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More Decentralized form of Governance Model in India

  • Category
    Contemporary Issues
  • Published
    20th Jul, 2020

Governance systems at all levels, i.e.  Global, national, and local, have experienced stress as a fallout of the COVID­19 pandemic. Architectural flaws have been revealed in their design. The complexities of handling several subsystems at the same time have overwhelmed governance.

Governance systems at all levels, i.e.  Global, national, and local, have experienced stress as a fallout of the COVID­19 pandemic. Architectural flaws have been revealed in their design. The complexities of handling several subsystems at the same time have overwhelmed governance. A solution for one subsystem backfired on other subsystems. For example, lockdowns to make it easier to manage the health crisis have made it harder to manage economic distress simultaneously. The diversion of resources to focus on the threat to life posed by COVID­19 has increased vulnerabilities to death from other diseases, and even from malnutrition in many parts of India.


  • Human civilization advances with the evolution of better institutions to manage public affairs. For example:
    • Institutions of parliamentary democracy, and the limited liability business corporation, did not exist 400 years ago.
    • Institutions of global governance, such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, did not exist even 100 years ago.
  • These institutions were invented to enable human societies to produce better outcomes for their citizens. They have been put through a severe stress test now by the global health and economic crises.
  • There is a mismatch in the design of governance institutions at the global level (and also in India) with the challenges they are required to manage.

Interconnectedness of Issues

  • The global challenges listed in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, are systemic. All these systemic problems are interconnected with each other.
  • Environmental, economic, and social issues cannot be separated from each other and solved by experts in silos or by agencies focused only on their problems.
    • For example, solutions for environmental sustainability along with sustainable livelihoods cannot be the same in Kerala and Ladakh, or Wisconsin, and Tokyo.
  • Solutions must be local. And the support from local people can be achieved only when the local people believe that the solution is the right one for them and not a solution thrust upon them by an outside expert.
  • Therefore a decentralized form of government ensures better policy formulations which can be more effective.
    • Governance of the people must be not only for the people. It must be by the people too.

Associated Work

  • Gandhiji and his economic advisers, J.C. Kumarappa and others developed their solutions of local enterprises through observations and experiments on the ground.
  • F. Schumacher had pointed out by the 1970s, the flaws in the economic theories that were driving public policy in capitalist as well as communist countries.
    • He had proposed new economics, founded on local enterprise, very consistent with Gandhiji’s ideas.
  • Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, in 2009, had developed the principles for self-governing communities from research on the ground in many countries, including India.

Constitutional Provisions of Local Governance in India

  • Though traditional forms of local governance have existed in India for centuries.
  • In 1992, India amended its Constitution with the intent to strengthen grassroots-level democracy by decentralising governance and empowering local administrative bodies.
  • The objective was to create local institutions that were democratic, autonomous, financially strong, and capable of formulating and implementing plans for their respective areas and providing decentralised administration to the people.
    • It is based on the notion that people need to have a say in decisions that affect their lives and local problems are best solved by local solutions.
  • The passing of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments made it mandatory for each state to constitute rural and urban local governments, to establish mechanisms to fund them, and to carry out local elections every five years.
    • The creation of this new three-tier system of local governance provided constitutional status to rural and urban local bodies, ensuring a degree of uniformity in their structure and functioning across the country.
    • It also has promoted inclusivity through the establishment of community-based public health and the self-help group movements.
    • Ensure availability and accessibility of the resources to everyone especially to the poor section.

Few emerging examples of States for better performances due to local governance

  • The pandemic has not passed yet, but the evidence is emerging that some States in India, such as Kerala, have weathered the storm better than others.
  • Some countries, such as Vietnam and Taiwan, are better than others during this ongoing pandemic.
  • A hypothesis is that those States and countries in which local governance was stronger have done much better than others. This needs further research by social and political scientists looking for insights into design principles for good governance systems that can solve problems faced by human society.


The government has to support and enable people to govern themselves, to realise the vision of ‘government of the people, for the people, by the people’. It is also the only way humanity will be able to meet the ecological and humanitarian challenges looming over it in the 21st century. Administrative officers should see their role as ‘enablers of governance’ rather than as ‘deliverers of good government’.


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