Decentralisation in India: Poverty, Politics and Panchayati Raj


A central aim of this paper is to review the literature on Indian decentralisation, and to assess the extent to which the Indian States of Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Madhya Pradesh (MP) have devolved political, administrative and fiscal authority to local Panchayats. The paper lays out the political dynamics that preceded the constitutional amendments in 1993, and then explores the extent to which these reforms have been implemented in AP and MP. It reviews the literature on decentralisation in India, analysing three elements that are thought to have undermined the power and autonomy of village-level Panchayats – India’s federalism, the ‘resistant’ bureaucracy and ‘élite capture.’ It then develops hypotheses to explain the conditions under which Panchayats can be made more responsive and accountable to the interests of groups traditionally marginalised by local political processes.


Johnson, C. Decentralisation in India:Poverty, Politics and Panchayati Raj. Overseas Development Institute, London, UK (2003) 66 pp. ISBN 0 85003 642 9 [Working Paper 199]

Decentralisation in India: Poverty, Politics and Panchayati Raj

Published 1 January 2003