What is a Block Samiti?

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  • 0:04 How to Organize a…
  • 0:47 Raj Panchayat System
  • 1:35 Panchayat Samiti
  • 4:06 Example
  • 4:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

In this lesson, we'll look at the middle tier in the Raj Panchayat system, known as the Panchayat Samiti or Block Samiti. Find out how it helps coordinate development among multiple villages and its role in India's ongoing development.

How to Organize a Billion People

India is one of the most populated countries in the world, but rather than being crowded, most of the population is scattered across the vast territory in smaller villages and towns. This means most of the population lives in areas where development and infrastructure, like paved roads and telecommunications, is either a recent introduction or is still planned for upcoming projects. Now, imagine if you were the central government, trying to organize so many projects and work with such a large population. Could you do it from a centralized position? Sure, each state helps control a smaller area to assist these projects, but can you really manage all the projects and meet the needs of every rural village?

Raj Panchayat System

That's why the Panchayati Raj system is taking a pre-colonial idea of village leadership councils and creating a three-tier system of councils to manage development and meet the people's needs at the village level.

The Gram Panchayat councils, at the block level, combine approximately ten villages with the Panchayat Samiti councils that we will focus on in this lesson. The Zila Parishad councils are at the district level and incorporate all the blocks and villages in a portion of the state. This system was formally established with clear guidelines for election, leadership, and responsibilities by the 73rd Amendment to India's constitution. This amendment was introduced in 1992 and officially ratified and implemented the following year, in April of 1993.

Panchayat Samiti

As we said, our focus for this lesson will be on the Panchayat Samiti, also known as the Block Samiti, which is a council formed to represent multiple villages in a district. In the Raj Panchayat system, it's the middle tier, positioned between the Gram Panchayat of the villages and the Zila Parishad of the districts.

Forming the Panchayat Samiti

Let's first look at the process of forming the Panchayat Samiti. While the village adults elect the Gram Panchayat council, blocks don't hold elections for the Panchayat Samiti council seats. Instead, this council consists of the leaders from each village council, known as the Pradhan, or chairman, and the Up-pradhan, or vice-chairman. These individuals represent the village's interests in the block council's affairs. Much as the Gram Panchayat members nominate their Pradhan and Up-pradhan from their ranks, the Panchayat Samiti members elect their chairman and vice-chairman from their ranks. These leaders will, in turn, join the Zila Parishad, the district council, to represent the block's interests in the district's affairs.

However, there is a non-elected member of every Panchayat Samiti, the Block Development Officer (BDO) appointed by the state. This person isn't eligible for a chairman or vice chairman position. Instead, their entire role on the council is to assist the members in navigating regulations and paperwork and inform the council of the state's interest in particular development projects, as well as available funds or resources to meet the block's goals.


Now, let's take a closer look at the duties of a Panchayat Samiti. While all tiers in the Raj Panchayat system are responsible for the 29 responsibilities listed in the Eleventh Schedule, a portion of the 73rd Amendment outlines their duties; each tier addresses these issues differently as their position requires. The Panchayat Samiti, being a middle tier in the system, acts mainly as a coordinator. Not only does it help the Zila Parishad (district council) allocate development grants and combine village-level grant applications in a block-level development proposal, it coordinates efforts across villages to meet needs locally whenever possible.

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