At the national level, India has a republican parliamentary democracy, which is duplicated at the state level, forming the Union of India. The Constitution mandated decentralisation by instructing the state to establish Panchayati Raj institutions (PRIs) at the village level as the lowest level of government.
The State shall take steps to create village panchayats and invest them with such rights and authority as may be necessary to allow them to function as units of self-government, according to Article 40 of the Constitution.
Panchayati Raj marked the start of a new era of participatory development, laying the groundwork for ‘democratic decentralisation,’ as it assisted in:
supporting public participation in rural development programmes; providing an institutional framework for popular administration; acting as a channel for social and political change; facilitating local mobilisation; and preparing and assisting in the implementation of development plans facilitated the expression of difficulties by the weaker social groups and supported the establishment of leadership among them.
The panchayats were given the authority and obligation to design and implement economic growth and social justice programmes.
However, most states’ optimistic start toward decentralisation has faded, either due to political pressure or changes in the government’s growth objectives and programmes.
The construction of panchayats was not accompanied by the devolution of functions and resources to these organisations, halting the country’s decentralisation trend.
Despite the fact that the 73rd Amendment envisions panchayats as institutions of self-governance, these bodies are typically considered as mere conduits for federal and state government programmes. Even for these, the panchayats have not received cash in a timely manner.
Due to a lack of competence and sufficient information at the local level, the planning process did not make much progress.
Lack of participation of rural poor in development processes, resulting in the economic marginalisation of non-agricultural employees and landless labourers.
Local resources, knowledge, skills, and collective wisdom are ignored.
The rural poor have a ‘superior’ mentality in government apparatus at all levels, as well as a ‘passive’ and’servile’ attitude.
Imposition of development programmes without consideration of local circumstances; technology disseminators who are not aware of local socioeconomic and cultural realities.
Article 40’s true potential lies not only in its directive to establish village panchayats as part of a constitutionally formulated state policy principle, but also in the significant concomitant mandate that panchayats be given “such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.”
As a result, unless village panchayats begin to act as self-governing units as part of a democratic politics, the work would remain incomplete.