Globally, since 1990’s, decentralization has been recognized as important medium for bringing transformation in communities by reducing conflicts, improving livelihoods for indigenous groups, and promoting sustainable management. In 1993, participatory democratic decentralization was introduced in Indian states by Government of India (GoI). The constitution reform aimed to benefit the local political bodies of three-tier systems called ‘Panchayats.’ “In 2000, preliminary literature review and action research comparative study result indicated that implementation of decentralization through 73rd amendment of ‘Panchayat had general acceptance particularly by women and Bhils (Scheduled Tribes) in neighbouring three tribal districts of Gujarat (Dahod), Rajasthan (Banswara) and Madhya Pradesh (Jhabua). It was considered as an effective tool, and expected that participatory and accountability would be inbuilt advantage of decentralization (panchayat), if implemented appropriately. Immediate effects were observed that due to reservation quota, several tribal women were democratically elected as ‘panchayat’ leaders. However, after five years, are these expectations achieved or it is still a distant dream for bordering districts of three Indian states, and in its implementation of decentralization? “In 2005, ex-post impact study was conducted as a follow-up to above-mentioned study to document implications of decentralization on joint forest management and water cooperatives in semi-arid tribal districts. This paper analyzes and shares outcomes on following main questions: (i) Are administrative, financial and political powers of (73rd Amendments) ‘Panchayats’ closely knit with the other ‘recognized’ local forest and water committees and district level communities- ‘Zilla Parishads’ (ZPs)?, (ii) what were underlying factors associated with successful implementation in one Indian state as against challenges in other neighbouring state?, and (iii) has there been learning of decentralization formal or informally, and management of commons through knowledge sharing among these tribal districts, between states, and regionally or internationally? “Some of the key results show complexities that are created by democratic decentralization on other existing local rural institutions, which govern social and economic development programmes including forests and water management. One of the revealing results of this study explains informal flow of knowledge sharing of ‘Gram Swaraj’ among the adjoining districts particularly from Jhabua to Dahod, and formal uptake of decentralization policy in Banswara. Briefly, the first part of paper reviews and compares the decentralization policies in these three states; then it analyses the bureaucracy and influence of elite groups on tribal districts; and lastly, if learning from this regions could benefit and be adopted nationally and in other developing countries.
Publication Year: 2006