Decentralization stands as a pivotal objective within India’s democratic framework. This vision gave rise to Panchayats and Municipalities, establishing local self-governance through the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments.
However, the complete realization of this concept has encountered significant challenges in implementation.
Drawbacks of the Local Self-Government System in India:
Dependence on States:
Functions: The process of devolving powers and responsibilities to local governments remains uneven and inadequate across various levels.
Funds: Local bodies face constraints in performing even basic functions, as the revenue from various taxes is not directly accessible to them; instead, it constitutes part of the State’s Consolidated Fund.
Functionaries: Inadequate capacity among personnel and elected representatives due to a lack of comprehensive capacity-building initiatives.
Limited Powers: Proper delineation of powers is absent, leading to ambiguity and confusion.
- Limited taxation authority.
- Heavy reliance on state legislature for funding.
- Insufficient funds for effective governance.
- Prevalence of unfair practices during the election process.
Advantages of Local Self-Government System:
- On-Ground Implementation: Allows for effective execution of policies at the grassroots level.
- Democratic Decentralization: Over 30 lakh representatives are elected in panchayats alone, as per the Devolution Index Report 2013-14 of IIPA.
- Empowerment of Marginalized Sections: Reservations for women, SCs, and STs offer a voice to the marginalized and vulnerable segments of society.
- Targeted Public Service Delivery: Local self-governance facilitates responsive and context-specific public service delivery, exemplified by initiatives like MGNREGA.
Measures to Improve:
2nd ARC Recommendations:
- Define clear roles for each level of local government in every subject matter.
- State Finance Commissions should establish transparent norms for fund devolution.
- Focus on capacity building for both organizational strengthening and individual skill enhancement.
- Develop a well-structured activity framework for Local Self-Governments.
- Extend the autonomy enjoyed by 5th and 6th schedule states to other regions, fostering greater accountability in administrative actions.
Curbing Dummy Candidacy:
- Introduce measures to prevent the election of “dummy candidates” that undermine the essence of reservations and local administration.
Local self-governance stands as a significant stride towards deeper administrative reach within India. While its complete realization remains a work in progress, it would be unjust to label it a failure given its indispensable role in rural areas.
Through targeted reforms, improved capacities, and increased autonomy, local self-governance can continue to evolve as a potent tool for effective governance.