2. Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act 1992
Though the Panchayat Raj Institutions were in existence in various forms in various States, these institutions did not acquire the status and dignity of viable and responsive people’s bodies due to a number of reasons including absence of regular elections, prolonged supercession, insufficient representation of weaker sections like Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Women, inadequate devolution of powers and lack of financial resources. In the light of the experience gained and the short-comings that had been observed, the 73rd amendment of the Constitution was enacted in 1992, to enshrine in the Constitution certain basic and essential features of Panchayat Raj Institutions to impart certainty, continuity and strength to them. A number of fundamental changes were brought about in the Panchayat Raj System by virtue of this Act. Pursuant to this, the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act 1994 was enacted and it came into force with effect from 22.04.1994.

Some of the important changes brought about by the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution and the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act 1994 are listed below:

a) Introduction of a three tier system – at the Village, Intermediate (Block) and District levels. [There are 12,618 Village Panchayats, 385 Panchayat Unions (coterminous with Blocks) and 29 District Panchayats in Tamil Nadu].
b) Mandatory conduct of Local Body elections every five years and conduct of elections before the expiry of the duration of the Local Body or before the expiry of a period of 6 months from the date of its dissolution.
c) Introduction of reservation of seats(i.e. ward members) and offices (i.e. Chairpersons/Presidents) for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their population in every Local Body with provision for rotation of the reserved seats and offices.
d) Introduction of reservation of one third of total number of seats and offices for women with provision for rotation.
e) Constitution of a State Election Commission as an independent body to conduct elections to both rural and urban Local Bodies regularly.
f) Establishment of a quinquennial State Finance Commission to recommend devolution of resources from the State Government to the rural and urban Local Bodies.
g) Constitution of a District Planning Committee to consolidate the plans prepared by the rural and urban Local Bodies in the district with a view to prepare a comprehensive development plan for the district.
h) Introduction of the concept of ‘Grama Sabha’ comprising all registered voters in a Village Panchayat.

Table 1: Milestones in Decentralisation
1882   The Resolution on Local Self-Government.
  The Royal Commission on Decentralisation.
1948 Constitutional debates on Gram Swaraj, ‘Self-rule”
1950 Enactment of Madras Villages Panchayat Act 1950 in Tamil Nadu.
1957  Balwantrai Mehta Commission – an early attempt to implement the Panchayat structure at district and block (Samithi) levels.
1958 Enactment of Madras Village Panchayat Act 1958 in Tamil Nadu.
1963 K. Santhanam Committee – recommended limited revenue raising powers for Panchayats and the establishment of State Panchayati Raj Finance Corporations.
1978 Ashok Mehta Committee – appointed to address the weaknesses  of PRIs, concluded that a resistant bureaucracy, lack of political will, ambiguity about the role of PRIs, had undermined previous attempts at decentralization, recommended  that the District serve as the administrative unit in the PRI structure.
1985  G.V.K. Rao Committee – appointed to address weaknesses of PRIs, recommended that the block development office (BDO)  should assume broad powers for planning, implementing and monitoring rural development programmes.
1986  L.M. Singhvi Committee – recommended that local self-government should be constitutionally enshrined, and that the Gram Sabha (the Village assembly) should be the base of decentralized democracy in India.
1992 The 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution – PRIs at district, block and village levels are granted permanent continuous nature.  The Gram Sabha  is recognized as a formal democratic body at the village level.
1994 Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994 enacted on 22.04.1994.
1996   1st ordinary Local Body Elections in Tamil Nadu.
1997  The First High Level Committee  under the Chairmanship of Thiru.L.C. Jain, the then Member of State Planning Commission submitted its recommendations  on devolution of powers and functions to rural Local Bodies in April, 1997.
1999  The Second High Level Committee under the Chairmanship of the then Hon’ble Rural Development and Local Administration Minister, Thiru.Ko.Si.Mani, submitted its report on devolution of powers and functions to Rural Local Bodies on 11.01.1999.
2000  2nd ordinary Local Body Elections in Tamil Nadu.
2006  3rd ordinary Local Body Elections in Tamil Nadu.
2007  The Third High Level Committee headed by Thiru M.K.Stalin, Hon’ble Minister for RD&LA was constituted to examine the scope for further devolution of powers and functions to rural and urban Local Bodies. 

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