Daily Answer Writing
24 April 2021

QUE) “The local self-government system in India has not proved to be an effective instrument of governance”. Critically examine the statement and give your views to improve the situation. (150 words)

GS 2: Previous year UPSC CSE 2017

Source <https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/arise-and-rejuvenate-the-third-layer-of-governance/article34396215.ece>

GS 2: devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein

Approach Answer:

Introduction:  The Panchayati Raj Institutions(PRIs) were formed after 73rd amendment to the constitution of India on the recommendations of the LM Singhvi Committee, giving effect to the Article 40 in the Directive principles in the constitution for effective local government in 1991.


Role played by the PRI

              1. Representation and Participative democracy: Through the mechanisms of local election and decision reviews at Gram Sabha level, democracy strengthens.

              2. Policy Formulation and Implementation: Various Central and state government schemes are implemente through Panchayats; It also plays a role of governance at local level.

              3. Reducing distance from the government: The local representatives are reachable in regular Gram Sabhas.

              4. Empowering Vulnerable sections: India's PRI system provides reservation for Women, SC and ST.

              5. Transparency: The Gram Sabha is a mechanism of Social Audit. It reviews expenditure of the Panchayats and holds them accountable.

              6. Decentralization of power: The power reaches near the government and through social audits in the hands of the people themselves.


Even with such critical role its effectiveness have been limited.


Limited Effectiveness of the roles played by PRI

              1. Limited Decentralization: State governments have been reluctant to pass on powers to PRIs.

              2. Weak funding: In 1992, devolution of tax to PRIs was 4.2% for local bodies, which is just 1.8% now.

              3. Inefficient collection of taxes: The economic survey of India 2016-17 reported weak collection of taxes by local governments.

              4. Sarpanch Pati: It is a critical challenge to women empowerment through PRIs.

              5. Infrastructural Challenges: Lack of digitalization, Panchayat Ghars, Office building etc.

              6. Lack of convergence: Various schemes, funds from MPLADs, Finance commission grants function independently without convergence.

              7. Irregular elections: Many states have had poor records of holding elections, such as J&K, UP, Bihar etc.


Ways to improve the situation:

              1. Improving Funding: Increased budgetary allocation is necessary. The Finance commission grants to the states must be linked with further devolution of funds to local bodies.

              2. Improving tax collection: The avenues of local taxation on village markets, property tax etc. must be incentivized.

              3. Defining Functions: There is a requirement of creating awareness and defining of functions of the local governments.

              4. Devolution of powers: State governments must devolve more powers.

              5. Capacity building and training: Digitalization of land revenue records, smart taxation, digital literacy etc. are few of the essential requirements of the day.

              6. Improving Audits: Timely audits can curb inefficiency. A standard procedure for conducting social audits must be devised. Further, State auditors must conduct regular audits too.


Conclusion: The local governments today face a triple challenge of inadequate funds, vaguely defined functions and ill-equipped functionaries. In order to truly explore the potential of the PRIs, these challenges must be addressed from the higher levels of the government.

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