Q. What is the importance of Local Self Governments in a Democracy such as India? Why do you think did the makers of the Constitution not give adequate importance to this subject in the original constitutional document?
India has the distinction of being a unique federal country. Ordinarily, federalism involves a two tier system – central/union government at the first level and the state/provincial government at the second level. But the Indian constitution provides for a three- tier federal structure as below: – Union Government at the top State Government in the Middle Local Government i.e. Panchayats and Municipalities at Grass Root. The third tier was constitutionalized in 1993 by the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment act of 1992 respectively.
IMPORTANCE OF LOCAL GOVERNANCE IN INDIA
- Decentralization and Democracy: The success of democracy depends on the decentralization of power. Through this system of local self-government, people can obtain their democratic rights. Through this system, power can be properly decentralized and every individual can get the scope to develop his or her personality fully and properly.
- Relieves centre and state of their burden: It also reduces the heavy responsibilities of the central and the state governments.
- People centric governance: Since the members of the local self- government are local people, they can realize and understand the gravity of local problems more seriously than the administrator of the State or Central government and can properly solve them.
- Effective implementation: To implement various economic planning in local and regional levels the local self-government institutions are far more helpful than the state or central government.
- Platform for Political and Popular Education: It thus, enables the ordinary people to take part or make active participation in the lowest level of administration. Naturally, the political socialization of local people becomes possible.
- Promotes Spirit of Liberty and Equality: Moreover, the local self- government is conducive to equality and liberty and the perfect medium for satisfying the needs and aspirations of the people at local and regional level.
- Effective Solution of Local Problems: There are some problems which occur at the local level and need to be solved locally in accordance with local needs, atmosphere, environment and wishes of the people. To be acquainted with all these things, the government shall have to step down to the local level in order to solve local problems in an effective manner.
In spite of strong arguments by leaders like Damodar Swarup Seth, H.V. Kamath, K. Santhanam, N.G. Ranga, and above all, Gandhiji’s intellectual and emotional insistence, the panchayats could find place only in the directive principles of state policy in Article 40, thus sidelining the idea of power to the people. Then it took 44 years for the panchayats to become institutions of self-governance’ in part IX of the Constitution along with municipalities in Part IXA in 1993.
REASONS FOR NOT GIVING ADEQUATE IMPORTANCE TO THIS SUBJECT
- The Draft Constitution discarded the village as they were perceived as the symbols of ignorance, localism, narrow mindedness and hotbeds of communalism.
- Under such circumstances, the village was given minimal role to serve the social, economic and political upliftment of our country. Rather it was considered that any such role would cause harm as the local powerful groups who have dominance over the economy and politics will capture the same and utilise them for their own interests. That is why, the Draft Constitution has directly discarded the panchayati raj bodies in independent India.
- Ambedkar was in favor of establishing just the centre and state Governments, and not the village panchayats of Indian administration. The members of the Constituent Assembly, like Begum Aizaz Rasul, Moonmoon Das, Pandit Balkrishna Sharma, N. Madhava Rau and Alladi Krishnaswami Ayar shared with the views presented by Dr. Ambedkar.
- According to Ambedkar, the village community had little role in the affairs and the destiny of the country and while our freedom fighters have been condemning provincialism, they now should not support village level units as it will support localism.
With the appointment of various committees and experiences of planning over the years, governments recognised the importance of local self- government in the post-independence era. The Constitution was amended to embody the principles of local self-government, in order to promote social and economic development in a holistic manner.