Nobody loves local government

Source: This post is created based on the article “Nobody loves local government”, published in the Indian Express on 11th March, 2023.

Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 2 – Indian Polity – Devolution of power upto the local levels

Context: on the 30th anniversary celebrations of 73rd and 74th amendments, there is a need to take a relook on the achievements of local governance.

Centralisation was made attractive by the argument that centralised power would be required to break the power of local elite.

However, even after 73rd and 74th Amendments,  both central and state governments, are looking to hoard most of the resources.

India has the lowest spending on local government as a proportion of resources.

In this regard, it becomes important to look at the significance and challenges associated with local governance.

Achievement of 73rd and 74th amendments

It made common citizens, representatives sharing power with central and state governments.

It led to the devolution of many important functions to the local government.

Women empowerment.

What are the challenges facing local governance?

It is a common perception that the lower tiers of government is incompetent. However, the state at local levels is competent, which is facing a lack of support and investment from the top.

A good amount of Fiscal resources that local governments is managing, going through central level schemes, like NREGA.

Technology has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can create local capacity; on the other, it has been used to largely bypass political negotiation and control.

What steps should be taken?

Local government requires many technical, administrative and financial fixes.

Jayalalithaa, the former chief minister, made the case for a unified district-level local government rather than a distinction between urban and rural. Now, many important decisions for urbanisation, like land use change are being made in panchayats.

Decentralisation was designed to be the pathways to inclusive growth through inclusive governance and active citizenship. Therefore, the state would be better served by decentralisation than centralisation, transparency instead of opacity (hence the RTI Act), public reason instead of administrative discretion (hence independent regulators), local capacity instead of concentrated authority, active participation instead of subject status.

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