A sarpanch is an elected head of a village-level statutory institution of local self-government called the panchayat (village government) in India (gram panchayat), Pakistan and Bangladesh. The sarpanch, together with other elected panchas (members), constitute the gram panchayat. The sarpanch is the focal point of contact between government officers and the village community. Recently, there have been proposals to give sarpanches small judicial powers under panchayati raj. In some states of India like Bihar, Sarpanch has been empowered to look into various civil and criminal cases, and given judicial power to punish and impose fine on those violating rules.
Meaning of sarpanch
Sar, meaning head and panch meaning five, gives the meaning head of the five decision makers of the gram panchyat of the village. He is elected by all the people of the village.
Panchayati raj (governance by sarpanch)
Although panchayats have been in existence in India since times immemorial, in post-Independence India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, most of the rural development and community development projects have been sought to be executed through panchayats. In the federal Indian polity, different states had different laws governing the powers of the gram panchayats and sarpanches.
In many states, elections were not held for decades and instead of the elected sarpanches, the gram panchayats were run by bureaucratically appointed administrators. However, with the passage of 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments in 1992, a number of safeguards have been built in, including those pertaining to regular elections. However, even the constitutionally mandated devolution of the functions of 29 core subjects remains a distant dream in most states of India. "Power to the people" remains more of a rhetorical slogan than an actual practice. In Punjabi communities abroad the title of Sarpanch is bestowed upon people who solve the general populations situations and problems. Almost like an informal judiciary. One example is Sarpanch of County Court Brampton, Jagdeep Singh Dhamrait.
Reservation for females
Nowadays, there are instances of women also being elected to post of sarpanch and they are called sarpanchni. This follows legislative reform in which reservations or minimum quotas are set for sarpanch positions to be held by females. Around one - third of the seats are reserved for the female contestants.
- Misra, Suresh; Dhaka, Rajvir S. (2004). Grassroots democracy in action: a study of working of PRIs in Haryana. Concept Publishing Company. p. 116. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
- "Over 8000 Village Courts in Bihar allotted Judicial Powers". IANS. news.biharprabha.com. Retrieved 18 February 2014.