Democratic Decentralization


Democratic Decentralization

News: It has been almost 30 years since the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment Acts were passed to facilitate democratic decentralization in India.

What is Democratic Decentralization?

o Democratic decentralization is the process of devolving the functions and resources of the state from the Centre to the elected representatives at the lower levels so as to facilitate greater direct participation of citizens in governance.
o As envisioned by the Indian constitution, democratic decentralization is not merely delegation but it must involve active participation of local governments that are backed by adequate resources, powers and required staff to help them carry out their responsibilities.

What are Constitutional provisions that govern promote Democratic Decentralization?

o Article 40 – The State shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.
o The 73rd and 74th Amendments, by constitutionally establishing Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in India, mandated the establishment of panchayats and municipalities as elected local governments.
o The 11th Schedule contains the powers, authority and responsibilities of Panchayats.
o The 12th Schedule contains the powers, authority and responsibilities of Municipalities.


o Some of the Gram Panchayats (GPs) do not have their own building and they share space with schools, Anganwadi centres and other places. Lack of basic facilities like toilets, drinking water, and electricity connection.
o The devolution of power and authority to Panchayati has been left to the discretion of states.
o Despite the constitutional empowerment, the local bodies face problems of inadequate finance to carry out various activities assigned to them. The state finance commission is not constituted on regular basis in some states.
o States often postpone the elections and violate the constitutional mandate of five yearly elections to local governments. For example, Tamil Nadu urban local body polls were conducted after a gap of 10 years this February.
o They merely act as an implementation agency rather than their envisaged role as a policy-making body for local development.
o Local governments face issue of shortage of staff. In most cases, as staff are hired by higher level departments and placed with local governments on deputation, they do not feel responsible to the latter.
o Excessive control by bureaucracy in some states places GPs in a subordinate position.

What are the steps taken to empower Democratic Decentralization?

o Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan – To address the challenges faced by the rural local bodies and increased fund flow to Village Panchayati.
o E-Gram Swaraj – Launched by the Ministry of Panchayati raj it aims to bring better transparency in
planning and program implementation.

Way Forward:

o Gram Sabha’s and wards committees in urban areas have to be revitalized to achieve the objective of people’s participation in real terms.
o Local government organizational structures have to be strengthened with sufficient manpower, powers and authority. Local governments must be enabled to hold State departments accountable and to provide quality, corruption-free service to them.
o The center needs to financially incentivize states to encourage effective devolution to the Panchayats in functions, finances and functionaries.
o Provide Training to local representatives to develop expertise so that they contribute more in planning and implementation of policies and programmes.
o The Ministry of Panchayati Raj should monitor the release and expenditure of Finance Commission grants to ensure that there is no delay in their release. It should also be ensured that grants are utilized in a proper and effective manner. Panchayats should also be encouraged to carry out local audits regularly so that Finance Commission grants are not delayed.

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