India is rightly regarded as the land of villages. In a country where 72.22% of the population (2001 Census) lives in 5,80,781 villages, the importance of rural local government popularly known as Panchayati Raj in India, is self-evident. Indeed, the idea of rural local government is part of a larger concern for social & economic amelioration of the people, a task to which the country is irrevocably committed. The Panchayats have been among the oldest political institutions of India and the very use of this term has a deeply nostalgic association tending to take the mind to the distant & dim past. One need not go into the distant past and may, instead, start with the inauguration, on 2nd October, 1952 of the Community Development (CD) Programme. This date was chosen to synchronise the birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, to whom nothing was dearer than rural amelioration. After the Community Development Programme was launched in 1952, it was realized that without an agency at the village level “which could represent the entire community, assume responsibility and provide the necessary leadership for implementing development programmes”, real progress in rural development could not take place. It was against this background that a Committee headed by Balwantrai G.Mehta (1957) was appointed to make recommendations for the revitalization of the Panchayati Raj system and define its role in the development process. The Balvantrai Mehta Committee published its report (1957) recommending a 3-tier system of rural local government, called Panchayati Raj (in India). The principal thrust of the report was towards decentralization of the democratic institutions in an effort to shift decision centers closer to the people to enable their participation and to put up bureaucracy under local popular control. The State Governments were persuaded to accept the recommendations and to decentralize adequate powers to popularly... [continues]
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