Friday, April 17, 2009

Hurdles of Participatory Democracy at Panchayats

It is now universally recognized that goals of development, eradication of poverty, gender justice, literacy, health and several other programs and their imperatives that make for humane and civilized living cannot be met by state alone through the centralized planning. Collapse of the U.S.S.R and other satellite states in Europe have irretrievably discredited planning from above, it has now been realized that if there has to be efficiency and equity in delivery of services, greater participation and better accountability in governance from local bodies would be much required now than they have been doing so far.
The 73rd and 74thamendments of the Indian Constitution represents a watershed in the evolution of local government in India. They affirm not only that local bodies have constitutes the gamut of local governance but also that they form an integral and vital part of the whole gamut of governance in India, they are no more the “creatures of the state governments”.

But one of the apparent shortcomings of the amendments is that their still have considerable discretion's at the hands of state governments regarding the financial and administrative charges of the local bodies. The consequences have been that there is wide variation in the actual functioning of the local bodies in different states of India, some states have been more faithful to the spirit of the amendments mode and they endeavored to give panchayats a considerable autonomy and financial aid.
However some states have been tardy in this respect, they view the panchayats not as partners in development but as rivals in governance. However it must be admitted that state alone are not responsible for the uneven performances of the local bodies.

There are still some parts in India particularly in north where rigid, patriarchal and the other centuries old beliefs and practices do not being disappeared , in these state there are still exists only the formal representation of women’s at local levels .
Their authorities are effectively dominated by their men folks through remote control of any judgments in their hand they confined in most of cases like nothing more than a puppet, there are immense conditional similarities could be found in the case of Schedule casts and Schedule tribes in state of representation. In some places they have been able to effectively raise their voices and express their concerns, but in most of places they have reduced to the status of mute spectators.

Such state of affairs are arising due to stickiness of authority with the male dominance, this trend is hardly reversed even after the implementation of women’s reservation in many states. Effects of these maladies are universal in all communities irrespective of their position in social hierarchy which causing for the suppression of aspirations and innovations among the women’s.
There may be some solace to found the growing proportion of participation in Panchayat elections but it’s alone is not sufficient for smooth functioning of this lower tier of democracy, I think apart from all regular practices at Panchayat level there is dire need to take some stringent action to ensure fair participation as well as representation . The priorities should be to…
1. Lessen the strife during polls
2. Strengthening of women’s candidate with aim to end the pseudo representation
3. Better placements and assistance to the economically marginalized candidates ( in terms of ensuring some financial assistance by the government only)
4. Transparency in bureaucracy
5. Better monitoring by election commission etc.

Apart from such measures there is need to alter the groupism and narrow favor’s during the Panchayat elections, because such tendencies are severely hampering the universal rights of franchise among the socio economically weaker sections. As peoples will is foremost for any political consensus, so, it should be always taken into account that each and every vote is indispensable and crucial due to having lower intake of numbers (voters) in Panchayati constituencies.
Without ensuring the efficiency and fairness at local level of governance it would be a distant dream to meet with the goal of social security programmers. Positive initiatives like NREGS, is coping with frequent hurdles because of practical shortcomings of governance and lower awareness among the peoples.

Institutionalization of participatory democracy at local level becomes very strategic because it is quite imperative to avail the advantages of citizenship and social welfare schemes. Quality and vibrancy of a democracy could be sensed only through the empowered participation instead of number based or emotional participation's which are hardly coeds with real issues.
Strong polarizations of peoples will at local level would have a stronger effects on central plans and policy matters regarding the rural India. No doubt, it would be as par with what its deserves.

Atul Kr Thakur
17th april 2009, New Delhi

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