“When the panchayat raj is established, public opinion will do what violence can never do.” –Mahatma Gandhi
The Constitution of India recognizes Panchayats as ‘Institutions of self-government. In India, there are more than 2.6 lakh Panchayats at all three tiers. These Panchayats work towards the improvement of socio-economic conditions of grass-root administrative units at the Village, Block, and District level.
The establishment of Panchayati Raj through the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992, marks a watershed moment in the history of decentralization of power to the grassroots.
The National Panchayati Raj Day (राष्ट्रीय पंचायती राज दिवस)(NPRD) is observed every year on April 24th by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, as the Constitutional Amendment came into force on this day. This event allows for direct dialogue with Panchayat members and all citizens from around the country, as well as recognition of their accomplishments in order to further inspire and encourage people to participate in democracy.
Role of Panchayats in Combating COVID-19 Pandemic
Panchayats across the country have taken various mitigation and prevention steps against the COVID-19 Pandemic, with active assistance from the Ministry of Panchayati Raj. Panchayats have been at the forefront of taking various preventive and protective steps since the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region.
Several strong initiatives were employed by the Panchayats in setting up isolation centres in rural areas that include the development of IEC materials towards awareness creation, intensive sanitization, disinfection measures, deployment of village volunteers, enforcing social distancing, organization of medical camps, tracking and isolating new entrants to the villages, door to door campaigns for awareness generation, hand-washing campaigns, mass production of masks through SHG involvement.
System displaying the spirit of participatory democracy
The Panchayat raj form of local government is the oldest in the world. The term “Panchayat” is an amalgamation of two words: “Panch” means “five,” “Ayat” means “assembly,” and “Raj” means “rule.” Panchayats were traditionally made up of wise and revered elders who were chosen and approved by the local community. The panchayat’s chief was known as the mukhiya, sarpanch, or pradhan.
It is a channel to include the less privileged section of society and ensure their participation in the village level governance. The first National Panchayati Raj Day was celebrated in 2010.
This is hailed as a defining moment in history because it allows states to take measures to unite village panchayats and give them the powers and authority they need to act as self-governing units.
National Panchayat Awards
Despite restrictions and limitations, Panchayats all over the country have many outstanding performers. Every year on National Panchayati Raj Day, the Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj holds a National Conference and presents the ‘Panchayat Shashakatikaran Puraskar/Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Puraskar’ to the highest performing Gram Panchayats.
Reservation of seats
•Seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), as well as chairpersons of Panchayats at all levels, shall be reserved in proportion to their population for SCs and STs.
•One-third of the total number of seats to be reserved for women.