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

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Empowerment at Grass Roots

Capacity Building for Local Leaders by G Palanithurai; Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi, 2001; pp 144, Rs 225.

Discouraging Multiple Memberships

The Constitution is silent with respect to the holding of dual membership in local bodies such as the panchayats and municipalities and/or in state/union legislatures.

Food Security in Drought-Prone Areas

The functioning of the Public Distribution System (PDS) in India has come under scrutiny because of rising burden of subsidy and storage cost and meagre coverage of the poor and the actual benefits received by them. It is argued in this paper that the existing system has become unwieldy and unsustainable and that the time has come to review it, especially in the context of panchayat raj institutions (PRI) and the role they are expected to play in regard to the rural poor. With the help of illustrative data from two drought-prone districts of Karnataka, an attempt is made in the paper to demonstrate the feasibility of a decentralised system operated by PRI based on the local staples consumed by the poor. The result seems encouraging enough to suggest that it would be worthwhile to have more substantive investigation as also pilot projects to test the workability of the decentralised system.

Panchayats in Karnataka

The report of the working group on decentralisation appointed by the Karnataka government and the bill to amend the existing panchayat law in the state which has been circulated by the government go against the basic objective of the 73rd Amendment of ensuring 'maximum democracy and maximum devolution'.

Panchayati Raj: The Way Forward

Those responsible for implementing economic reforms have unfortunately regarded panchayati raj as a sideshow. But not until economic reforms are integrated with planning and implementation through institutions of self-government will grass roots empowerment lead to grass roots development. This then is the right moment to ensure that both move together in tandem. Indeed panchayati raj needs to be made the fulcrum of the reform process.

Local 'Self' Government and the Constitution

In a parliamentary system of government, urban and rural local bodies derive their powers, functions and responsibilities from the sate government legislations. This concept of a local self-government, or rather, local government, paves the way for a proper delineation of functions and powers of the latter, for the smooth flow of funds from state governments and also ensure community involvement in activities. It will thus help strengthen local bodies at the lowest level, rejuvenating a system that has lain dormant for two centuries.

Panchayats and Paper Laws

The inadequacy of legislative drafting has created a regime of paper laws for panchayats. These laws do not respond to the spirit of the 73rd amendment, and even where they do, they cannot be implemented because enabling rules and orders have not been framed.

Development and Participation

There is a blind spot in Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen's updated version of their earlier book India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity which has to do with the instruments of public action. Representative governance at the local level is something new in India after 1993 and Dreze and Sen fail to appreciate the true nature of local self-government as a key instrument of people's participation.
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