Discuss the evolution and significance of democratic decentralisation in India.


Discuss the evolution and significance of democratic decentralisation in India.

Today decentralisation and democracy are the most significant themes in the development discourse. Decentralisation means transfer of planning, decision-making or administrative authority from the central government to its field agencies. Democratic decentralization is an extension of the democratic principle aims at widening the area of the people’s  participation, authority and autonomy through devolution of powers to people’s representative organizations.

Today democratic decentralisation is a global phenomena. In India 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts have widened the scope of democratic decentralisation both in rural and urban areas. These Acts have institutionalized people’s participation through gram sabhas and ward committees. A note worthy feature of these amendments is an emergence of a new generation leadership at the local level from women and marginalized sections of the society. The Amendments have contributed to bring substantive democracy at local level.

 

EVOLUTION DEMOCRATIC DECENTRALISATION IN INDIA

Gross roots governance has been a major concern of the planning process in Indian ever since the introduction of Panchayati raj in 1959. The spirit of democratic decentralization that evolved over the years is being practiced only in a limited way. It is realized that development efforts in India did not address the issues of equity and to the development of the poor. Therefore, there is a need to redirect development efforts towards the poor and those at the gross roots. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts have been major steps in the direction of decentralized governance in India. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act relates to introduce reforms in rural local bodies whereas the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act relates to bring reform in urban local bodies. These amendments have accorded constitutional recognition to rural and urban local bodies. The Acts aims at integrating the concept of people’s participation in a formal way with the planning process on the one hand and the devolution of responsibility to the people themselves on the other. These acts have addressed the persistent problems of irregular elections, suppression, inadequate representation, insufficient devolution of powers, lack of administrative and financial autonomy, and inadequate resources.

  • Democratic Decentralisation in Rural Areas

After independence, rural development forms the crux of India’s development strategy. Rural development programmes aim at the improvement of the living standards of the rural poor by providing them opportunities for the optimum utilization of their potential through active participation in the development process. Development programmes have a better chance of success when the target group and the general public participate in the various stages of the developmental decision-making process. In order to improve the participation of rural people in the process of development and involvement in decision-making and decentralized planning, the government of India has made 73rd Constitutional Amendment in 1992 to provide constitutional recognition to Panchayati Raj Institutions.

The constitution through 73rd amendment, visualizes panchayats as institutions of local self governments, it is subjected to the extent of devolution of powers and functions to the will of the state legislature. For the first time, self-government is located at the Panchayat level. Locality has become the basis of planning. The gram panchayat is entrusted with the responsibility for planning that is done by the people through gram sabha. The amendment provides for decentralized governance at the district and even lower levels. It has created people-centred institutions at the district, block and village level. The amendment devolved a package of powers and functions, to Panchayati Raj institutions. The eleventh schedule lists out 29 subjects to be transferred to panchayat raj bodies. The Panchayat Raj institutions are responsible for the planning and implementation of programmes related to social justice and economic development.

The constitutional amendment has provided for the establishment of State Election Commission and State Finance Commission. With the establishment of these commissions in the states, there is a considerable improvement in the process of democratic decentralization in rural areas.

Saroj Meher

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