Panchayati Raj and Decentralisation of Political Power: A Comment
IN his paper "Panchayati Raj and Decentralization of Political Power"1 Jaganath Pathy has made an effort to analyse ^thc constraints of the social structure in the process of realization of the set of goals of panchayati raj" Pathy explains how the "panchayati raj institutions have consolidated economically and socially powerful classes and linked them to the ruling class in India." He concludes that "decentralization of power through panchayati raj institutions in India has not been successful. Under the prevailing class structure in the Indian villages the panchayati raj institutions have helped the process of centralization of power rather than decentralization."
The object of this note is to make a few comments on Pathy's observations. Pathy has made sharp criticism of the performance of panehayats in India. He obviously did not have the benefit of recent experiences of panchayat institutions in West Bengal where the Left Front led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is ruling at present.
The present Left Front government in West Bengal has entrusted the newly elected panchayat bodies, which assumed offices in 1978 (elections were held after a lapse of many years), with greater responsibilities to revitalize the rural economyŚland distribution, marketing, rural development work, development small and cottage industries and so on. The period of two years is inadequate to make an assessment of the role played by the panchayats in rural uplift. However, we shall present here some information regarding the various activities of the panchayats involving the rural people, just to indicate the other side of the story not examined by Pathy.