Approach :

  1. Introduction
  2. Mention how 73rd CAA seeks to ensure decentralized governance.
  3. Highlight the main existing loopholes in PRIs.
  4. Conclusion

More than 2 decades have elapsed since the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act had been passed that heralded decentralized governance. Thereafter, all states passed legislations ushering in the 3rd tier of government in Indian federal polity. This was a momentous paradigm shift in democratic governance & fiscal federalism.

Enabling decentralization: The pattern of decentralization since the GOI 1935 and even after 1950 was at best only a de-concentration exercise that assigned duties and responsibilities to subordinates to carry out specific functions. But the Constitutional Amendment envisages a devolution that implies autonomy in regard to assigned functions, backed by funds & functionaries. Such devolution is a process towards ushering in participatory democracy. It has several standardized features like quinquennial elections, reservations for marginalized & women, state finance commission to rationalize state-level fiscal relations, district planning committee to evaluate resource endowments and manage resource conservation  with a mandate for draft development plan for the whole district. Besides state legislatures have to endow local governments with powers & authorities to function as institution of self-governance.

The loopholes: But introspection reveals the central tendency of India’s local democracy as that of indifference if not neglect. Still the local expenditure as a % of GDP is only 2% compared with OECD (14%), China (11%) and Brazil (7%).

  • It did not provide the other necessary conditions which were left to state legislatures and governments. There is none to keep afloat the social demand for deepening democracy. E.g., no separate list for local governments. The 11th Schedule lists 29 subjects for PRIs but carry no operational meaning because almost all functions are State-Concurrent. Hence, there is a need to ensure clarity.
  • The mandate to establish a district planning committee to prepare a draft development plan has been violated & distorted in most states. Parallel bodies encroach on the functional domain. E.g., Haryana created a Rural development Agency under the CMO.
  • The empowerment of women and dignified inclusion of marginalized remains a distant dream. Many women are dummy-pradhans, whose powers are wielded by their male counterparts.
  • The financial reporting system is in disarray – absence of reliable, consistent database for corrective reforms.

Democracy, which is a government of the people, by the people, for the people, must win for it is not only an intrinsic value but is instrumental in ushering in an inclusive & just society. This cannot happen without developing democratic local governance with a sense of urgency.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish June 16, 2022