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GS-II :
  • 09 September, 2019

  • Min Read

Throttled at the grass roots.

GS-II: Throttled at the grassroots.

Context

25 years after the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, very little actual progress has been made in this direction. Local governments remain hamstrung and ineffective; mere agents to do the bidding of higher-level governments.

Facts

About 32 lakh peoples’ representatives are elected every five years to the local bodies.

Devolution is not mere delegation. It implies that governance functions are assigned by law to local governments, along with adequate transfer of financial grants, taxes, and staff so that they carry out their responsibilities.

Local governments are to report primarily to their voters, and not so much to higher-level departments.

The Constitution mandates that panchayats and municipalities shall be elected every five years.

States are mandated to devolve functions and responsibilities to them through law.

Issues remain – Finance

The volume of money set apart for them is inadequate to meet their basic requirements.

Much of the money given is inflexible; even in the case of untied grants mandated by the Union and State Finance Commissions, their use is constrained through the imposition of several conditions.

Functionaries

Local governments do not have the staff to perform even basic tasks.

As most staff are hired by higher-level departments and placed with local governments on deputation, they do not feel responsible for the latter; they function as part of a vertically integrated departmental system.

Problems with centralisation

  • The current Union government has centralised service delivery by using technology, and panchayats are nothing more than front offices for several Union government programs.
  • The ‘Smart City’ program does not devolve its funds to the municipalities; States have been forced to constitute ‘special purpose vehicles’ to ring-fence these grants.

Decentralisation

A decentralisation is always a messy form of democracy, but it is far better than the operation of criminal politicians at a higher level. We can keep track of corrupt local government representatives; at a higher level, we will never know the extent of dirty deals that happen.

Way Forward

Gram sabhas and ward committees in urban areas have to be revitalised.

Consultations with the grama sabha could be organised through smaller discussions where everybody can really participate.

Even new systems of Short Message Services or social media groups could be used for facilitating discussions between members of grama sabha.

Source: The Hindu


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