Organisation of Panchayati Raj in India came as a revolutionary step in the direction of democratic decentralisation and rural development.
The launching of Community Development Programme on 2nd October, 1952 set the stage for the organisation of Panchayati Raj.
On 2nd October, 1953 the National Extension Service was launched. These were initiated as government programmes but were designed to secure the involvement of the rural people in the task of rural development.
However, the inadequate success registered by these programmes during the first Five Year Plan period necessitated the need to review their working. This task was assigned to the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee.
In October 1957, the B.R. Mehta Committee submitted its report and suggested the organisation of Panchayati Raj System, which was to act both as an instrument of rural local self-government as well as of community development. The committee recommended the creation of a three tier structure—Panchayat at the village level, Panchayat Samiti at the block level and Zila Parishad at the district level—for securing the objectives of local self-government and rural development.
The recommendations of Balwant Rai Mehta Committee were accepted by the National Development Council in 1958 and the Central Government called upon the States to implement these recommendations in their respective areas through appropriate legal enactments.
On 2nd October, 1959, Rajasthan came to be the first State of the Union to provide for Panchayati Raj. Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, Kerala, J & K, Himachal Pradesh and in fact all States gradually followed the example set by Rajasthan. In all states of the Indian Union, Panchayati Raj was implemental through the enactment of appropriate laws by the states legislatures. The whole of rural India came under the Panchayati Raj system. It still continues to be in operation.
Working of Panchayati Raj during 1954-1992:
It was in 1959 that Panchayati Raj, as remodelled on the recommendations of the B.R. Mehta Committee, was first introduced in Rajasthan. In the next few years all the States of the Indian Union introduced Panchayati Raj reforms in their respective areas. Since each State passed its own law for effecting its implementation, there came to be some different features of Panchayati Raj systems introduced by them. However, they quite faithfully kept the recommendations of the B.R. Mehta Committee intact.
Most of the States adopted the three tier system. However, within it some states like Maharashtra, decided to assign the development functions to the Zilla Parishads and not to the Panchayat Samities. As was recommended by the B.R. Mehta Committee.
In Orissa, the District Advisory Councils were established in 1969 in place of the Zilla Parishads. During 1959-92 the Panachayati Raj worked successfully for achieving its objectives but only in some respects. Its working also brought to light several short comings which prevented it from becoming fully successful.