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

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Panchayat Accountability

M A Oommen’s paper “Limits of a ‘Devolution Index’” (EPW, 18 July 2009) assumes that the scope of panchayat (or local government) accountability is limited to external and social audit. This is totally wrong. The institutional accountability of local government is to its creator – the government. In India this is the state government. The only exception is Brazil where the municipal government is a creature of its constitution and enjoys coordinate powers along with the states and federal governments. This is the primary or vertical accountability. Apart from this, in many western democracies there are legal provisions for citizen or voters’ accountability by way of referendum, citizens’ charter, right to information and disclosure requirements. Sometimes these are enacted separately, as under the Indian RTI Act.

In India, social accountability of the panchayats to the gram sabhas becomes a reality when the state legislation provides for it and this is to be performed within its parameters. For a variety of reasons, this is not being performed adequately and there is no sanction attached to the panchayat legislation for non-performance. As for external audit, it is a part of the panchayats’ primary accountability to their creator-state. I thought it is important for the panchayat activists to understand the basic legal structure of statelocal government relations.

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