Decentralised Governance in India: 25 Years of 73rd Constitutional Amendment

Dr. Ramprasad V. Pole

The primary question is: “Under what conditions, with regard to what aspects and through which mechanisms, processes or procedures does decentralization successfully contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development goals.”

Local governments around the world today play a key role in facilitating development and improving living standards. The policy shift towards decentralization promises important social change in rural India, providing as it does a three-tier system of local self-governance. In response to various Committee reports, and political demand, the Union government passed the 73rd Amendment of the Indian constitution with the stated aim of `revolutionizing democratic participation and local development planning’. The enactment of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA) of 1992 was a landmark in the history of democratic decentralization in India. The act provided ample scope to the local governments for developing and implementing local plans. Article 243 G under this act visualizes the role of the local governments for the preparation and implementation of plans for “economic development and social justice”.
In an era of globalization, decentralisation is the principal countervailing trend which can ensure that the growth process is pro-poor, pro-women, pro-nature and pro-jobs. Panchayat raj, one of the oldest forms of local government in South Asia, is a decentralized system of village-level democracy that was formally enshrined in India’s Constitution in 1992. The rural self-governance institutions need to play greater role and for this purpose they have to be further empowered. The 73rd Amendment establishment local bodies as “little republics” by making them “Institutions of self-governance”. This paper is a small attempt to analyze the functioning of local governance in India. Recognizing the importance of governance, in this paper an attempt has been made to explain what governance is, identify elements of good governance and how decentralized rural local governance in India is addressing the components of good governance. While doing so, some existing best practices of Panchayati Raj Institutions are discussed to exhibit operational aspects and challenges of good governance.