I think the word came from original word "Panchaayat".
A little history of panchaayat: in the old times in villages a group of five so-called smartest and wisest people of the village would be appointed to settle disputes when problems arose between two parties. Two parties would disclose all the relevant information to this group of individuals and finally the panchayat would make a righteous decision.
Today, the word has taken a completely different meaning. The actual concept of panchaayat has been gone long. Everyday use of the word gradually changed it to panchaat. Panchaat means vain and needless discussion. It is when people try to find out things about you that don't matter to them at all or may be very little. Asking these questions would not make any difference in their lives; and despite of that they ask you questions. I guess it is a fun activity... more like it has become like a hobby for some.
Have you ever noticed someone asking you, "so what else is new?" like 15 times in a 15 minute-conversation? That's what I am talking about... we come across many people like these in our day to day lives - people who don't have anything better to do but to find out what you have been up to. They ask you questions that make you feel uncomfortable sometimes, and mostly otherwise these are questions that are as simple as what is your hair color today? How does someone else's hair color make a difference in their lives? I understand if it is their significant other, or spouse, that's a different story because there could be someone out there having crush on a person because of their hair color. So in that case it becomes a matter of concern. Or may be they're doing a survey on how many blondes, brunettes or black/brown haired people did they interact with in one day? But to be doing this regularly, it makes one think whether those people have anything better to do in their lives or not.
I seriously think that these people should find something worth while to do, something that would enrich their minds. There are thousands of books, magazines, newspapers out there, they could read them. Engage themselves in some meaningful discussions instead of doing endless chatting with people just for their entertainment. Browse the internet to acquire more knowledge about science or other subject.
Why do people engage in “panchaat” in the first place? May be their lives are so lonely, may be their lives seriously lack entertainment, thus making them search for amusement in wrong places. I am still searching for potential reasons.
Genuinely caring about someone is different thing altogether. There are these people out there also... so it is important to differentiate between the two kinds. Not to be judging these kind folks who are there for us when we need them. You will find that the conversation with “panchaatiyaa” (people doing panchaat) becomes annoying at some point of time during the conversation. This is a best way to determine whether to spend more time talking to them. So did you talk to anyone today who did panchaat? I know I did. :-)