Historical Background: Like the Greek City States, the villages in the ancient India had always been autonomous units. The characteristic feature of administration in ancient India was the prevalence of freedom and autonomy in governing the village institutions. However, the villages lost their autonomy as more power came to be vested and concentrated in the sovereign kings.
During the British administration, some attempts were made to revive the local self-government institutions in India with view to training the people in the administration of such institutions by giving them representations in such local bodies. As a result, municipalities, district school boards and janpadsabhas came to be established; subsequently village panchayats also came to be founded and as a result of this it was possible for British Government to regenerate confidence among the masses inhabiting the rural areas.
After the reorganisation of the erstwhile State of Bombay, the Village Panchayats Act was passed in 1958, for the whole State. This Act envisaged a Village Panchayat Mandal for every district. Not only this but gat nyaya panchayats came to be organised for groups of five or more village panchayats.
In course of time, the experience gained indicated that the progress of rural development was not commensurate with the expectations of the Government. Various development activities introduced in the various Plan periods could not achieve a commendable amount of success owing to non-participation of the villagers in the implementation of such development schemes. The Central Government came to the conclusion that it was necessary for the Government to investigate the causes behind such a state of affairs. It therefore, appointed a committee called the 'Balwantrai Mehta Committee.'
The 'Balwantrai Mehta Committee' pointed out mainly, among other findings that the Government could not succeed in appealing and attracting the leadership of the masses to participate in the Community Develop1rtent and National Developmental Schemes. Institutions of the type of the local self-government had not taken any deep interest to participate in such development schemes and had not shown any initiative for such work. The part played by the village panchayats in such works was also not very encouraging. There was very often interference from the Government in the affairs of the local boards. The Committee came to the conclusion that the urgent necessity of the day, to remedy this state of affairs, was the decentralisation of power and responsibility at the lower level. The Committee, therefore, suggested that the responsibility for such regional and local development work should be assigned to such local institutions at the district level with the Government accepting the role of guiding, supervising and planning from a higher level, making available the required finances and so on.
The 'Balwantrai Mehta Committee' recommended the formation of local committees on par with Block Development Committees, to be named as Panchayat Samitis, and at the district level a district committee to be called Zilla Parishad, instead of the local boards, etc., in order to secure integration in the various developmental activities. Thus, the Gram Panchayat, the Panchayat Samiti and the Zilla Parishad are the three responsible functionaries in the decentralisation of administration, which are entrusted with the implementation of the developmental schemes.
Thus, an Act, to provide for the establishment of Zilla Parishads and P1mchayat Samitis, to assign to them local Government functions, and to entrust the execution of certain works and deve10pment schemes in the State Five-Year Plans and to provide for the decentralisation of powers and functions under certain enactments was passed in 1961, known as the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961.
In 1962, as per the Maharashtra Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samiti Acts, Zilla Parishad and 13 Panchayat Samities were formed. Later 14th and 15th Panchayat Samiti Deola & Trimbak were formed.
The working of Zilla Parishad is carried out according to Sthai Samit (Standing Committee) and Finance, Works, Agriculture, Education,Health, Social Welfare Subject Samities. Administrative head of the Zilla Parishad is from I.A.S. cadre. The president of Zilla Parishad is elected by the people who has the major powers. Each Subject Samity have the Head called as ‘Sabhapati’.
The statistics of Panchayat Samities are given below.
Telephone Numbers for Panchayat Samiti Authorities