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Strengthening Democratic Decentralisation and Participatory Democracy in Maharashtra

The ultimate objective of the decentralisation of power and participatory democracy is to build a society wherein the governed people are not just passive voters, but active decision-makers and stakeholders in local self-governance. In 2015, the Government of Maharashtra took a decision to devolve 5% of the Tribal Sub-Plan funds to gram panchayats in districts under the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act. This initiative allowed communities to make informed decisions regarding various local matters pertaining to electrification, sanitation, building of roads, schools, etc, and in turn improve the responsiveness of the government in bringing accountability, efficiency and equity.

In the past few decades—specifically from the 1970s—there has been an increased interest in the decentralisation of power from national and state levels to local governance. The decentralisation of power with participatory democracy is seen as a positively-related determinant of putting a society on the path of a more equitable and humane future (Hilmer 2010). Participatory democracy is seen as characteristic of a society in which every member has a “direct responsibility for decisions” (Kaufmann 1960), “justifying” its function of the contribution it can make to the development of human powers of thought, feeling and action and not only of protecting or stabilising a community (Miller 1987).

Institutions play a critical role in structuring social and political behaviour across societies, which in turn affects their participatory decision-making. Douglass C North (1990: 97) defines institutions as “the humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction,” consisting of both informal constraints (sanctions, taboos, customs, traditions, and codes of conduct), and formal rules (constitutions, laws, property rights). However, in recent years, research suggests that there is no one optimal institutional design that can be applied across structures. Institutions are highly context dependent and time sensitive and they are required to be tailored to local conditions (Dinello and Popov 2007).

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Updated On : 27th Sep, 2019

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