Despite the considerable literature on the subject and the innumerable experiments at making it work, decentralisation remains an enigma today.
The basic objective of this large-scale study is to reconstruct the contemporary history of decentralisation in India with a view to understanding its impact on democratisation.
This is done with reference to the experience of four states - Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh - which represent three generations of panchayats.
The author assesses the contribution of these local institutions in expanding the social base of democracy and in deepening the process of decentralisation at the local level.
Girish Kumar is Senior Fellow, India Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi. Previously, he was Senior Fellow and Head, Political Science Division, Centre de Sciences Humaines, New Delhi.
Using interviews and discussions with all the actors in the field of decentralisation, the author presents a comparative and detailed account of panchayat-centric democratic decentralisation in these states.
In doing so, the original objectives of the policy-makers have been interrogated, and as an assessment made of the intentions as compared to the ground reality.
The author covers a host of important issues including whether
• Panchayats empower people and strengthen democracy at the local level
• The policy of reservation has created space for the weaker sections, including women
• The people are satisfied with the performance of panchayats
Understanding decentralisation in the context of the existing political system as also recognising the needs of the people, this volume will be of considerable interest to students and scholars of politics, history and sociology, as well as to social activists and journalists.