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Making Local Democracy Work in India : Social Capital, Politics and Governance in West Bengal

Harihar Bhattacharyya, Vedams, 2002, xviii, 228 p, tables, ISBN : 8179360075, $33.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)


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Making Local Democracy Work in India : Social Capital, Politics and Governance in West Bengal/Harihar Bhattacharyya

Contents: Preface. I. Introduction: 1. Problem. 2. Case study of West Bengal. II. Social capital, democracy and governance: 1. Concept of social capital. 2. Neglect of the political. 3. Indian democracy as a puzzle. 4. Chhiber’s counter argument. 5. Post-colonial context: democratic consciousness. 6. Building social capital in the colonial world. 7. Formation of social capital : colonial and post-colonial world. 8. Micro-level evidences of post-colonial associationalism: i. Communist movement in the district of Burdwan. ii. Co-operatives and associationalism: micro-level evidences. 9. Conclusion. III. Decentralisation and local democracy in India: 1. Asian context of decentralisation. 2. Factors for decentralisation in Asia. 3. Indian story. 4. Historical legacy of decentralisation in India. 5. Indian nationalist thought and decentralisation. 6. Tradition of local governance. 7. Constituent assembly and village governance. 8. Decentralisation in the Indian constitution. 9. State sponsored institutional measures. 10. Local government in India’s federal polity. 11. Institutional mechanisms and accommodation of diversities. 12. Conclusion. IV. Local democracy, governance and empowerment in West Bengal: 1. Governance as a global agenda. 2. Governance and democracy. 3. Case of West Bengal’s decentralisation and democracy. 4. Asia’s most decentralised region? 5. A multi-cultural society. 6. Marxist approach to decentralisation. 7. History as a resource. 8. Decentralisation in West Bengal since independence. 9. Profile of governance in West Bengal (1958-93). 10. CPI-M’s conceptual framework of rural governance: i. Operational mechanisms for running local democracy. ii. The CPI-M’s redefinition of the panchayats. 11. Multi-party competition at panchayat elections since 1978. V. Making local democracy work in West Bengal : civic competence and popular task: 1. Institutions, trust and governance. 2. Political environment for panchayats. 3. Democratic participation and panchayat members. 4. Empirical evidences from panchayats: i. Socio-political portraits of elected members of Gram Panchayats. ii. Members of Satinandi Gram Panchayats. iii. Socio-political portraits of Jaugram Gram Panchayat. iv. Empirical evidences from Gurap Gram Panchayat. v. Empirical evidences from other panchayats from West Bengal. 5. Popular perception and citizen competence. 6. Panchayat Prodhans as democratisers: i. Case of nine Prodhans of Galsi (Burdwan). 7. Democratic potentialities. 8. Elite perception of decentralised governance: i. Elite perception of high governance. VI. Panchayats and social capital in West Bengal: empirical evidences from the localities: 1. Introduction. 2. Consciousness of rights and the panchayats. 3. Villagers of Belgram (Galsi). 4. Social capital among the schedules and tribes of rural Burdwan. 5. Social capital in Burdwan town. 6. Socio-political awareness of the villagers of under Jaugram Gram Panchayat. VII. Making urban democracy work in West Bengal: 1. Methodological question. 2. Recent constitutional arrangements for urban democracy in India. 3. Marxists and the municipalities. 4. Two case studies: i. Burdwan municipality. ii. Uttar Para municipality. 5. Conclusion. VIII. Gram Samsad as grassroots democracy: evidences from rural Bengal: 1. Gram Sabha as primary democracy: early beginning. 2. From Gram Sabha to Gram Samsad. 3. Concept of Gram Samsad: i. Legal concept. ii. Political concept. 4. Performances of Gram Samsad: case studies. 5. Performances of Gram Samsad: over all Bengal experiences. 6. Party’s self-critical assessments. 7. Conclusion: liberal vs dialogic democracy. IX. Conclusion. Bibliography. Index.

"Local democracy in India remains neglected in the ongoing studies of Indian democracy and politics. As a political sociology of democracy in India, this study seeks to rectify this neglect by locating the subject of local democracy in India, generally, and in West Bengal, in particular, in the appropriate historical, institutional and theoretical contexts. This study seeks to evaluate, in particular, the successes of the so-called (post-1978) ‘Bengal model’ of rural local self-government (panchayats) that is considered to be responsible for better governance, and political participation, decreasing the level of political violence, and ensuring some level of popular identification with representative political institutions in West Bengal, and to assess its relevance for other regions of India. Written in the backdrop of social capital theory, which privileges civil society as a precondition for the success of democracy, this study argues, alternatively, the case for ‘democracy without associations’ in the post-colonial societies including India as a possibility. Without denying the importance of associationalism in making democracy work, this study seeks to show that this act of associationalism may be performed by agencies not typically civil societies. There is thus a positive lesson to learn: the other regions of India, and other post-colonial societies beyond, deficient in civil society, need not despair because democracy is possible without civil societies. The democracy search in India, it is argued here, should not be hindered by the prior civil society search. In India and other post-colonial societies, the scholarly search should not concentrate on whether there is civil society or not, but whether there is democracy or not, and if yes, in what ways. The detailed case studies show that how political parties and their mass associations can be at work in making local democracy work in a favourable political and institutional contexts. Contrary to scholarly misconceptions about local democracy in India, this study asserts that local democracy, rural and urban, is based on the same twin principles of modernity—individuation and democracy—as democracy at national and state levels, and that there lies its developmental and progressive potentialities.

The book should be of interest to students of political science, sociology, development, democratisation and public administration as well as policy makers and political activists." (jacket)

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