Short Note on Balwant Rai Mehta Committee Report

Balwant Rai Mehta Committee Report

In 1957, the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee recommended the introduction of a three-tier Panchayati Raj System in India. Following the recommendations of this committee report, the then government of India and the State Governments too took different measures to strengthen the Panchayati-raj system existing at that time.

It was for this purpose the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee was appointed by the Central Government of India in 1957.
  • The committee recommended the three-tier Panchayati Raj system in India. These three-tires are
  • the Gram-Panchayats at the village level or at the bottom,
  • the Panchayat Samiti at the block level or in the middle and
  • the Zilla Parishad at the district level.

It was recommended that these three tires would have to be related to each other. The committee also discussed the philosophical basis of the Panchayati-Raj system. The Panchayati Raj system acts as a link between the local leadership and the government.

The local leadership always enjoys the trust of the local people and it is this local leadership that translates the governmental policies and decisions into action. That is why the Gram-Panchayat is considered the lowest unit of the government.

Its aim is to use the panchayat as the means or medium for the proper implementation of governmental policies and programs. It may be mentioned in this regard that the basic idea of Mahatma Gandhi was to establish the Panchayati Raj as an independent self-government system or as an independent republic. 

However, in course of time, the Panchayati Raj system lost much of its popularity and popular participation in it also became insignificant.

The system of Panchayati Raj is the decentralization of democracy at Grass Root Level, it is also called Local Self Government. It was constitutionalized through the 73rd constitutional amendment act 1992. Three-tier Panchayati Raj system to be established- gram panchayat at the village level, and Zila Parishad at the district level.

The most basic level of gram panchayat should be directly elected whereas the other two levels Panchayati Raj committee and the Zila Parishad to be indirectly elected. The Panchayati Raj committee should be the executive body while the Zila Parishad to be the advisory coordinating and supervisory body.

There should be a genuine transfer of power and responsibility to these democratic bodies. These recommendations of the committee were accepted by the National Development Council in January 1958.

Recommendations of The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee Structure of Government and The Ashok Mehta Committee

The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee ( 1957) suggested ways of democratic decentralization in a three-tier structure of Panchayati raj. This meant that Panchayati raj should be set up at three levels. They should be furnished with sufficient powers and resources. These three tiers of Panchayati raj are:
  • Zila Parishad at the district level;
  • panchayat Samiti at the intermediate or block level;
  • village or gram panchayat at the village level.
In this scheme, panchayat Samiti was to be the most important. These three bodies were interlinked as the lower body was represented in the higher body through its chairperson. Panchayati raj of the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee pattern was first introduced by Rajasthan in 1959.

Later, other States also followed. Initially, both the people and the states were enthusiastic about Panchayati Raj. However Panchayati raj institutions began to decline very soon owing to government indifference and political interference.

The Ashok Mehta Committee set up by the government to review Panchayati raj submitted its report in 1978. This Committee felt that Panchayati raj had inculcated political awareness among the rural masses.

However, it had not been successful in carrying out economic development. Unlike the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee, the Asoka Mehta committee suggested a two-tier structure for Panchayati raj. 

These two tiers were to be: Zila Parishad at the district level; Mandal panchayat, an administrative unit between village panchayat and panchayat Samiti. In the two-tier system, the main emphasis was laid on Zila Parishad and not on panchayat Samiti as in the case of the earlier committee report.

However, the recommendations of the Ashok Mehta Committee could not be implemented due to the collapse of the Janata Government in 1980. States like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu did not hold elections for panchayats for long.

At the same time, many new agencies were set up by the Central Government like District Rural Development Agency, to take up development programs in collaboration with the State Governments, with panchayats having no role in these programs. They themselves hardly had any funds to take up development projects in the villages.
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