[Yojana Archive] Making Gram Sabhas Vibrant

November 2021: Panchayti Raj

Gram Sabha: A backgrounder

  • The Gram Sabha is the fulcrum of the Panchayati Raj and village development.
  • It is the Sabha of the electorate. All other institutions of the Panchayati Raj like the Gram Panchayat, Block Panchayat and Zilla Parishad are constituted by elected representatives.
  • People use the forum of the Gram Sabha to discuss local governance and development, and make need- based plans for the village.
  • The Panchayat implements development programs under the overarching mandate, supervision and monitoring of the Gram Sabha.
  • All decisions of the Panchayat are taken through the Gram Sabha and no decision is official and valid without the consent of the Gram Sabha.

Constitutional Provisions

  • The term Gram Sabha is defined in the Constitution of India under Article 243(b).
  • Gram Sabha is the primary body of the Panchayati Raj system and by far the largest.
  • It is a permanent body.

Members of the Gram Sabha

  • Persons, those who are above 18 years of age and
  • living in the village and
  • whose names are included in the electoral rolls for the Panchayat at the village level.

Meetings of the Gram Sabha

  • According to the State Panchayat Raj Acts, the Gram Sabha must meet at least two to four times in a year.
  • For people’s convenience, in most of the States, four national-international days have been identified as reference dates for these meetings. They are
  • Republic Day (26th January)
  • Labour day (1st May)
  • Independence Day (15th August)
  • Gandhi Jayanti (2nd October)
  • Gram Panchayats are however free to convene Gram Sabha on other dates according to their convenience.

Who organizes Gram Sabha?

  • Panchayat Secretary (often called the Gram Sevak) after obtaining approval of the Sarpanch should organize the Gram Sabha.
  • Condition: The Sarpanch has to convene a Gram Sabha meeting when either 10% members of Gram Sabha or 50 persons of Gram Sabha (whichever is more) submits their requisition for holding a Gram Sabha.
  • Purpose of the meet: These members have to inform the purpose for the meeting.
  • Convening: A written request for the meeting must be handed over to the Sarpanch during office hours 5 days before the date of meeting.

Issues with Gram Sabha

The functioning of Gram Sabha is often criticized due to:

  1. Lack of regularity and transparency
  2. Low participation
  3. Irregular Gram Sabha meetings
  4. Absence of a coherent Gram Sabha agenda, etc.
  • The vulnerable sections of the village community hesitate to voice opinions due to inhibitions on account  of their financial and social standing.
  • The elected representatives of the Gram Panchayat, especially the Sarpanch, exercise significant powers and reduce Gram Sabhas to mere symbolic platform.

Need & Relevance of Gram Sabha

  • Consensus building: Gram Sabha is a unique institution which would enable the citizens to highlight grass-root level problems and build consensus on possible solutions.
  • Participatory governance: Various flagship programs of the government require large scale mobilization and people’s direct participation.  It provides an ideal platform for this.

Issues in functioning

  • Lack of funds: There is a need to enlarge the domain of panchayats to be able to raise their own funds.
  • Political interference: The interference of area MPs and MLAs in the functioning of panchayats also adversely affected their performance.
  • Ad-hocism: There is a presence of adhocismi.e. lack of clear setting of agenda in gram sabha, gram samiti meetings and no proper structure.
  • Unclear devolution: This has allowed concentration of powers with the states and thereby restraining the elective representatives who are more aware and sensitive to the ground level issues to take control.
  • Surrogate representation: Often women members are dominated by their spouses.

Way forward for effective functioning

The allocation of the Finance Commission’s Untied Grants is a major step towards strengthening financial autonomy. The following recommendations have been made for the effective functioning of GS:

  • Ensuring periodic Gram Sabhas
  • Formulating and distributing Agenda/Action taken Report
  • Preparing Annual Calendar: For spreading information about the annual schedule and the  nature of discussions in the various meetings.
  • Effective Scheduling: To enable the limited resources of District/Block administration to optimise efforts towards conducting the GSs.
  • Convenient Timings: Organizing Sabhas at a convenient time to enable the village population to attend in large numbers.
  • Administrative presence: The district administration should ensure attendance of Group A and B officers in all the Gram Sabha meetings.
  • Augmenting people’s participation: The minimum quorum for the meeting should be 10% of the members out of which at least 30% should be females.
  • Digital/virtual means of citizens’ participation: wherever possible and permissible, may also be considered. The services of elected representatives, SHGs, ASHA workers, Rozgar Sahayaks, etc., should  be utilized to create awareness about participation


  • To ensure effective functioning of the Gram Panchayats, it is important to revitalize the Gram Sabha as an assembly of the village.
  • Bringing transparency, responsibility, and accountability in Panchayat functioning and its functionaries, would go a long way in creating Gram Panchayats as engines of socio-economic growth in the rural areas.
  • Vibrant Gram Sabhas could also chart ways for achieving India’s Sustainable Development Goals by facilitating their localization to the Gram Panchayat level.

By facilitating participative democracy, the Gram Sabhas will not only contribute to the socio-economic development of the villages, but also create collective transformational change in the rural areas of the country.

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