Kolkata, December 24, 2013
‘After its many failures, the centralized state everywhere has lost a great deal of legitimacy’, said Dr.Pranab Bardhan, Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, while delivering the 13th CUTS 30th Anniversary Lecture in Kolkata yesterday. (www.cuts-international.org/30thanniversarylectures).
According to Bardhan, decentralization is widely believed to promise a range of benefits, particularly in making governance more responsive and efficient in meeting local needs and preferences.
“A major dilemma of governance institutions in a developing country is a trade-off between autonomy (from populist pressures) and accountability, that is inevitably involved in most governance, including in the centralization vs. decentralization debate” Bardhan averred.
On the one hand, one needs arms-length institutions with credible commitment to insulate the system from political interventions, from special interest groups and partisan or faction politics. On the other hand, too much insulation often means too little accountability. This leads to high-handed arbitrary centralized governance, leading to abuses and waste.
Dr Bardhan further said that in one important sense Indian local elections are not fully democratic, making local accountability problematic. Political polarization, as in West Bengal, makes things worse, with opposition politicians usually not participating in the panchayat decisions as well as monitoring processes, as originally envisaged.
Welcoming the guests Mr. Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International, said that governance is one of the issues that CUTS has been working since its inception and thus this subject has been chosen as the topic of discussion for the lecture. Decentralisation in governance is very essential for a democracy to function properly and welfare of people can be promoted, Mr. Mehta asserted.
Chairing the lecture event, Dr Ajay Chhibber, Director General, Independent Evaluation Office, stated that decentralisation is yet to be achieved in India. Comparing India with China, he said that though China is not a democratic country, but has a more decentralised and accountable government. The delivery of service at local level is one of the main deciding factors in the recent elections in India, he said.
M. N. Roy, former Member, Expert Committee on Leveraging Panchayati Raj and TR Raghunandan, Member said that governance means how the government performs and how the citizens choose their government. Thus citizens are equally responsible in running a transparent government by electing the right people.
The second panellist, Mr T. R. Raghunandan, Member of the West Bengal Committee on Panchayati Raj, said that the young population in India are going to be the deciding voters in the coming elections and so they need to governed in the right direction.
More than 100 people attended the event which comprised of academicians, scholars, media persons and others.
Mr. B. G. Roy, President, Calcutta Citizens Initiative (the partner for the event), in his welcome remarks said that decentralisation in governance system has gained a lot of importance in the last few years and the subject of discussion has immense importance now. Dr. Keya Ghosh, Director, CUTS International extended vote of thanks
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