The Village Panchayat is the main institution of running the administration of local affairs of the village. In the past also Panchayats were attached with great importance. The village administration was run by these Panchayats. The Panchayats performed their functions efficiently even in small villages. With the advent of Bruisers, the Panchayats got a setback. After 1880 the British rule in India made efforts to revive the local self-government system. It was only in cities that local self government paid special attention towards this end. Eighty percent of Indians live in the village & unless the condition of villages does not improve the country cannot make any progress. Mahatma Gandhi stressed the need of establishment of panchayats & of giving more powers to them.
Composition – The Gram Panchayat consists of one or a group of villages. In Orissa the Grampanchayat is organized by the people of 2000 to 6000. The size of the membership of the Gram Panchayat varies from State to State. In Orissa the membership of a Panchayat is between 11 to 25 members. The membership of a Panchayat is fixed on the basis of the population of a village. There is a provision for the reservation of seats for scheduled Casts in the Panchayat. A specified number of seats are reserve for women in all the states. Every adult who is a resident of the village has got the right to vote in the Panchayat election. Any voter who is 25 years of age can contest the election & become a member of the village Panchayat. The Gram Panchayat is divided into various wards and one representative is directly elected by the people on the basis of adult franchise.
The tenure of the Panchayat in all the States is not uniform. Usually the members of a Panchayat are elected for a five-year term.
There is head of the Panchayat who is called the Sarapanch. Other members of the Panchayat are called the Panches. In some states Sarapanch is elected by the Panches. In Orissa Sarapanch is elected directly by the voters. All the decision of the Panchayat is taken by an ordinary majority. The Sarapanch has got the right to exercise a vote. Besides the Sarapanch there is also one Naib-Sarapanch who is elected by & from the members of the Panchayat. The Sarapanch or the Naib Sarapanch may be impeached by the vote of no-confidence motion and also may be suspended for corruption or miss-management. Each Grampanchayat has a Secretary & a Gram Sevak & V.L.W.
The Panchayat must hold its meeting once in a month & the sarapanch presides over the meeting of the Panchayat.
Powers & functions of the Village Panchayat
- It maintains peace & order in the village.
- It helps the police in the prevention of crimes and in the arrest of criminal.
- It can oppose the sale of wine in its jurisdiction by passing a resolution of 2/3rd majority.
- It keeps a watch on the work of the Government official in the village. The Panchayat can lodge a complaint to the District Collector against the Patwari, Lambardar & Chowkidar if they do not perform their duties properly.
Functions for Public Welfare –
- It makes sanitary arrangement in the village.
- It makes arrangements for pure drinking water and of pouring medicine in the wells, tanks etc.
- It makes arrangements for street & road lights.
- It opens libraries & reading rooms in the village.
- It gets trees planted & looks after them.
- It tries for the promotion of animal husbandry.
- It tries for the development of cottage industry so that unemployed villages get employment.
- It helps people economically in case of floods, famine & drought.
- It makes arrangements for fairs, exhibition, wrestling matches & kabaddi matches for providing recreation to the people.
- It constructs & maintains stress, road & bridges in the village.
It decides minor & criminal cases within its areas. Now the villagers need not go to the Tahasil or the District headquarters to set their disputes decided. In criminal sphere the Panchayat can hear cases involving mischief, assault, theft of property etc. on payment of prescribed fee. These fees are of a nominal nature. They can hear civil cases of the value of Rs. 200/-. They can impose a fine up to Rs. 200/-. One thing is to be noted that the lawyers cannot appear before the Panchayats. Both the parties are to appear before the Panchayat to plead their case. In criminal cases the Panchayat can only impose a fine and it cannot sentence anybody to imprisonment. It can impose a fine up to Rs. 25 openly those who defy its orders. Normally the decision of the Panchayat is final but an appeal can be made to the Court of District Magistrate with its prior sanction.
Sources of income –
- It gets 10% of the total revenue collected from the village.
- It imposes House tax.
- It sets profit from the sale of fertilizers.
- It imposes tax on animals, profession etc.
- Drainage fee.
- The Panchayats issue various types of license & get a fee for the same.
- It takes money by selling the slain of dead animals.