When the Indian constitution was drafted, there were many things which were not incorporated in it causing them not to participate and have the voice of their own. One of those things was ‘Panchayats’. Panchayati Raj is a term which literally means ‘Governance by five individuals’. The formation of Panchayati Raj was to guarantee that there should be a democratic and functioning body at the village and at the grass root level. The concept of grass root democracy is not unknown to our society where inequalities and participation in democracy are already slowed down on the basis of gender, caste and class. There was also caste Panchayat in villages that were basically represented by the dominant group and held conservative views and is believed to take decisions opposed to the democratic rule and procedures.
When nothing was drafted in relation to the Panchayats in the constitution, many members of it expressed their anger, sorrow and disappointment. Dr BR Ambedkar because of which own experience was aware that government always supports local elites and upper castes who are well established and on the other hand, continuous to exploit downtrodden masses of Indian society. As Mahatma Gandhi valued the concept of local government but also visualized each village to be self-sufficient and solving their own affairs. Moreover, he believed that after independence the concept of gram-swarajya will become an ideal model.
It was in 1992, that Grassroot democracy was included in by 73rd Constitutional Amendment. According to this act, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) got constitutional status. It was made compulsory that for every five years local self-government bodies in rural and municipal areas have to be elected. Elected local bodies were given the power to control local resources.
73rd and 74th amendments guarantee reservation of one-third of the total seats for women in all elected offices of local bodies in both the rural and urban areas and out of this, 17 per cent seats are reserved for women belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes. One-third of the seats in local bodies, gram Panchayats, village Panchayats, municipalities, city corporations and district boards are reserved for women. These amendments considered to be an important one for women as it brought them into the elected bodies and gave the decision making powers.
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