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Decentralised Governance: Concept and Implications in Planning and Development

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    5th Nov, 2020
  • Decentralisation, or decentralising governance, as referred by UNDP (United Nation Development Programme, 1997) is the restructuring or reorganization of authority so that there is a system of co-responsibility between institutions of governance at the central, regional and local levels according to the principle of subsidiary.
  • There were only 39 countries in 1974, which had electoral democratic governance, the number increased to 121 in 2002 (World Bank, 2004).
  • There are three major forms of decentralization, namely ‘Deconcentration', 'Delegation' and 'Devolution'.
  • Deconcentration Is the weak form of decentralization and refers to mere shifting of responsibilities from central government officials in the capital city to those working in regions.
  • Delegation refers to transferring responsibility for decision-making and administration of public functions to semiautonomous organization's not wholly controlled by the central government, but ultimately accountable to it.
  • Devolution is the strongest from of decentralization, where the central government transfer functions, authority for decision-making, finance, and management to quasi-autonomous units of local government with corporate status.
  • The idealized aim is to enable people to present, share, analyse and augment their knowledge as the start of a process.

Decentralised Governance in India: A Historical Perspective

  • Balwant Rai Mehta Committee in 1957 recommended a three-tier Panchayat system at district, block and Village levels.
  • The second plan document acknowledged the necessity of development of democratic institutions and emphasized upon 'comprehensive village planning' for efficient distribution of state benefit to weaker sections of society.
  • Ashok Mehta Committee in 1978 recommended considering district as a first point of decentralization.
  • M Singhvi Committee, recommended involvement of Panchayati Raj institutions in basic planning and implementation of development projects and consider Panchayati Raj Institutions as Institution of Self Governance to facilitate the participation of the people in the process of planning and development.
  • The 73rd Constitutional Amendment, in 1992, have formalized such an institution by giving PRI the constitutional provision to constitute three-tier panchayat system in each state as well as emerge as an institute of self-governance.

Panchayati Raj Institution in India

  • Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) is a three-tiered structure in India. PRlsinclude Gram Panchayats (village level), Mandal Parishador Block Samitior Panchayat Samiti(Block level), and ZilaParishad(district level).

PRI and implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

  • The Act mandates that the selection and prioritization of works to be taken up in a financial year has to be done by Gram Sabha.
  • The Act also prescribes that works be allotted in a way that at least 50 percent of the total works (in terms of costs) be undertaken by the Gram Panchayats.
  • The Act directs the District Programme Coordinator at district level to prepare a Labour Budget every year in the month of December for next financial year.
  • MGNREGA has been integrated with Pradhan MantriKrishiSinchayeeYojana (PMKSY), Integrated Watershed Management Programme, Command Area and Water Management schemes for better outcomes in water conservation and water harvesting works.

Livelihood Promotion Scheme and PRI

  • Swarnajayanti Gram SwarozgarYojana (SGSY) was designed to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities through Micro-Finance and Micro-Enterprises for population Below Poverty Line.
  • In NRLM, the role of PRls could be to facilitate/ support in social mobilisation, institution building Participatory Identification of Poor (PIP) and its endorsement in Gram Sabha, allocating resources to the priority demands of the SHGs and their federations in the annual plans/activities of the PRls and coordinating with different departments and agencies on behalf of the SHG network.

Current Development Challenge and PRI

  • National Skill Development corporation (NSDC) adopted a Public Private Partnership (PPP) approach to provide skills to 69% youth population aged 18-34 years in rural areas.
  • Pradhan MantriKaushalVikasYojana (PMKVY) is the flagship scheme of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) Implemented by NSDC, with objective of enabling Indian youth to take up industry-relevant skill training that will help them in securing a better livelihood through Skill Certification Scheme.
  • DeenDayalUpadhyayGraminKaushalYojana (DDUGKY) launched in the year 2014 also focused on placement-led skill training initiative of the Ministry of Rural Development. The scheme aims at transforming poor rural Indian youth ages of 15 and 35 years from poor families into skilled productive employees to empower industry with the right manpower for success and growth.


  • Participatory planning is often criticized for over emphasis on process of planning and it is also questioned from the standpoint of unequal empowerment.
  • Women continue to face masculine model of politics, a dual burden of domestic chores and professional obligations, and lack of confidence and self-esteem.
  • In India, there are Instances of women holding formal rather than effective power due to reasons like opposition from the families, interference by husbands, discrimination in meetings, lack of community support, lack of education and dependence on men.

Way Ahead

  • Despite such shortcomings, participation, as a political concept as well as a process, has opened up space for new relationship between governments and citizens. The concept carries dynamic implications in the wake of recent policies of decentralization, where people are not only expected to voice their opinions during elections, but also enjoy the power to participate in the decision-making processes. Increase in literacy level, access to technology and process of digitalization are helping public participation in government policy planning.

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