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UNIT-2 Decentralization and Local Self Governance Notes | DSC-10 BA HONS SEMESTER 4


  • India's Governance System: India is a Democratic Republic with a Parliamentary Form of Governance. This means that the Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha, which is the elected House of People. This system is also followed at the State level, forming the Union of India.

  • Local Self-Government: The Constitution of India has established local self-government bodies at urban and rural levels. These bodies ensure that development plans and programs of the Union reach the grassroots level.

  • Importance of Good Governance: India emphasizes good governance due to its diverse culture, traditions, and thought processes. This is particularly important in the current era of globalization, urbanization, and marketization.

  • Decentralized Governance: Decentralized governance is seen as crucial to integrate market and technological innovations and address the needs of all sections of society, especially the poorest and most marginalized.

  • Policy Changes: Since the early 1990s, India has witnessed major policy changes such as economic reforms and the introduction of the Panchayati Raj system.

  • Constitutional Initiatives: Constitutional initiatives like the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts have mandated democracy at the grassroots level, empowering local self-governing institutions.

  • Principle of 'Cooperative Federalism': The Ninth Five Year Plan (1997-2002) under the Prime Ministership of Shri. Atal Bihari Vajpayee introduced the principle of 'Cooperative Federalism', aiming at major devolution of power and resources between the Centre, State, and local governments.

  • Uneven Progress: However, the progress of decentralization in India is considered uneven across various levels of governance.

Concept of Decentralization

  • Definition: Decentralization is the transfer of powers from central or state governments to regional or local authorities, aiming to enhance national unity while attending to diversity.

  • Modern Context: Collaboration and coordination between national, regional, and local levels are crucial for effective governance.

  • Development in India: Decentralization in India aims to improve public institutions and administration by enhancing people's participation at grassroots levels, strengthening democracy, and promoting grassroots development.

  • Historical Background: The term "decentralization" has evolved over centuries with diverse meanings and forms.

  • Evolution of Concept: Decentralization historically aimed to ease bureaucratic pressures and deconcentrate hierarchical government structures. In India, it also aimed to counter authoritarianism and bureaucratization.

  • Shift in Focus: From the 1970s and 1980s, decentralization expanded to include power-sharing, democratization, and market liberalization, fostering private sector decision-making.

  • Recent Trends: Since the mid-1980s, decentralization in India has involved wider public participation through civil society organizations.

Forms of Decentralization

  • Deconcentrating: Shifting administrative responsibilities from central to regional and local levels by establishing field offices.

  • Devolution: Granting authority, responsibility, and resources to local governments to provide services and formulate policies.

  • Delegation: Shifting management authority for specific functions to semi-autonomous or parastatal organizations.

Administrative Thinkers' Views

  • L.D. White: Centralization involves transferring powers from lower to higher levels of government.

  • Dwight Waldo: Centralized administration focuses on coordination at the top, while decentralized administration aims for a greater whole.

  • Friedman: Decentralization is the transfer of responsibility, authority, and functions to lower governmental units.

  • Louis A. Allen: Decentralization delegates all authority except that which can only be exercised centrally.

  • Earl P. Strong: Decentralization divides functions into autonomous units with authority and responsibility for their operation.

Significance of Decentralization

  • Strengthening Democracy: Decentralization empowers local governments, such as districts and villages, enhancing democracy by ensuring that decisions are made closer to the people affected by them.

  • Addressing Regional Needs: Decentralization allows for tailored solutions to regional issues, which may not be effectively addressed by uniform policies from the central government.

  • Enhancing Administrative Efficiency: By decentralizing decision-making and administrative functions, government officials at the local level become more aware of and responsive to local needs.

  • Promoting People's Participation: Decentralization encourages greater involvement of citizens in the decision-making process, reducing the burden on central authorities and improving the capacity and effectiveness of local institutions.

Approaches to the Study of Decentralization

  • Doctrinal Approach: Focuses on empowering local communities and gradually transferring decision-making authority to them.

  • Political Approach: Views decentralization as a political decision to distribute power more evenly and promote democratic governance.

  • Administrative Approach: Emphasizes decentralization to improve administrative efficiency and effectiveness.

  • Dual Role Approach: Suggests that decentralization can reconcile conflicting demands by allowing for more localized decision-making while maintaining overall coordination and control.

Different Types of Decentralization

  • Political Decentralization: Involves the transfer of political power and decision-making authority from central to local governments.

  • Administrative Decentralization: Refers to the delegation of administrative functions and responsibilities from central to local governments.

  • Fiscal Decentralization: Involves the transfer of financial resources and decision-making authority from central to local governments.

  • Functional Decentralization: Involves the transfer of specific functions and responsibilities from central to local governments.

Decentralization in India

  • Definition: Decentralization in India refers to the sharing of power, functions, or responsibilities between the central government and local units of governance.

  • Significance: Enhances democracy, addresses diverse regional needs efficiently, leads to creative administration, increases public goods and services, enhances administrative efficiency, and promotes people's participation.

Evolution of Local Governance in India

  • Historical Context: Evidence of self-governing village bodies in ancient India demonstrates a tradition of local governance.

  • Colonial Era: The British introduced various administrative measures aimed at controlling local affairs.

  • Post-Independence: Efforts to revitalize local self-government included the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee (1957) and subsequent committees.

Constitutional Amendments and Local Governments

  • 73rd and 74th Amendments (1992): Established a three-tier system of local governance - Panchayati Raj for rural areas and urban local government for cities.

  • Features: Three-tier governance structure, regular elections, reservations for women and marginalized groups, State Election Commission, State Finance Commission, and functional decentralization.

Role of Local Governments

  • Responsibilities: Manage local affairs, oversee governance, and manage day-to-day operations.

Committees and Recommendations

  • Balwant Rai Mehta Committee (1957): Recommended a three-tier Panchayati Raj system.

  • Ashok Mehta Committee (1977-78): Proposed a two-tier system to replace the three-tier system, with greater powers for Panchayats.

  • G V K Rao Committee (1985): Emphasized the importance of Zila Parishads in local governance.

  • L M Singhvi Committee (1986): Recommended constitutional recognition for PRI institutions to empower them further.

Outcome and Impact

  • Transformation: Constitutional amendments transformed Panchayats into institutions of local self-government, enabling them to plan for economic development and social justice.

Local Self-Governance: Rural Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs)

  • Establishment: PRIs were established with the 73rd Constitution Amendment Act, 1992, to bring governance closer to the people.

  • Structure: Consist of Gram Panchayats at the village level, Panchayat Samitis at the block level, and Zilla Parishads at the district level, forming a three-tier system.

  • Significant Features: Establishes Gram Sabhas, reserves seats for SCs, STs, and women, grants power and responsibilities to PRIs, and mandates audit of Panchayat accounts.


  • Increased Participation: Over 28 lakh people are involved in PRIs across India, leading to increased participation in local governance.

  • Empowerment: PRIs have empowered local communities by giving them a say in decisions that affect their lives.


  • Identity Crisis: Struggle to assert their identity and role in the governance structure.

  • Over-Politicization: Excessive politics can hinder effective decision-making and governance.

  • Centralizing Tendency: Tendency for central authorities to retain control over local affairs.

  • Gender and Caste Issues: Women and backward castes may face barriers in fully participating in PRIs, affecting inclusivity.

  • Financial Constraints: Limited budgets and financial powers can limit the ability of PRIs to implement development projects.

  • Corruption: Corruption can undermine the effectiveness of PRIs and erode public trust in local governance.

Local Self-Governance: Urban

  • Background: Mandated by the 74th Constitution Amendment Act, 1993, to establish Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to govern urban areas.

  • Key Provisions: Define the constitution, composition, formation of Wards Committees, reservations, duration, powers, responsibilities, financial powers, and audit of ULBs.


  • Financial Scarcity: ULBs often face financial constraints, hindering their ability to provide services effectively.

  • Limited Participation: People's involvement in urban governance is low, impacting decision-making processes.

  • State Control: Operate under state control, limiting their autonomy.

  • Functional Overlaps: Lack of clear division of functions between different levels of urban local government.


  • Progress and Challenges: The 74th Amendment Act has led to significant improvements in urban governance, but challenges remain.

  • Enhancing Urban Governance: Strengthening ULBs and improving their functioning is essential for effective urban governance. This includes enhancing financial resources, increasing citizen participation, and clarifying roles and responsibilities.

  • Bottom-up Planning: Bottom-up planning and addressing technical and manpower deficiencies are crucial for enhancing urban governance and meeting the diverse needs of urban residents.


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