The meaning, importance and need for local government have been discussed earlier in this article. But urban local bodies alone will not be in a position to achieve the desired result because about seventy percent of the people in more than five lakhs of villages live in India. Thus the system of local government which does not provide of the participation of the rural people in the administration would be incomplete. An important element of the participation of the rural people in rural self - government is that is will provide adequate encouragement for innovations and confidence in their capacity for doing good work. With this objective in view, the government at the centre and in the states, after independence, thought it fit to introduce the Panchayati Raj System of administration in the rural areas in the whole of India. The Panchayati Raj system or local self - government, has got its nucleus in the village.
Before the Panchayati Raj system was introduced, the leaders and the government addressed themselves to the problems that the common and the difficulties of introducing the pachayati Raj system and hence constituted several commissions and committees such as the one headed by Balwantrai Mehta (1957) the Santhanam Study Team on Panchayati Raj Finances (1963), the Santhanam Committee on supervision and control over Panchayati Raj Institutions, or the Ashok Mehta Committee (1978) on the re - organization of Panchayati Raj Institutions.
Based on the reports and recommendations of these committees and the exercises of the Planning Commission and other bodies relating to the Community Development and Rural Extension Schemes, a broad based Panchayati Raj system was established. A define step in this direction became a reality with enactment of Acts by several governments in the state in 1958 and afterwards. Still, it is the opinion of many that the Panchayati Raj Institutions have not been what they ought to be and they have not been able to lay the firm foundations of grassroots democracy in their country. However there cannot be two opinions in regard to the desirability of the continuance of Panchayati Raj bodies and their rolein the - re - construction of the economy of the villages and the social well - being of the villages.
The main object of Panchayati Raj with its three - tier system is to have a smooth two - way channel of information, ideas and feelings from the village household right upto the national parliament and vice versa, as Members of Parliament and the Legislature have representation in the Panchayati Raj system. In recent times emphasis is on social moblisation and generation of implementation of the nation
- building programmes.
The Panchayati Raj system was introduced in Tamilnadu in accordance with the provisions of the Taminadu panchayat Act 1958. At the bottom of this system there is the village Panchayat. Above it are the Panchayat Unions and the District Development Council. With the introduction of the new system, the District Boards were abolished and the Panchayat Unions become their successor bodies. The area of Panchayat Union is made co - terminus with that of the Development Programme the organization of the Panchyati Raj Institutions in Taminadu as per the 1958 Act, can be described as follows.
a) Village Panchayats
b) Town Panchayats.
3.District development council
4. Panchayat Development Consultative Committees at State level.
The Tamilnadu Panchayat Act of 1994 is an important milestone in the growth of Panchayati Raj institutions in Tamilnadu. In this context students of local self- government have to remember that the experiment in local governing institutions has not been successful as expected. Therefore there was a move at the national and regional level that something concrete should be done to make the local governing bodies more effective than they were. All major political parties and those who are familiar with the functioning of the local bodies subcribe to this view. Therefore as early as 1985 Thiru. Rajiv Gandhi who became a full pledged Prime Minister of India, took the initiative for strengthening these bodies. However his efforts in this direction did not succeed as anticipated by him.
His successor Thiru. V.P.Singh of the National Front government also did not succeed in enacting a law in this respect. Thiru. P.V. Narasimha Rao, Prime Minister belonging to the Congress Party Government in consultation with the major Political parties got the Constitution 73rd Amendment Act passed by parliament in December 1992 which became operative from May 1993 on its ratification by fifty percent the states of India.
This led to the fulfillment of the dream of Thiru. Rajiv Gandhi. This act severed as a turning point for Panchayat Raj institutions to perform very effectively their duties and responsibilities. Many far-reaching changes were introduced by this act.
Every state in the Indian federation has to compulsorily implement this Act. The elections to elect the representatives to the various organs of Panchayat Raj bodies were mandatory. If any one state failed to comply with the requirement it was not eligible for getting central grants.
The Panchayati Raj bodies are empowered to take decisions on 29 clearly defined subjects, all concerning the day-today living. Their role in implementing the decisions is much more pronounced. They are the implementing agency of the state governments. The functions and powers given to the Panchayati Raj institutions are enumerated in the Act mentioned above: For details please refer to the Act.
In pursuance to the 73rd Amendment Act to the Constitution the Government of Tamilnadu enacted the Tamilnadu Panchayat Act 1994. On the basis of this Act there are in Tamilnadu now
1. 12619 Village Panchayats
2. 385 Panchayat Unions and
3. 29 District Panchayats.
These bodies now function in full swing. Peoples representatives take an active participation in every affair relating to their area and the society. Other details of the Act and consequential developments are dealt with in the text book for the second year of the plus two course.