Marginalizing Panchayats
Mark Schneider
UNDERMINING LOCAL DEMOCRACY: PARALLEL GOVERNANCE IN CONTEMPORARY SOUTH INDIA by Lalita Chanrashekhar Routledge, New Delhi, 2011, 2012, 225 pp., 695
June 2012, volume 36, No 6

With the passing of the 73rd amendment of the Constitution which empowered a three-tiered local (self) government system or panchayat raj, attention has been focused on the success of decentralization in India. Millions of local politicians have been elected with constitutional authority into the panchayat raj system since 1993. The heavy use of reservations for women and members of marginal castes has changed the face of descriptive representation, with important consequences identified by scholars in the United States and India. Despite the scope of these reforms, observers have begun to doubt the potency of these reforms. In Karnataka the term of the president of the zilla (district) panchayat has been reduced to 20 months which is also the case for the gram (village) panchayat president. The range of development policy issues over which elected local politicians have control are limited and are often indirectly influenced by State politicians or bureaucrats. And the rise of outsourcing of State development initiatives to NGOs and other parallel bodies have further weakened the degree to which local self-government is a reality in India that has a substantive impact beyond its well-documented descriptive impact.

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