The primary reason behind local self government institutions failing to fulfill their envisaged objectives is the attitude of state governments towards them. Discuss in the context of constitutional provisions and recent experience of the working of these institutions in India.
Local self government has been a part of Indian polity since historical times (Rig vedic Sabha, Chola village assembly).
Constitutionally, the 73rd and 74th amendment provides mandatory provisions for self government in states.
- Constitution of state election commission to ensure free and fair elections to LSG in state.
- Constitution of the state finance commission for effective devolution of finances to LSGs.
- Reservation of 33% seats for women and reservation for SCs/STs.
- Mandatory provisions like three tire institutions, periodic elections, etc.
However, bulk of these provisions require active participation and initiative of the state government.
The role of state government is:
- Establishment of the State election commission.
- Constituting state finance commission.
- Devolving powers of taxation.
It is seen that states do not devolve taxation powers to LSGs. There is often inadequate funding for infrastructure like office spaces, IT infrastructure.
Issues seen in recent past:
- West Bengal – Panchayat polls marred by violence, Ruling party elected unopposed on many seats.
- Meghalaya – Reluctance of the state to set up self governing institutions citing conflict with customary laws.
- J&K – Large scale boycott of elections due to allegations of inadequate security.
While self-government institutions are essential to the idea of democratic decentralization, placing them at the disposal of the states often leads to abuse and lack of political will. There is a need to set up independent constitutional authority to ensure that the tenets of 73rd and 74th amendments are followed in letter and spirit.