayats.
Incorporation of amendments in the State
These amendments brought about a fundamental
change not only in the realm of local self-govt. but
also in India‟s federal character.
Some provisions viz, Gram Sansad, reserva-tion
for women & SC/ST members in each tier of
panchayats was inserted prior to the Con-stitution
Amendment Act, 1992. Other provisions were
incorporated in the State Act through the
W.B.Panchayat (Amendment) Act,1994 and 1997.
Gram Unnayan Samiti
Further amendment of the Act in 2003 has
paved the way for constitution of GUS at
Gram Sansad level.
Members of GUS are elected by the voters
of a Gram Sansad from among themselves.
Elected member of GP from the GS is its
ex-officio Chairperson. Members of GUS
elect a Secretary from among themselves in
its first meeting. Gus will assist GS to
prepare its annual plan which shall be the
basis of the GP plan.
Thus the journey from the idea of Local SelfGovernment of Lord Ripon to the institutions of SelfGovernment or Local Govt. concept in the Seventythird Constitutional Amendment took more than a
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