‘Deepening’ Democracy: Beyond Institutional Parameters
Amit Prakash
CITIZEN INITIATIVES AND DEMOCRATIC ENGAGEMENT: EXPERIENCES FROM INDIA by Sumona Dasgupta Jawaharlal Nehru University, 2011, 187 pp., 495
May 2011, volume 35, No 5

The volume under review is geared towards describing and analysing the practical implications and policy imperatives of deepening democracy beyond its institutional parameters and the role of civil society interventions in creating a culture of democratic engagement, accountability, and transparency (p. 3). The primary empirical material for the volume has been drawn from the case studies and field data generated by the Preelection Voters Awareness Campaign (PEVACS), Panchayati Raj Jagrukta Abhiyan (PRJA) and the Gram Sabha Mobilisation (GSM) campaignall local democracy awareness campaigns started by the Society for Participatory Research In Asia (PRIA) but soon became a wider civil society initiative geared to mobilizing citizens participation in local elections and supporting those elected to office in panchayats with knowledge and skills to discharge their functions as elected panchayat members.

The first chapter therefore devotes itself to examining the details of these campaigns, their distinctiveness and effectiveness within the framework of emerging literature on local democracy, citizens engagement and local institutions. The author views these civil society initiatives as adding value to the practice of local democracy owing to the fact that government machinery is simply inadequate for carrying out campaigns of this scale and magnitude; civil society organizations ability to engage with practical governance issues at the grassroots and fill the vacuum both in terms of knowledge and skill building [to] provide the newlyelected representatives, especially women and those belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes (pp. 56).

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