Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs)

2024 JUN 17

Mains   > Constitution   >   Indian Constitution   >   Panchayati Raj


GS 2> Constitution   >   Local self governance   >  Panchayati Raj


  • Recently, a World Bank policy research paper titled ‘Two Hundred and Fifty-Thousand Democracies — A Review of Village Government in India,’ which reviews key findings from past empirical studies on the functioning of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), emphasized the need for delegating more authority and power to Gram Panchayats. This move aims to enable them to raise revenue from local taxes, making them more citizen-oriented and ensuring the proper implementation of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992.


  • The Panchayati Raj is a system of local self-government in India.
  • It is a three-tiered Indian administrative organisation for the development of rural areas.
  • Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) aims to establish local self-government in villages, zones and districts.
  • PRI was established by the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992.
  • It aims to promote democracy at grassroots level and to oversee the country's regional development.


  • This act has added a new Part-IX to the Constitution of India.
  • This part is entitled as ‘The Panchayats’ and consists of provisions from Articles 243 to 243 O.
  • In addition, the act has also added a new Eleventh Schedule to the Constitution. This schedule contains 29 functional items of the panchayats. It deals with Article 243-G.
  • The act has given a practical shape to Article 40 of the Constitution
  • The act gives a constitutional status to the panchayati raj institutions. It has brought them under the purview of the justiciable part of the Constitution.
  • In other words, the state governments are under constitutional obligation to adopt the new panchayati raj system in accordance with the provisions of the act.


  • Women’s representation increased:
    • The most noteworthy development is significant women’s representation in Panchayats. The proportion of elected women representatives has been steadily rising since the enactment of the 73rd amendment Act.
    • Currently, India has 260,512 Panchayats with 3.1 million elected representatives, of which a record 1.3 million are women.
    • Thus far, this is India’s most transformative affirmative action policy for women as far as grassroots politics goes.  
    • While there is merely 7–8 percent representation in Parliament and State Assemblies for women, an astounding 49 percent of elected local representatives (in states like Odisha it has crossed 50 percent) are women.
  • Healthy competition among states and improved democratic decentralization:
    • 73rd amendment act has also created healthy competition among various states regarding devolution (the 3Fs: funds, functions, and functionaries).
    • For example, while Kerala has devolved all 29 functions to PanchayatsRajasthan took the inspiration from Kerala to devolve many key departments such as health, education, women, and agriculture to PRIs.
    • Similarly, Bihar came out with the idea of “Panchayat Sarkar” and states such as Odisha have increased 50 percent seats for women
    • In other words, democratic decentralisation has taken a deep root and looks very much ‘irreversible’.
  • Positive impacts due to political representation of women and SC/STs:
    • Various research using PRIs has shown that having female political representation in local governments makes women more likely to come forward and report crimes.
    • Also, female PRI leaders are more likely to focus on issues pertinent to women.
    • For instance, Esther Duflo and Raghavendra Chattopadhyay, in a major field study involving the working of PRIs in West Bengal and Rajasthan observed that women’s representation in the local bodies has had a net positive impact on the delivery of local public goods (eg. greater investments are made in drinking water) to marginalised communities.
    • They also show that SC sarpanch/pradhans are more likely to invest in public goods in SC hamlets—an important change in the severely segregated villages of India.
    • In a country where access is determined by gender and caste, even more than economic status, these changes are remarkable.


  • Lack of devolution of power by State government:
    • While some States like Kerala, West Bengal, Karnataka have devolved as many as 26 departments to Panchayats, several States have devolved only as low as three functions.
    • In large number of cases, states that have devolved these departments to PRIs do so on paper. It is respective line departments and bureaucrats who call the shots.
  • Parallel bodies to take over the functions assigned for Panchayat:
    • Many states have created parallel bodies to take over the functions assigned for panchayats.
    • For instance, recently the Haryana government created a Rural Development Agency under the chairmanship of the chief minister to oversee the works of local bodies.
  • Little effort to build capacity:
    • Despite 30 years of their existence, there have been little efforts to strengthen the capacities of these institutions.
    • Not only very few States have done some work on internalising the planning process (mapping core activities) of panchayats, several States have not even paid any attention to build the capacities of the newly elected representatives, many of whom are first-timers and belongs to the most vulnerable sections particularly the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and women.
  • Inadequate financial powers:
    • Inadequate financial powers have kept these self-governing institutions at the mercy of state and central governments.
    • Financial resources generated by PRIs fall far short of their requirements >> more than 93 per cent of the total revenues of rural bodies were derived from external sources.
    • Further, their power of taxation has been very restricted. The major sources of income for local governments like property tax etc. are woefully inadequate to meet their obligations both due to their inherent nature and inefficiency in collecting them.
  • Issues with State Finance Commissions:
    • Recommendatory in nature
  • The recommendations of the Central Finance Commissions are not mandatory but from the beginning, successive Union Governments have established a healthy tradition of accepting the devolution package suggested by the Finance Commission without any deviation.
  • However, this tradition has not been established in the States, as a result even if recommended by the SFCs, State Governments often do not commit adequate resources for the local governments.
  • No adequate emphasis on outcome of devolutions.
  • Although SFCs, while making their recommendations about devolution of funds also give their recommendations on other matters affecting the resources of the local bodies, there has not been adequate emphasis on the outcomes of such devolutions.
  • Politicization of PRIs:
    • It is being increasingly noticed that the Panchayati Raj Institutions are viewed only as organisational arms of political parties, especially of the ruling party in the state.
  • Interference of MPs and MLAs:
    • The interference of area MPs and MLAs in the functioning of panchayats also adversely affected their performance.
  • Proxy representation:
    • Though women and SC/STs has got representation in PRIs through reservation, there is a presence of Sarpanch-Pati and proxy representation in case of women and SC/STs representatives respectively.
  • Issues with State Election Commission:
    • The tenure and conditions, qualifications and conditions of service of State Election Commissions vary greatly across States
  • Unscientific distribution of functions:
    • Distribution of functions between the structures at different levels has not been made along scientific lines.
    • The blending of development and local self-government functions has significantly curtailed the autonomy of the local self-government institutions >> again it has converted them into governmental agencies.
  • Incompatible relation between the three-tiers:
    • The three-tiers do not operate as functional authorities. The tendency on the part of the higher structure to treat the lower structure as its subordinate is markedly visible.
  • Lack of accountability:
    • In many cases, local governments face the problems of corruption, patronage, arbitrary exercise of power and inefficiency which have bedevilled governance. This failure is part of a larger process of democratic evolution.


  • Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA): A central scheme to enhance PRI capacities for responsive local governance and development.
  • e-GramSwaraj: A web-based portal launched by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj to improve e-Governance in PRIs, integrating planning, accounting, and monitoring functions.
  • AuditOnline: Introduced in 2020 for online audits of Panchayat accounts to promote transparency and efficiency.
  • People’s Plan Campaign (PPC) - Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas: Initiated in September 2019 to prepare Gram Panchayat Development Plans and publicize the status of flagship schemes online.
  • National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj: An autonomous body focusing on capacity building through training, research, and consultancy for various rural development stakeholders.
  • National Panchayat Awards: Recognizes top-performing Panchayats based on several criteria and indicators.
  • SWAMITVA Scheme: Aims to provide property rights and issue property cards to rural household owners, enhancing land data accuracy for PRIs.



  • Capacity building:
    • Training of elected representatives and personnel should be regarded as a continuing activity.
    • State Governments should encourage local bodies to outsource specific functions to public or private agencies, as may be appropriate, through enabling guidelines and support.
    • pool of experts and specialists (e.g. engineers, planners etc.) could be maintained by a federation/consortium of local bodies. This common pool could be then accessed by the local bodies whenever required for specific tasks.
  • More devolution of financial powers to the PRIs
    • This is the need of the hour to make them as viable institutions to effect change in the socio-economic development of the rural India.
  • Role of Union Government in ensuring devolution of power to PRIs:
    • The Union Government also needs to financially incentivize states to encourage effective devolution to the panchayats in functions, finances, and functionaries.

Recommendations of the 2nd ARC:

  • Devolution of Powers and Responsibilities:
    • Clear delineation of functions for each level of local government.
  • Electoral Process:
    • Delimitation and reservation of constituencies by State Election Commissions.
    • Use Assembly electoral rolls for local governments without SEC revision.
  • Reforms in SECs:
    • State Election Commission should be under the Election Commission of India for independence.
  • Constitution of Legislative Council:
    • Parliament should create a Legislative Council in each State with members elected by local governments.
  • Accountability and Transparency:
    • Evaluation of Performance of Local Bodies: Benchmarking efficiency, effectiveness, and resource mobilisation.
    • Legislative Oversight: Local bodies accountable to the State Legislature through a Committee on Local Bodies.
    • Independent Grievance Redressal Mechanism (Local Body Ombudsman): Platform for citizen complaints and system deficiencies.
    • Social Audit: Essential for improving service delivery and ensuring compliance. Public service standards and periodic disclosures through citizens’ charters and social audits.


Q. “PRI has been in existence for more than 30 years in its current shape and organisation. However, there is still more work to be done in terms of decentralisation and strengthening democracy at the grassroots level.” Discuss the achievements and challenges of Panchayati Raj Institutions in India since the implementation of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act. (15  marks, 250 words)