Panchayati Raj

First Submitted By Scott Fletcher, Participedia Team

Most Recent Changes By Scott Fletcher, Participedia Team

The Panchayat Raj is a system of local government in SE Asia operating at the local intermediate, and district levels. Each Panchayat is granted the same legislative power as the Legislature of State and is directed by the Gram Sabha, an elected body of area residents.

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Problems and Purpose

The governance system of panchayat raj has been in use in South East Asian for centuries and was given expaned legislative authority by the Indian Government in 1993 to increase elected representation at the local level. Through two constitutional amendments the National Government 'recommended' that a variety of "funds, functions, and functionaries" be devolved to the panchayati raj institutions (PRIs). Since the devolution of legislative and administrative power was only 'recommended', many PRIs do not actually hold as much power as their constitutional description implies. [1] However, the Indian Government remains committed to a programme of legislative decentralisation so PRIs continue to exist while their powers remain in a state of negotiation. 

Origins and Development

The first recognition of the panchayat system at the state level post-independence was in 1959 by then-Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.[3] A series of national and state Constitutional amendments in 1993 saw a dramatic decentralization of power to the local level through panchayat democracy. According to scholars Fung and Wright, three constitutional changes were significant for the development of an empowered, democratic pachayati raj system: "First, these reforms increased the financing capacity of the lowest-level panchayat authorities – the gram panchayats – by imposing a revenuesharing scheme with the districts and gave the gram panchayats their own taxing power. Second, these measures stipulated that one-third of the seats in panchayat assemblies and leadership positions would be occupied by women and that lower-caste – Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) – persons would occupy leadership positions in all of these bodies in proportion to their population in the district. Finally, and most importantly for our purposes, the 1993 reforms established two kinds of directly deliberative body, called gram sabhas, to increase the popular accountability of gram panchayat representatives."[2]

Participant Recruitment and Selection 

How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making

The main deliberative bodies of the panchayat system are the gram sabhas. Made up of all residents living in a gram pachayat area (approx. 10,000), the gram sabhas meet every year in December. During this meeting, elected representatives review the state of the budget - the implementation of last year's and the plans for the coming year's.[2]

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

Analysis and Lessons Learned

See Also

Kerala's People's Campaign for Decentralized Planning (case)

Panchayati Raj (method)


[1] Ajit Ranade, "Twenty five years of Panchayati Raj," The Free Press Journal, January 22, 2018,

[2] Archon Fung and Erik Olin Wright, "Thinking about Empowered Participatory Governance," in Fung, Wright, and Abers:Deepening Democracy 2003, pg. 13.

[3] Patrick Heller, K.N. Harilalb and Shubham Chaudhuri: Building Local Democracy: Evaluating the Impact of Decentralization in Kerala, India. Brown University, Providence, RI, USA Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum, India, World Bank, USA.  

External Links

Ministry of Panchayati Raj