ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Maitreesh GhatakSubscribe to Maitreesh Ghatak

Strategy for Economic Reform in West Bengal

During the last two decades West Bengal has led the rest of the country with regard to agricultural performance and implementation of panchayat institutions. But these developments have begun to level out. At the same time the state has fallen behind in other sectors - industry, higher education and state of public finances, particularly - to an extent that is seriously worrying. This paper reviews performance of these different sectors, discusses possible explanatory factors, and makes a number of suggestions for policy reforms. With regard to industrial revival, it stresses public investment in transport and communication, measures to improve higher education, foster industry-university collaborations, and help small-scale industries overcome specific market imperfections (access to credit, technology and distribution channels). In public finance, emphasis is placed on raising tax revenues (especially with regard to the service sector), limiting losses of public sector undertakings, and widening the scope of land taxes and user fees. In the agricultural sector, the need for a greater role of the government with regard to biotechnology, extension services, irrigation and flood control is emphasised, along with suggestions for encouraging and regulating contract farming with MNCs. Finally the article urges greater empowerment of panchayats with regard to social service delivery and agro-business development, and administrative reforms to enhance accountability of state government employees.

Recent Reforms in the Panchayat System in West Bengal

The experience of West Bengal under the panchayat system stands in sharp contrast with that of other states and, together with land reform, it has been credited for playing an important role in the impressive economic turnaround of the state since the mid 1980s. West Bengal is the first and the only major state to have had timely panchayat elections on a party basis regularly every five years since 1978. However, despite its pioneering status in terms of reforms of the panchayat system, West Bengal lags behind several other states today in terms of devolution of power, finances and functions to the panchayat. Also, the extent of people's participation in the planning process is significantly less compared to that in Kerala. This paper studies a particular component of a set of recently introduced reforms of the panchayat system in West Bengal that is aimed precisely at addressing this concern - the introduction of mandatory village constituency (gram sansad) meetings.

Pages

Back to Top