In India, 'customary village councils' are generally believed to be disappearing vestiges of a pre-democratic, hierarchical socio-political order. However, while remaining informal and maintaining a low public profile, in Karnataka state they are actively taking on new roles, adapting to the democratic, competitive political environment, becoming more representative and pluralist, and providing a wide range of services that are highly valued by the populations they serve. The relationship of customary village councils to the formal, elected local councils (Grama Panchayats) - and to electoral democracy generally - is more synergistic and complementary than competitive.
Journal of Development Studies (2010) 46 (4) 603-623 [doi: 10.1080/00220380903002921]
Ambiguous Institutions: Traditional Governance and Local Democracy in Rural South India