Dr. Aureliano Fernandes, Associate Prof and Consultant
The level of democratic governance which is an important aspect of the political system, makes a significant difference from the perspective of the people, governed by that system. The difference is that it belongs to the nature of democratic governments to take care of the many, to serve their interests in the endless struggle for survival in the world of scarcity, whereas it belongs to the nature of autocratic systems to serve the interests of a few. [Vanhanen 1997].
The enormous literature generated on panchayati raj has variously labeled the Gram sabha as the gateway to grassroots democracy [Jain 1997], base of panchayati raj [Datta 1994], one of the most important three basic institutions of new direct democracy at the village level [Narayanasamy 1998], a mechanism to bridge the gap between civil society and state (or its instrumentality, the panchayat) [Jaamdar 1995] etc. Some State Panchayat Legislations, such as the Goa Panchayati Raj Act , preface the enactment of the two-tier panchayati raj system in the state, with a statement of intent - greater participation of the people and more effective implementation of rural develop-ment programmes. Deductively, this participation should get reflected in the gram sabha - the community of electors on the electoral roll for a panchayat. If the level of participation is high it is axiomatic to assume that the level of democratic governance is high. Because power, when shared by the many through active participation, deliberation, decision making and implementation tends to be used or at least attempted to be used for the advantage of the many. Unfortunately, studies conducted in most states record thin attendance making gram sabha meetings a legal formality. Meetings called were mostly without prior or adequate notice.
Despite special efforts, very few panchayats convened the minimum prescribed...