The History, Politics and Economics of Panchayat Raj
Mani Shankar Aiyar, Government of India
This chapter assesses rural local self-government (Panchayat Raj) in India. It provides an overview of the competing visions and philosophies on (local) democracy between leading figures like Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar, as well as the narrow interests of power-holders that have led to conflicting approaches to the development of Panchayat Raj institutions since India’s independence. It asks why rapid growth has not led to more inclusive growth — why India is prospering but Indians are not — and how far the Panchayat Raj Institutions might remedy the problems of highly concentrated wealth and a wasteful bureaucracy. It argues that Panchayat Raj must be improved and strengthened in order to genuinely permit governance from below for a more effective conception and delivery of development programs and public services that match diverse and differentiated local needs, for an economic model of inclusive governance for inclusive growth, and for the fruits of growth to truly spread to all Indians in a full-fledged democracy.
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