ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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What Ails Panchayati Raj?

Two decades have elapsed since the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act institutionalised panchayati raj as the mandatory third tier of governance in India. Yet due to a lack of extensive devolution of the three Fs - functions, functionaries and funds - most panchayati raj institutions still operate as poor adjuncts to the bureaucracy and higher level governments. This paper reviews the process of devolving power to them and pinpoints the main obstacles in the path of establishing truly self-governing local bodies in rural areas. On the basis of this, recommendations are made to make them more effective.

1 Introduction

The debate on the form of democracy to be followed in India dates back to the constituent assembly. It arose because India is a large and diverse country and there was the problem of ensuring effective and widespread parti­cipation of its citizens in public affairs. M K Gandhi had initially thought of autonomous village republics, which would be federated into a national government having authority and jurisdiction delegated upwards to it from below (1959). He spelt out the formal mechanism for this to his biographer Louis Fischer (1982),

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