The Grama Panchayat acts as the nodal governing agency for people, as a part of the Governments initiative to encourage local self-rule. Of the 978 Gram Panchayats that exist in Kerala today, the first democratically elected Panchayat assumed office in Kumarakom on July 17, 1953. Subsequent elections would see a Second and Third Panchayat come to power in 1963 and 1980, respectively.
The Panchayats became even more powerful democratic bodies with the enactment of the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act and the Kerala Municipality Act in 1994. They would now have to elect three representatives - one for Grama Panchayat, one for Block Panchayat, an intermediate level of a governing body constituting members from neighbouring Panchayats, and a third representative for the District Panchayat, the governing body at the district level.
The Panchayats source their income via taxation which includes: Property Tax, Professional Tax, and Entertainment Tax. The President is chosen from among 15 elected ward members. At the ward level, five seats are reserved for women and one for Scheduled Castes. Individual committees are set up ensure that all operations of the Panchayat run smoothly. They are the Finance Standing Committee, the Welfare Standing Committee and the Development Standing Committee. These committees are constituted by electing members from both the ruling and the opposition fronts, and have their own Chairman.
Proportional representation is encouraged and hence, one sees viewpoints that cover a wide range of viewpoints and political affiliations. The Panchayat is responsible for the administration of various government institutions like primary schools, the Krishi Bhavan (Village Agriculture Office), Health Centres and the Ayurvedic, Homeo and Veterinary dispensaries.