Balwant Rai Mehta Committee
In January 1957, the Government of India appointed a committee to examine the working of the Community Development Programme (1952) and the National Extension Service (1953) and to suggest measures for their better working. The chairman of this committee was Balwant Rai G Mehta. The committee submitted its report in November 1957 and recommended the establishment of the scheme of ‘democratic decentralisation’, which ultimately came to be known as Panchayati Raj. The specific recommendations made by it are:
Rajasthan was the first state to establish Panchayati Raj. The scheme was inaugurated by the prime minister on October 2, 1959, in Nagaur district. Rajasthan was followed by Andhra Pradesh, which also adopted the system in 1959. Thereafter, most of the states adopted the system.
Though most of the states created panchayati raj institutions by mid 1960s, there were differences from one state to another with regard to the number of tiers, relative position of samiti and parishad, their tenure, composition, functions, finances and so on. For example, Rajasthan adopted the three-tier system while Tamil Nadu adopted the two-tier system. West Bengal, on the other hand, adopted the four-tier system. Further, in the Rajasthan-Andhra Pradesh pattern, panchayat samiti was powerful as the block was the unit of planning and development, while in Maharashtra-Gujarat pattern, zila parishad was powerful as the district was the unit of planning and development. Some states also established nyaya panchayats, that is, judicial panchayats to try petty civil and criminal cases.
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