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Decentralization and Local Democracy in India – A Study of Panchayati Raj Institutions in Uttar Pradesh and Kerala

By: Surabhi Agrawal.
Publisher: Department of Political Science, Emory University 2010Subject(s): LOCAL DEMOCRACY; DECENTRALISED PLANNING; COMPARATIVE STUDY; LOCAL SELF GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONSOnline resources: Click here to access online Summary: This paper aims to study how a diverse country, such as India, manages to promote a unified civil society. This question is addressed by focusing on decentralization in India through the local democratic institutions known as Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). The panchayats were given formal authoritative governing power in 1992 through the 73 rd constitutional amendment. This increased their roles and importance as local rural governing structures. The goal of the study is to answer the questions: What accounts for variations among the strengths of the panchayats? Does a strong panchayat necessarily translate into greater efficacy for the village community? These questions are examined both at an inter-state level through comparisons between Kerala and Uttar Pradesh and at an intra-state level by focusing within Uttar Pradesh. Dreze and Sen’s categorizations of high facility, involvement, and equity define the variations in the strength of panchayat. The causes for these variations include mass mobilization and political participation in the two states studied. This study indicates that the amount of training and resources provided act as intervening variables to the variations in strength. Variations in the panchayat strength within Uttar Pradesh are highly dependent on the background and leadership of the panchayat chairperson. Furthermore, strong panchayats correlate to greater efficacy in community programs through greater economic development, social justice and development, and dispute resolution. This paper develops proxies that can be used to measure strength of panchayats and highlights the importance of improving these institutions for the functioning of India’s democracy.
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A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Emory College of Arts and Sciences
of Emory University in partial fulfillment
of the requirements of the degree of
Bachelor of Arts with Honors

This paper aims to study how a diverse country, such as India, manages to promote a
unified civil society. This question is addressed by focusing on decentralization in India
through the local democratic institutions known as Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).
The panchayats were given formal authoritative governing power in 1992 through the
73 rd constitutional amendment. This increased their roles and importance as local rural
governing structures. The goal of the study is to answer the questions: What accounts for
variations among the strengths of the panchayats? Does a strong panchayat necessarily
translate into greater efficacy for the village community? These questions are examined
both at an inter-state level through comparisons between Kerala and Uttar Pradesh and at
an intra-state level by focusing within Uttar Pradesh. Dreze and Sen’s categorizations of
high facility, involvement, and equity define the variations in the strength of panchayat.
The causes for these variations include mass mobilization and political participation in
the two states studied. This study indicates that the amount of training and resources
provided act as intervening variables to the variations in strength. Variations in the
panchayat strength within Uttar Pradesh are highly dependent on the background and
leadership of the panchayat chairperson. Furthermore, strong panchayats correlate to
greater efficacy in community programs through greater economic development, social
justice and development, and dispute resolution. This paper develops proxies that can be
used to measure strength of panchayats and highlights the importance of improving these
institutions for the functioning of India’s democracy.

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