Gram Sabha is being conducted in a small village in Mahabubnagar district of Telangana. This village is reeling under lack of drinking water, school dropouts, inadequate health facilities, and absence of Anganwadi building.
Gram Sabha started with a discussion on temple construction which ended up in dispute, then started a discussion on the dispute of graveyard. None of the members of Gram Sabha which hardly had a strength of 10 bothered to discuss schools, health, and drinking water. This indisposition is not discrete to this village; it is evident in every village in India with exception to a few.
Now, it is the time to question whether these institutions of local self-governance serving their purpose? Is there a need to relook at the concept of local government and reform it?
It is usually believed that at the level of local government, common citizens can be involved in decision making concerning their lives, their needs and above all their development, making a way towards democratic decentralization. Reservations were also given for SC, STs and women to participate in Panchayat elections to make them part of development process.
Given these marginalized sections the representation in the local governance, has it genuinely changed the socioeconomic lives of their communities?
Why is this concept of local governance a failure? Unique to India, Caste hierarchy exists in Indian society, predominantly in rural India. It has become a monster and haunts every walk of our lives. Disguised power is wielded by the upper caste by repressing the marginalized communities.
It is a fact that candidates of scheduled castes contest elections to Panchayat but because they are not financially well off, many times their election expenses are spent by upper caste in the village. After their triumph in elections, SC candidate despite becoming Sarpanch in a village is a mere puppet under the upper caste hegemony.
Every decision taken in the village is then influenced by upper castes and the real purpose of reserved seat gets undermined. This is also true for women Sarpanchs who act as mere figureheads and power are exercised by the men in her family. How can these Dalits, Adivasis and women whose lives are hanging on the fringes can benefit out of these Panchayats? Panchayats though not benefiting these groups are in fact obstructing the process of their development.
Another reason why local governance in India serves no purpose is corruption. Local governance administration has given an extra ground for people to pillage the public money without any accountability. Villagers are not concerned to involve in self-governance and make politicians accountable for their decisions.
In any society, if people are not aware of the political decisions, they are the ultimate sufferers as that society will distance far away from democracy and will be ruled by the iron fist of autocracy.
Author – Sowmya