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A Gigantic Framework


Pooja Paswan

PANCHAYATI RAJ
By Kuldeep Mathur
Oxford India Short Introductions, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 224, Rs. 195.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 7 July 2014

The book under review opens with a con- ceptual framework for understanding local governance as it flows through the regions of good governance, decentralization and reforms in India. He has reiterated the fact that there is a vital need to shift the focus from ‘government’ to ‘governance’, there-by, emphasizing decentralization rather than delegation.   The author talks about Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of creating economically and politically self-reliant networks of villages to meet the basic needs of the people. He stressed on increasing the productivity of the local resources to escalate export and reduce their dependence on import. A very significant issue of the dominance of the Centre and the State Government, thereby, reducing their role as a secondary organization, is highlighted.   The author then traces the trajectory of the evolution of the Panchayati Raj system as we see today from community development programme to the 73rd Amendment via the recommendations of the Balwant Rai Mehta committee and the formation of the three tier structure of panchayats. It elaborately discusses the different perspectives of the Congress and the Janta Party on democractic decentralization from 1957 to 1990.   The chapter on the institutional structure and election mechanism of panchayats points out the significance of Gram Sabha in the districts and how it has been used to facilitate centrally sponsored schemes. It also discusses the importance of mobilizing local support through the panchayati raj elections and the increases in the participation of different communities of SC/ST and OBC through reservation of seats. This issue has been explicitly dealt with in the book. It endorses the reservation of seats for disadvantaged sections of society, particularly women, to address the problem of gender disparity in India by expanding the democratic base of women. It deals with the structural constraints of participation in decision making by women, dalits and other tribal groups. It explores the wide ambit of the Panchayat Extension to Schedule Area (PESA) which imparts the tribal groups with legislations to protect their natural resources and act as a stakeholders in their development. The chapter illustrates the incidence of the tussle between multinational corporations backed by the government and the tribals’ attachment towards their natural resources. It highlights the dilemma of the tribals, who when left stranded by their own government against the war with the MNCs, took up arms in what has now come to be known as the Naxalite Movement.   The author explores ...


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