What is a Village Panchayat?

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  • 0:03 Local Government
  • 1:11 Building the Gram
  • 1:59 Responsibilities of…
  • 3:03 Members of the Gram Panchayat
  • 5:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

A village Panchayat in India is similar to that of a town council in the U.S. This lesson walks you through the process of becoming part of the Gram Panchayat and all its responsibilities.

Local Government

Is local government important? What responsibilities does a local government have? How do people get into local government positions, and what are those positions? These are the political science questions that led you, an adult living in India, to investigate becoming involved in your local government.

Living in India, you are aware that there is a three-tiered governmental system called the Panchayati Raj, which forms governing bodies overseeing states, districts, and villages in India. The Zilla Parishad is the highest level body, responsible for state-level administration over many districts and even more villages. Panchayat Samiti is the next level down, each incorporating many villages in a single geographic region and looking out for residents living outside of the village jurisdiction (like rural residents).

Finally, the most local level of government is called the Gram Panchayat, or village Panchayat, and is the governing/administrative body of a village of at least 1500 residents. Your interest was piqued; how is a Gram Panchayat formed? Who leads the body? Why? What positions are available on the governing body?

Building the Gram

The first thing to know about a Gram Panchayat is that the members are elected by a Gram Sabha, the adults in a village. While most Gram Sabhas are made from a single village, if there are not enough people in a village (at least 1500) to form a Gram Sabha, then multiple small neighboring villages can band together and form a single Gram Sabha to elect a single Gram Panchayat governing all the small villages included.

The Gram Sabha meets at least twice a year (in something like a town council meeting in the U.S.) to get reports and summary information from the Gram Panchayat. The term of any member of a Gram Panchayat is five years. You must be a registered voter and not hold any conflict of interest type positions in order to be eligible to be elected into the Gram Panchayat. People with criminal records are not eligible to serve in the Gram Panchayat.

Responsibilities of the Gram Panchayat

Okay, so now you know how to become a Panch, a member of a Gram Panchayat. What do the members do?

In general, the Gram Panchayat is responsible for the administration of the village. While approval of major taxation, development, and production plans must be approved at the general Sabha meetings, the Gram Panchayat is responsible for creating, presenting, and executing plans within an approved budget.

A few general responsibilities of the Gram Panchayat are:

  • Sanitation
  • Epidemic prevention measures
  • Water management
  • Maintaining public buildings, spaces, and access points
  • Budgeting funds
  • Tax-related chores
  • Infrastructure

The Gram Panchayat also has specific duties assigned by the state government including:

  • Food production - Including irrigation, cattle breeding, food growth, farm forestry, and appropriate land usage

  • Human services - Health centers, women's and children's health issues, education, rehabilitation, and rural housing programs

Members of the Gram Panchayat

Now that you know more about what the Gram Panchayat does, you would really like to become a member and make a mark on your village. If elected, you will work with between seven and seventeen Panchas, depending on the size of your village. You'll also find some of the spots in the Gram Panchayat are reserved specifically for members from underrepresented groups, such as women, officially recognized castes, and designated tribes. Within the Gram Panchayat, four titled positions are elected. All other Panchas serve in a general sense, helping on projects or committees.

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