ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Decentralised Governance in Madhya Pradesh

The Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Raj Adhiniyam, 1997 was enacted by the state assembly, delineating the powers and functions of panchayat raj institutions in scheduled areas. Four years on, this article looks at the effectiveness of the new system, and attempts to shed light on the working of the gram sabha in scheduled areas.

Accountability Is the Issue

Wiping out the memories of December 2, 1984 when thousands of people died in Bhopal due to the leakage of a lethal gas from the Union Carbide plant there is an impossible task for anyone who experienced the horrors of that night in one way or another. But that is precisely what the governments of India and Madhya Pradesh have been endeavouring to do in the last 17 years, forcing the thousands of survivors to fight battles of all sorts – legal and political – to secure recompense and redressal for physical and social injuries from the disaster. Just as importantly, the victims of what has been termed the world’s worst industrial disaster have been fighting to ensure that multinational companies accept their international liability for damages they cause in any country of their operation. So far in none of the major disasters that have taken place – whether Seveso in Italy or DES – have MNCs, while they have paid compensation, been legally compelled to accept responsibility for the damages.

Madhya Pradesh : Panchayats and Water Scarcity

In the rural areas of Madhya Pradesh, democratic decentralisation through the panchayat raj institutions has been instrumental in allowing people to generate a prompt response to urgent problems such as acute water shortage.

Madhya Pradesh : Politics as Ecology

Sal trees were infested on a massive scale by a wood boring beetle in 1996-97 in Mandla and neighbouring districts of Madhya Pradesh. Remedial tree felling was conducted under the guise of ecological action, exposing the economic undercurrents. The government investigations conducted mostly by the state forest department were mere cover-ups. Following the central government and Supreme Court directives prohibiting tree felling, the pest attack has declined, falsifying the official speculations of an intensification.

Madhya Pradesh Experiments with Direct Democracy

The Madhya Pradesh government has decided to transfer nearly all the powers previously exercised by gram panchayats to gram sabhas or periodic village mass meetings. This experiment may work well or prove a disappointment - but there is no doubting its audacity and its broader significance.


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