Wednesday, 3 February 2016


A. Organisation
Village Panchayat also called Gram Panchayat is the grass root institution of Panchayati Raj System. At village level there is a Gram Sabha or Village Assembly and a Gram Panchayat having a Chairperson known as Gram Pradhan or Sarpanch (Mukhia), a Vice Chairperson and some Panches. In fact, the Village Panchayats are organized and they function according to the Act passed by every State government. That is why, you may find variations in different States. But mostly, the Panchayati Raj Institutions are organized and they function as follows: 

Gram Sabha or Village Assembly consists of all the adults i.e. voters (persons above the age of 18 years) living in the area of a Gram Panchayat i.e., village or a group of small villages. The Gram Sabha has now been recognized as a legal body. It acts like the legislative body. In one year at least two meetings of the Gram Sabha are held. In its first meeting the Gram Sabha considers the budget of the Gram Panchayat. In its second meeting it considers the reports of the Gram Panchayat. The main functions of Gram Sabha are to review the annual accounts of Panchayat, discuss audit and administrative reports and the tax proposals of its Panchayat and accept community service, voluntary labour and schemes for Panchayat. The members of Gram Sabha elect the members and also the Chairperson of Gram Panchayat. The States have to ensure that all the Gram Sabhas in their respective areas are functional.

The Village Panchayat or Gram Panchayat is the executive committee of Gram Sabha. It is the most important unit of rural local self-government. As we have seen, all the members of each Gram Sabha are voters who elect the members of the Panchayat by a secret ballot. In most of the States, a Village Panchayat has 5 to 9 members who are called Panches. In every Panchayat, one-third of the seats are reserved for women. However, there are States where the percentage of seats reserved for women is even more. Seats are also reserved for persons belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The Sarpanch (Mukhia) of the Panchayat is directly elected by all the voters of the village. Some offices of Sarpanches are now reserved for women, and some for persons belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Sarpanch calls the meetings of the Panchayat and presides over those meetings. He/She is to call at least one meeting of the Panchayat per month.
The Panches can also request him/her for calling a special meeting. He/She has to
call such special meeting within three days of the request. Sarpanch keeps the records
of the meetings of Panchayat. The Panchayat can assign any special function to him/
her. A Vice Chairperson is elected by the members of the Panchayat. The tenure
of the Village Panchayat is of 5 years.

B. Functions of Gram Panchayats
All the major functions of Gram Panchayat are related to the welfare and development of the village. With a view to fulfill the needs and requirements of the villagers every Gram Panchayat has to perform some important functions such as provision of safe drinking water, paving of streets, developing and maintaining good drainage system, ensuring cleanliness of the village, upkeep of street lights, dispensary, etc. These functions are known as obligatory functions. Some other functions are discretionary and can be performed, if the Panchayat has the resources and funds. These are plantation of trees, setting up and maintenance of insemination centre for cattle, developing and maintaining play ground for sports and setting up and running the library. From time to time some other functions can be assigned to Panchayats by the State government or Union government. But along with these functions of Panchayats, every member of the village also has the duty towards his/ her village. One should keep the surroundings of his /her home clean, not waste drinking water and plant more and more trees.

C. Sources of Income of Gram Panchayats
Financial resources are essential for performance of the functions by Panchayats, whether these are obligatory functions or developmental work. Gram Panchayats can work better, if they have adequate funds to spend. Over and above the Grants-inaid, State governments have empowered Panchayats to levy taxes and collect funds. Some of the sources are as follows:
1. taxes on property, land, goods and cattle;
2. rent collected for facilities like Barat Ghar or any other property of panchayat;
3. various types of fines collected from the offenders;
4. grants-in- aid from the State government and Union government;
5. a part of the land revenue collected by the State government given to the Panchayats; and
6. donations collected from the villagers for some common cause.

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