Progress of Rural Decentralisation in India

By De, Indranil | Political Economy Journal of India, January 2009 | Go to article overview

Progress of Rural Decentralisation in India


De, Indranil, Political Economy Journal of India


Introduction

After independence, the article 40 of the Constitution of India gave the responsibility of organizing and shaping local institutions to the state governments. However, the rural local bodies i. e. Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) structure, failed to steer adequate rural development, despite putting into force the recommendations of Balwant Rai Mehta Committee (1957) and Ashok Mehta Committee (1977). The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee recommended the lack as the unit of planning with the Panchayat Samitis as the executive body for planning. Ashok Mehta Committee considered inadequacy of resources, mainly responsible for failure of PRIs and, therefore, recommended, inter alia, measures for strengthening the financial resources of PRIs. In 1986, the L M Singhvi Committee recommended constitutional status for PRIs with Gram Sabha as the basic unit. The series of recommendations ultimately culminated in 1992 in the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments (for rural and urban areas respectively). In case of rural decentralization, the 73rd Constitutional Amendment which came into force in 1993, was expected to usher in local self-governance for rural development. The present study analyses the progress of rural decentralization in India with the involvement of PRIs as institution of local self-governance.

The 73rd constitutional amendment entrusted the state governments to pass appropriate legislation to promote self-governance through statutory recognition of local bodies. It provided uniformity in structure through three-tier rural local governments at district (Zilla Parishads-ZPs), block (Panchayat Samitis-PSs) and village levels (Gram Panchayats--GPs). Gram Sabha has been considered as the basic unit of development (Subrahmanyam and Choudhury, 2002). The Panchayats have been statutorily recognized by constitution endowed with functional and fiscal powers. They are expected to change their traditional role of simply executing the programmes handed down to them, to formulate and implement their own programmes of economic development and social justice. Schedule XI gives incentive to the Panchayats to enlarge their domain of key functions by including agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, sanitation, poverty alleviation, public distribution system, rural electrification, roads, primary, secondary and adult education, and maintenance of community assets (see Box 1 in the Appendix)

The constitutional amendment mandates only political decentralization, leaving issues of design and implementation of sector, administrative and fiscal aspects to the States. While political decentralization has progressed satisfactorily, administrative and fiscal decentralization are lagging in all the states. Moreover, the speed of implementation of different components of decentralization is also different. While Kerala has transferred more fiscal resources to PRIs, Maharastra has moved faster in bringing Sectoral staff under the control of PRIs (World Bank, 2000). In this paper, we have focused on progress of states of India on different fronts of decentralization, viz., administrative, political and fiscal. In addition to that we have focused on the aspects of local democracy and people's participation in India, which are essential for Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) to operate as institution of local self-governance; and to plan and implement schemes for economic development and social justice.

The paper has been organized as follows. In section 2 of the paper, the progress of administrative decentralization in India has been discussed. In the next section, the study has looked into the progress of political decentralization in India. In section 4, the fiscal position of Panchayats has been discussed to analyze the progress of fiscal decentralization in India. In the final section, the study has been summarized and concluded.

Administrative decentralisation

Devolution of functionaries is an important step towards administrative decentralization.

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