To what extent, in your opinion, has the decentralisation of power in India changed the governance landscape at the grassroots?

The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments of the Indian Constitution established a third tier of government at the grassroots level, creating legal provisions for local self-rule through Panchayati Raj and Municipalities. Article 40 of the Indian Constitution directs States to organize Village Panchayats and empower them with the ability to function as units of self-government.

Achievement of Decentralisation of Power

  • Local Decision-Making: Local people have the opportunity to participate in decision-making on issues at the local level.
  • Women’s Representation: The reservation of 33% for women has increased their voice and representation in democracy.
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: The tireless work of local bodies has led to India achieving open-defecation free status in 2019.
  • Literacy Campaign: Arati Devi, a sarpanch in a village in Ganjam district in Odisha, is credited with launching a literacy campaign for women and reviving traditional folk art in Ganjam.
  • Self-Help Groups: Meena Behen, a sarpanch from a village in Gujarat, has worked to cultivate leadership skills in self-help groups (SHGs).

Some Issues with the Decentralisation of Power

  • Financial Constraints: Local bodies have limited powers to levy taxes and cesses, leading to inadequate finances.
  • Inefficient Distribution of Functions: The functions of Panchayats and Panchayat Samitis often overlap, causing confusion and duplication of efforts.
  • Absence of Coordination: There is a lack of coordination between government officials and local representatives.
  • Limited Functions: The responsibilities of providing basic services such as education, health, sanitation, and water supply remain primarily with the State Governments.

To enable local bodies and Panchayats to have a greater impact on human capital initiatives, they require sufficient financial resources as well as clear functions and qualified personnel. The level of autonomy in governance provided to the 5th and 6th Schedule States should be extended to all states.

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