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Empowerment of Panchayati Raj System - Perspectives of a ‘Panchayat Premi’ - April 24, 2022

I wish to make an analogy between the Panchayati Raj System and the ‘Atomic structure’ of an element in the periodic table that we have come across in the Chemistry classes during our school days. We have studied that Atomic structure of an element consists of Protons, Neutrons and Electrons. It is known that the Nucleus of an atom houses Protons as well as Neutrons and the Electrons move in the orbits around the nucleus.

For a better understanding, Nucleus can be easily related with the ‘Core’, whereas the Orbits represent the ‘Periphery’ of the atom. In this core-periphery set up, one could place the elected representatives of the Panchayati Raj Institutions(PRI) as well as the officials of the LGIs and its allied institutions at the core. However, the institutions such as Gram Sabha, Youth Clubs, Self Help Groups, Co- operative Societies, Parent Teacher Association, Hospital Development Committee, Non-Government Organisations, etc. could be placed in the periphery. The actors in the core (political leaders and bureaucratic leaders) are expected to provide leadership whereas the actors in the periphery will perform more like interest group, pressure group, support group, critics, etc.

In this context, I wish to raise two simple yet critical questions for introspection and reflections by all concerned. Firstly, what shall be the priority to be accorded to the stakeholders in the core and periphery while taking up capacity building programmes that aim at empowerment of Panchayati Raj system? Secondly, what will be the repercussions, if any, if there is a disequilibrium in these efforts for capacity building of various stakeholders in the empowerment of Panchayati Raj system?

The rationale behind raising these questions is to generate a discussion among the academicians, researchers and practitioners in the domain of Local Governance on certain aspects which I felt very important as a ‘Panchayat Premi’ (The one who loves Panchayat) and also to put forward certain stray thoughts of mine. While recognising the freedom of everyone to ‘agree to disagree’ with others, I wish to put forth my views here.

To me, in an ideal situation, capacity building initiatives with thrust on ‘Empowerment of Panchayati Raj System’ shall focus on the key stakeholders of both core as well as periphery together. However, it will be an ideal situation to think that the capacity building of all the stakeholders of Panchayati Raj System (that includes all concerned from the core and periphery) will be taken up concurrently. It may be assumed that if could be done, such efforts may result in moving to ensure perfect ‘equilibrium’ in the system in terms of capacity building. This is very important when any new programme/ scheme/ project is being launched by the Union/ State Governments.

But the ideal situations may be quite far from the realities. In such situations, I wish to suggest that the stakeholders in core area such as elected representatives and officials of the PRIs in the same order, may be given the primacy or priority in training/ capacity building. This may result in the manifestation of better ‘Leadership skills’ in terms of planning and decision making by the elected functionaries of the PRIs. Subsequently, the elected functionaries will be in a better position to actively contribute to the selection of beneficiaries and to ensure accountability and transparency in the operations. At the same time, the presence of weak links (stakeholders) in the periphery in the absence of adequate training / capacity building, the stakeholders in the core may become more dominant, authoritarian or arrogant which will bring discord and dissatisfaction among the citizens as well as other stakeholders in the periphery.

On the contrary, giving primacy or priority to the stakeholders in the periphery before the core, may adversely affect the functioning of the PRIs itself. In such a scenario, the presence of empowered section of interest groups, pressure groups, support group, critics, etc. in the system may pose big challenges to the political as well as bureaucratic leadership. The stakeholders in the periphery may keep those at the core under constant check and it might be possible that the elected and non-elected functionaries may fall short of responding, tackling and managing the demands/ interests/ pressures put up before them effectively and satisfactorily. This may result in dejection and dissatisfaction among the stakeholders in the core area which also may lead to indecisiveness, inaction or apathy.

I wish to reiterate that any initiative or intervention with thrust on ‘Empowerment of Panchayati Raj System’ shall focus on the stakeholders of both core as well as periphery together. That will enable the presence of a perfect equilibrium, harmony, balance of power and better functional relationships. That will enhance the understanding, acceptance, mutual respect and organic relationships among the key stakeholders in the system, leading to good governance in practice.

(Acknowledgements: The author acknowledges the discussions made with Dr. Jos Chathukulam on the ‘core and periphery’ aspects of the Panchayati Raj System)

- Dr. K Gireesan
Director, MIT School of Government, MIT World Peace University, Kothrud, Pune – 411 038.
E-mail ID: gireesan.k@mitwpu.edu.in; Mobile: (0091) 9445400855