The Political power in India is shared by three vertical units of governments- The Central government, the state government, and the local government. The local government includes the Panchayati Raj Institutions in the villages and the Municipal and Metropolitan Councils in the cities. These are the known as the institution of Local Self Governance, which is democracy at root level and evolve through the process of Decentralisation Process in India. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments have widened the scope of local self governance.
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The four articles reviewed here address the aspect of that relationship which is important to the continued debate. In particular all four perceive Local self Governance as a grass root democracy its evolution in a gradual process and its Constitutional provisions, however, relating to the establishment, powers, functions and responsibilities of Panchayts. They also addressed the issue of Reservation which have attracted Women, SC/ST’s and other reserved categories to politics in large numbers, their stand in decision making process while implementing schemes through PRI’s.
The importance of the topic and the particular question they are addressing not only in the context of rural development but also a means to improve the living conditions of rural women as well as the oppressed class by contributing more appropriate and effective, better conditioned services, based on participatory decisions, transparency and accountability. In particular these issues highlight that participation of women and other oppressed classes (i.e. SC/ST’s and MBC’s) encompasses structural changes at the grass root level and in socio-economic situation in order to achieve the prosperity and welfare which is the ultimate goal of LSG/PRI’s.
Secondly as we know it is the lowest unit of local government and its efficient working, clean image and activism can be the basis of good governance and help in the democratic decentralised development process.
Furthermore about the platform for political participation and mobilization which aroused the political awareness of the people of all section which contributed for strengthening their political organisation and capacity for effective bargaining for better delivery of goods and governance and also the public services more efficient and democratic.
Last but not the least the issue has been raised of the comparative development/empowerment in the article of Pai and De Souza, they have addressed that in terms of reservation only the one particular section among scheduled caste is able to availing this benefit and raising their social capital. Also this has given birth to the inter-caste conflict among oppressed only and making them hostile for each other. It is important because in a way as we see PRI’s as an institutional framework for the empowerment of the people by giving them not only the voice, but also the power of choice as well in order to shape the development they feel is appropriate to the situation is lacking when we take it in a holistic way of excluded sections.
If I’ll examine the existing literature and classify it according to the perspective they all adopted in these four then it is go through like this-
In a general way all four have discussed it in terms of decentralisation, provision of the constitution regarding to PRI’s and to make an effective institution. Its dependency upon the effective leadership at the local level and the role of state who is equally responsible to share its powers and function with the institution for grassroots ‘governance. And how for the success of any democracy decentralised governance is must and for that PRI’s are the best examples as a process of democratic decentralisation which aims at providing a broad base to affording the much needed training ground for future leadership creating an awareness and initiative in the rural people about community development programmes, proper utilisation of the available manpower and the other resources which have mostly remained under exploited and unutilised manpower and other rural resources of participate in the management of rural affairs, bringing rural consciousness among the officials and impressing upon the utility of coordinated and inter -related approach to various development programmes and about planning of an overall balanced development of rural areas and thus raising the standard of living of the rural people in a holistic way.
In some extent if we see these articles than we find that some of these articles are inadequate to explain an empirical problem in a following manner.
As it is known that article 243G of the constitution empowers the PRI’s to prepare its own plan with an objective of ensuring economic development and social justice. But till there is vagueness in terms of role clarity of Panchayts like it is the first and foremost precondition for planning and implementation of any organisation is its autonomy in decision making as well its role clarity. In the context of PRI’s it is more relevant because multilevel tiers along with the different line departments are involved in the process. Like the legal provisions of the different state Panchayts Acts they are in a way of District, block and gram Panchayts who are equally assigned with the task of social development delivery like health/education and still there are concerned line departments of the state governments with similar responsibilities. Thus a question of demarcation arises in the term of jurisdiction which is not dealt and also the role of Panchayts in Legal Literacy among the oppressed.
As the all four articles reviewed here addressed the issue of decentralisation and reservation at grass root democracy but they have argued in a different manner.
De Souza argued about the goals, the means adopted to achieve these goals which are enumerated in the processes of decentralisation, 73rd constitutional amendment and the setting up the PRI’s. He argued that it was not only a response to pressure from the grassroots but was a response to an increasing recognition that the institutional initiatives of the preceding decades which have not delivered. Further he addressed the issue of the insufficient devolution of powers which have determined PRI’s, have no clear cut delegation of powers, which not exhibit any degree of autonomy among these institutions. He defined it in terms of different domains (i.e. legal, administrative, fiscal, planning, and political).In this purview he perfectly the detailed about the significance of the inter linkage of the various tiers of government in a smooth functioning.
In terms of reservation he explored more widely compare to any other articles reviewed here, he discussed about the acceptance of general policy of reservation and argued that this enforcement benefitting the creamy layers of these groups only. He suggested that there should be further reservation so that representation of the weakest among the disadvantaged group in the PRI is ensured.
Moreover he explored that the issues that have emerged following to the 73rd Constitutional Amendment in political decentralisation have insufficient administrative and fiscal decentralisation. Lastly he argued about the domain of upper caste in the grass root democracy and the pathetic condition of the lower ones.
Hasan have covered the very broad of view of reservation in the legislative bodies and define the different quota system. She didn’t focus on the LSG only but also reservation for women at broader level. Further she added about the mandate about the reservation for women and discussed about the challenges have been facing by PRI’s which thwarted their democratisation. Moreover she made a discussion on the rotation term of reservation in Panchayts as Tiwari made in her article and argued that extending the term reserved seats for women up to two or three terms which allow women in Panchayts the time and space to negotiate their own power relationships within them, it can push them in the right direction and encourage and nurture their desire to be assertive and independent.
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Lastly Hasan argued that in legislative reservation if the purpose is to amend the distribution of power and resources in elected bodies where decision are taken which affect everyone then there should be more women in these institution , because women in legislation will not only improve the opportunities for women in public employment, yet representation aimed at providing access to decision making in elected legislative bodies can bring about a change in the norms and principles that govern the distribution of resources. She added the empowerment for women is fundamentally about changing social institutions and practices about changing rules norms and rights and about changing the balance between women’s obligations and responsibilities. She defined empowerment as the process of challenging existing power relations and of gaining greater control over the sources of power. The goals of women empowerment she define are to challenge patriarchal ideology to transform the structures and institutions that reinforce and perpetuate gender discrimination and social inequality and to enable women to gain access to and control of both material and informational resources.
In that case women’s quotas may well transform the quality of public life, political participation in the decision making processes is the one mechanism through which such radical change might take place and this could undercut the force of gender in politics and alter the nature of power itself.
Pai have discussed the different scenario in her article, she admitted things on comparative manner she detailed about the social capital in the functioning of democratic institutions in segmented societies and also detailed that social capital in rural society enabled Panchayts to overcome existing social cleavages and promote grass root democracy. In this she referred social capital to the set of resources that inhere in family relations and in community social organisations.
Furthermore she defined pattern of Panchayts performance in two distinct ways (i.e. Participatory Patterns and Institutional Performance and Distribution of Benefits).
Participatory patterns in terms of decision making process in planning hold on Panchayts among higher and lower caste. And in terms of Institutional Performance and Distribution of Benefits she defined about the number of programmes have been implemented in the umbrella of one program and benefited the one particular caste among deprived sections which arose the caste conflicts and hostility among them.
Lastly she concluded that in Indian context what is important is not the existence of conflict per se but the management of conflict by the state and the leaders of various social groups. The incapacity of social capital to bridge segmentary boundaries has hindered collective action among all caste groups specially the rural poor, greater participation and democratic functioning of Panchayts.
All the four articles reviewed here are really unique kinds of articles which have justified their arguments in appropriate way. Because all have a rational and evidences to define the phenomenon of reservation in each and every domain.
Conclusion: The above discussion leads to the conclusion that the evolution of Panchayts has been traced from the traditional Panchayts to Constitutional Panchayts. The 73rd constitutional amendment act has recognised as a great landmark in the evolution of Panchayts in India. But much more need to done for realizing Mahatma Gandhi’s ideal of Gram Swaraj for the empowerment of the people. In terms of advancement all the articles really enhance my knowledge in terms of reservation at LSG and its impact. For me it gave a new vision to see the reservation and its impact at micro level (i.e. inter caste) because through this literature only I came to that how the one particular section among oppressed castes taking an advantage of reservation and the other one are still backward also suggest an agenda of research specifically the comparative research at micro level should be conducted to explore more about the inter caste dynamics which is hampering the path of holistic development.
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