Communities play a vital role in governance within a country, particularly in ensuring that governance is responsive, inclusive, and effective. In this context, communities can refer to a range of groups, from local residential communities to groups based on shared interests, identities, or issues.
Here’s how they contribute to various aspects of governance:
Grassroots Participation and Representation
Communities often represent the grassroots level of governance. They provide a platform for individuals to express their opinions, needs, and concerns. This local-level participation is crucial for the democratic process and helps ensure that governance is not just top-down but is also influenced by those at the grassroots level.
Active communities can hold local, regional, and national government officials accountable. Through mechanisms like public forums, community meetings, or direct interaction with representatives, communities can question policymakers, demand transparency, and call for action on specific issues.
Communities often have a better understanding of their local needs and priorities. In decentralized governance systems, communities play a key role in local decision-making processes, influencing how resources are allocated and how local policies are formulated.
Social Capital Building
Communities foster social capital – the networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit. Strong social capital within communities can enhance the effectiveness of governance by promoting collaborative approaches to problem-solving and implementation of policies.
Cultural Preservation and Promotion
Communities, especially those based on ethnic, linguistic, or cultural identities, play a crucial role in preserving and promoting cultural heritage and diversity. This aspect of governance is essential for maintaining cultural richness and ensuring respect for multicultural values in a country.
Conflict Resolution and Social Cohesion
Communities often act as platforms for conflict resolution at the local level, addressing disputes through traditional or locally accepted means. This role is important for maintaining social cohesion and preventing conflicts from escalating to higher levels.
Policy Feedback and Modification
Communities serve as a valuable source of feedback on the effectiveness of policies and programs. This feedback can be vital for governments in adjusting and modifying policies to better meet the needs of the populace.
Emergency Response and Resilience Building
In times of crisis, such as natural disasters or pandemics, communities are often the first responders. The resilience of a community, its ability to organize, and its social networks can significantly impact the effectiveness of emergency responses.
Advocacy and Social Movements
Communities can organize and mobilize support for various causes, influencing policy at higher levels. Environmental protection, human rights, social justice, and economic reforms are often driven by community-based advocacy and social movements.
Innovation and Sustainable Development
Communities, especially when they engage in participatory planning and implementation, can be hubs of innovation in addressing local issues. This approach is particularly important in sustainable development, where local knowledge and participation can lead to more sustainable and effective solutions.
Thus, communities form the bedrock of governance by bridging the gap between individuals and the state, facilitating participation, ensuring representation, and fostering a sense of belonging and collective responsibility. Effective governance often depends on the strength, engagement, and vitality of these communities. Some types of communities/community based institutions that play a vital role in governance are:
A resident welfare association is a non-governmental organization that advocates for the rights of people living in a particular urban or suburban area, primarily in Indian cities. In order to reflect the interests of citizens, RWAs—unrecognized government agencies—can be established in slums and other unofficial housing areas of India. Co-operative societies acts govern the formation of RWAs. It mandates that organizations have a minimum of fifteen members from a certain region, qualify as “associations of apartment owners” under the state’s Apartment Owners Act, or meet the minimum membership requirements of ten under the Societies Registration Act.
RWAs have developed into a distinctive urban feature in India because of the growth of residential complexes and gated communities over the past 20 years. The typical RWA is in charge of organizing community events, preserving owner rights, and maintaining the common areas of apartment buildings and residential neighborhoods. Although its members are elected, serve voluntarily, and do pro-gratis work, they are nonetheless constrained by regulations and bye-laws, which are frequently established by the government. They deal with every facet of how they operate, including elections, membership requirements, voting privileges, tenure, and financial compliance.
Although the RWA’s legal and financial procedures are generally clearly laid out and strictly adhered to, and residents frequently alert the association to a particular bye-law that has been misunderstood, there is not enough focus on designing procedures that are equitable and inclusive. RWAs must critically examine their procedures to make sure that these resident associations aren’t only tools of power but also actual spaces to improve the quality of life for residents. These organizations can successfully utilize the resources that the field of human resource development already has available.
India boasts the world’s longest history of village self-government. The Indus Valley Civilization, which dates back to 3000 B.C., is when the origins of rural self-government may be found. Basic civic services were provided during this time in a manner resembling contemporary local self governance. Community gatherings are mentioned in the Vedas, Upanishads, and Kautilya’s Arthasastra. The gramini was the village headman and its leader. The village was the fundamental unit of local governance. The term “panchayat” literally translates to “assembly” of five, and these elders were selected and welcomed by the locals. Gram panchayats serve as the fundamental administrative entities under the Panchayati Raj form of government.
The Indian Constitution was amended by the historic 73rd CAA in 1992, which created a new part IX (The Panchayats) composed of sixteenth articles (Articles 243-243O) and the Eleventh Schedule to include the delegation of authority to the Panchayats. Its purpose was to provide democracy the legal standing it needed to flourish at the local, state, and federal levels. A new stage of democratic decentralization of administrative authority to local self-bodies has been launched under the new Amendment Act. Its purpose is to transfer power to locally elected officials. The main goal of the legislation is to maintain the elected local governments’ ability to carry out their assigned responsibilities.
The Act includes a number of features, including women’s representation, reservations for SC/ST and backward classes, adequate representation through the direct or indirect election of the village panchayat chairman, a maximum period of their suppression, and mandatory appointment of the state-level Election Commission and Finance Commission. The functions allotted to these bodies cover 29, while those for municipal bodies are 16. The involvement of the Planning Commission and the Comptroller Auditor-General is mandated in order to increase these institutions’ capacity to address issues including primary education, adult education, access to basic health care, and drinking water. Local government is now more answerable to the elective local body than the state government under the Representation of People Act. The influence of the state and the function of the bureaucracy appear to have been curtailed. Similar to the provision in Article 243D of the Indian Constitution, the Panchayati Raj institution has empowered women as well. It stipulates that at least one-third of the seats in a panchayat must be set aside for women at all levels. Thus, the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, which grants political and administrative decentralization as well as the devolution of resources and powers to local people, is a significant turning point in the history of rural local self government. A new phase in the nation’s democratic decentralization process is represented by the 73rd Amendments to the Constitution.
According to these Amendments, it would be up to the elected representatives of the people to make judgements about grassroots initiatives that directly impact people’s lives. These institutions have been given permanent status as units of self government with a special function in planning for local economic development and social justice by mandating periodical elections to Panchayati Raj bodies. The Foundation in its endeavor to promote local-self governance has uploaded a few videos from the Ministry of Panchayati Raj on Capacity Building and Leadership Development.
India’s society is now characterized by widespread urbanization. Millions of people are moving to cities in search of employment because cities are the main beneficiaries of globalization and are growing in population. This indicates the necessity of positioning Indian cities as the engine of the country’s economic structural development. Infrastructure must be improved and upgraded, and both the state and federal governments must actively assist this effort. The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution, which seek to establish an institutional framework for ushering in grassroot democracy through the channel of genuinely self-governing local authorities in both urban and rural sections of the country, provide a strong mandate for Democratic Decentralisation. Notwithstanding the constitutional mandate, however, the expansion of self-governing local entities as the country’s third layer of governance has been uneven and slow. The 3F (funds, functions, and functionaries) transfer has been nominal in nature (with notable exceptions such as Kerala).
Eight different forms of urban local bodies make up the urban local government:
Large cities like Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, etc. typically have municipal corporations.
Municipalities are typically available in smaller cities. The Municipalities are also referred to as the Municipal Committee, Municipal Board, Municipal Council, etc.
Notified Area Committee
Notified area committees are established for both towns that are rapidly developing and places that lack the most basic facilities. The state government appoints each and every member of the committee for the notified area.
Town Area Committee
Small towns often have a town area committee. It only has limited authority over things like conservancy, drainage roads, and street lighting.
The Cantonment Board is often established for the civilians residing in the cantonment region. The federal government established it and oversees it.
A different type of municipal administration, a township, provides basic services to the staff and workers who live in the colonies built close to the plant. It is just an extension of the bureaucratic apparatus and has no elected members.
Port trusts are established in port cities such as Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. It oversees and maintains the port. Additionally, it offers the locals there access to fundamental civic amenities.
Special Purpose Agency
These organizations carry out the predetermined tasks or particular duties that belong to municipal corporations or municipalities.
More than 200 million of India’s rural poor reside in rain-fed agricultural areas. Many of them are mired in persistent poverty. Many biophysical, socioeconomic, and political limitations affect the output of crops and cattle for farmers in semi-arid areas of India. The livelihoods of farmers in these areas have been severely impacted by depletion of natural resources, low productivity, outdated technology, limited financial services, and weak market connections.
In many of the country’s rain-fed regions, the Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) has established itself as a pillar of rural development policy.
The programme is participative in nature. It is managed through a tri-level framework that includes a diverse range of stakeholders from government agencies, non-profits, and civil society. It places a focus on watershed users’ involvement in programme planning, decision-making, and execution. Planning for and choosing watersheds involves the use of participatory rural assessments (PRA). In the villages, there are additional programmes and sessions on literacy, family welfare, social services, income-generating enterprises, etc. Contributions to SHGs and other local institutions such as Mahila Mandals, youth groups, anganwadis, and federations are permitted in small amounts.
The Watershed Committee oversees the creation of various institutions at the village level, such as Self Help Groups (SHGs) and User Groups (UGs), and makes sure that a participatory approach is followed. It has at least 10 members, including representatives from the village development committee, pradhans, and panchayats. Half of the members are SHG and User Group representatives, members of the SC/ST community, women, and landless people from the hamlet. One person must be a member of both the WC and the Watershed Development Team (WDT). The Watershed project is implemented by the WC with the technical assistance and support of the WDT, thanks to the creation and mandate of the WC by the Gram Sabha.
The WC ensures that the watershed programme is implemented in a participatory manner. Based on the evaluation conducted at the village level, the Committee determines the needs of a specific area and decides on the participatory activities to be carried out. To guarantee a seamless project implementation, the members are in charge of coordinating and maintaining contact with the Gram Panchayat, the WDT, and all other governmental organizations. Everyday tasks and decisions made by all the elected bodies are carried out by the Watershed Committee. It makes it easier for various User Groups to reach agreements over the use of resources as a prerequisite to any activity. In a fair way, this collective decision-making encourages environmental regeneration and poverty alleviation.
The management of water as a local resource has been quite successful throughout a large portion of India’s history. Regrettably, the so-called “economies of scale” rationale has encouraged the pursuit of bigger projects and more centralized management structures, which has frequently resulted in an unequal allocation of the resource. On the other hand, the villagers’ creation of Watershed Committees has largely been successful in assuring the longevity of the participatory programmes.