The panchayati raj is a South Asian political system mainly in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. It is the oldest system of local government in the Indian subcontinent. The word “panchayat” literally means “assembly” (ayat) of five (panch) wise and respected elders chosen and accepted by the local community. However, there are different forms of assemblies. Traditionally, these assemblies settled disputes between individuals and villages. Modern Indian government has decentralized several administrative functions to the local level, empowering elected gram panchayats. Gram panchayats are not to be confused with the unelected khap panchayats (or caste panchayats) found in some parts of Northern India.
Panchayat Raj is a system of governance in which gram panchayats are the basic units of administration. It has 3 levels: Gram (village, though it can comprise more than one village), Janpad (taluka or block) and Zilla (district).
The term “panchayat raj” is relatively new, having originated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru during 1958. Raj literally means “rule”. Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayati Raj, a decentralized form of Government where each village is responsible for its own affairs, as the foundation of India’s political system. The term for such a vision was Gram Swaraj (“village self-governance”).
The leader of the panchayat was generally called the mukhiya or sarpanch, a position which is elected.
Various Committees on Panchayat Raj :
1.Balwant Rai Mehta : Estd 1957
2.V.T.Krishnammachari : 1960
3.Takhatmal Jain Study Group: 1966
4.Ashok Mehta Committee : 1977
5.g.v.k rao committee :1985
5.Sarkaria Commission : 1986