Decentralisation in India

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    Recently ,Issues related to decentralisation in India have been highlighted .

    About decentralisation in India 

    • A major step towards decentralisation was taken in 1992 and the Constitution was amended to make the third-tier of democracy more powerful and effective.
    • The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 has added a new part IX.
    • The Amendment envisages the Gram Sabha as the foundation of the Panchayat Raj System to perform functions and powers entrusted to it by the State Legislatures. 
    • It provides for a three tier Panchayat Raj System at the village, intermediate and district levels. 

    Key issues

    • Local governments remain hamstrung and ineffective; mere agents to do the bidding of higher level governments. 
    • Democracy has not been enhanced in spite of about 32 lakh peoples’ representatives being elected to them every five years, with great expectation and fanfare.
    • The constraint lies in the design of funding streams that transfer money to local governments.
    •  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. 
    • There is little investment in enabling and strengthening local governments to raise their own taxes and user charges.
    • Local governments do not have the staff to perform even basic tasks.
      • Furthermore, as most staff are hired by higher level departments and placed with local governments on deputation, they do not feel responsible to the latter; they function as part of a vertically integrated departmental system.
    • The current Union government has further centralised service delivery by using technology, and panchayats are nothing more than front offices for several Union government programmes. 
    • Criminal elements and contractors are attracted to local government elections, tempted by the large sums of money now flowing to them. 
      • They win elections through bribing voters and striking deals with different groups. 

    Suggestions

    • Democratic decentralisation is barely alive in India and to curb existing issues gram sabhas and wards 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 a grama sabha.
    • Local government organisational structures have to be strengthened. 
    • Panchayats are burdened with a huge amount of work that other departments thrust on them, without being compensated for the extra administrative costs.
      • Local governments must be enabled to hold State departments accountable and to provide quality, corruption free service to them, through service-level agreements.
    • India’s efforts in decentralisation represent one of the largest experiments in deepening democracy. 
    • We can keep track of corrupt local government representatives; at the higher level
    • Given diverse habitation patterns, political and social history, it makes sense to mandate States to assign functions to local governments. 

    Mains Practice Question 

     [Q] Decentralisation is vital to strengthen participatory democracy, facilitate responsive governance and enable public service delivery.Discuss