PANCHAYATI RAJ – A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Contemporary debates on decentralization has revolved around three important issues: issues of historicity, 92 issues of expanding democratic spaces,93 and finally inclusive growth as well as inclusive politics of social categories.
These debate have over looked certain historical facts – one, it has overlooked the historicity of decentralization particularly in the imagined history of orient, and thereby accept the argument that it is a post-colonial contemporary phenomenon, particularly it belongs to the decade as well as the realm of globalization. The latter is argued on the ground that many developing countries witnessed the process of decentralization either during 1980s or 1990s as part of policy prescription advocated by the global agencies. One can give many examples for such a trend. In Bolivia, for example the trend began during 1994, although it came as a reaction to cultural recognition of identities of different ethnic groups. However it can be said that it came as part of “prescription of globalization”. Similar is the case of Chile, Columbia, Republic of Guniea Bassue(1994), Mali (1993), Niger etc.
Incidentally a linkage has been established between democratic space as well as inclusive growth. For example World Bank in one of its reports argue that, ”Decentralization has kept its promise as far as the strengthening of democracy at the national level is concerned, as well as the central government's commitment in favor of rural development. It has thus contributed toward moving away from the bias toward urban areas
Schmidt Vivien A. , Democratizing France : The political and administrative history of decentralization , University of Massachusetts, Boston , 1991.
Kumar Girish, Local Democracy in India: Interpreting Decen tralization , Sage publications, New Delhi, 2006 .
in matters of development; to better management of the coordination of integrated rural development projects, and ensuring their sustainability. Decentralization has also reduced poverty which results from regional disparities, in paying more attention to the attendant socio -economic factors, in facilitating the gradual increase in development efforts.94 In fact the debate began during the decade of 1980s/1990s. However there are no consensus as to whether granting too much power to the grass root institutions would help in shifting the arena of politics from above to grass root level. Even there are no consensus about the implication of such transfer of power on to different social categories, particularly women, dalits and tribals. However what is required is a historical analysis of the growth of decentralization, reflected in the Panchayati Raj Institutions in the past history. This would enable us to dismiss the myth that decentralization is contemporary phenomenon belonging to the period of globalization.
Panchayati Raj Institutions, the grass root units of local self government have been considered as instruments of socio economic transformation in rural India. Involvement of people at the grass root level is the most important means of bringing about socio-economic development. Panchayati Raj is identified as institutional expression of democratic decentralization in India. Decentralization of power to the panchayats is seen as a means of empowering people and involving them in decision making process. Local governments being closer to the people can be more responsive to local needs and can make better use of resources. The democratic system in a country can be ensured only if there is mass participation in the governance. Therefore, the system of democratic decentralization popularly known as Panchayati Raj is considered as an instrument to ensure democracy and socio -economic transformation.
World Bank, Decentralization, Fiscal Systems and Rural Development , Washignton , 1988 .
Gandhi advocated that India lives in her...