1. History of Panchayat Raj Institutions
Tamil Nadu has a long history of local self-governance as is evident from the Uthiramerur stone inscriptions in Kancheepuram district. Tamil Nadu, in those days, was a land of village republics, with community groups undertaking many activities for their area development. This tradition reached its peak during the 10th and 11th centuries under the reign of Cholas when Village Councils used to levy taxes, improve community life and administer justice in their limited area. These Village Councils had effective links with the Chola rulers. “Kuda Olai Murai” was the name of the secret ballot method exercised to elect members to the Village Councils. With the downfall of Cholas, the State experienced a decline of the Village autonomy and rise of the centralized feudal administrative system. This continued till British rulers introduced local self-governance primarily as an administrative convenience for the imperial Government.

In the post independence era, the first enactment in democratic decentralization in the State was the Madras Village Panchayats Act, 1950. Pursuant to the White Paper on the “Reform of Local Administration” in 1957, the Madras Panchayats Act, 1958 and Madras District Development Council Act were enacted with the following salient features:

a) A two-tier system of Village Panchayats and Panchayat Unions.
b) Creation of Panchayat Unions co-terminus with the Community Development Blocks.
c) Village Panchayat Presidents to become ex-officio members of the Panchayat Union Councils with the Chairperson of the Panchayat Union Council directly/indirectly elected.
d) Entrusting the Panchayat Unions and Village Panchayats with a large number of developmental and welfare functions.
e) Abolition of District Boards.
f) Creation of District Development Council as an advisory body.

This two-tier system operated very well till 1975 and elections were held regularly. Subsequently, the tenures of the Panchayat Unions and Village Panchayats were extended up to 1.2.1977 and 12.9.1979 respectively. Thereafter, Special Officers (Block Development Officer for all the Village Panchayats in a Block and Divisional Development Officer for all the Panchayat Unions in a Division) managed the rural Local Bodies till the next elections in 1986. The elected rural Local Bodies continued in office till March 1991. Again, no elections were held till October 1996 and the Special Officers managed the rural Local Bodies.

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