Gandhiji’s Idea and the Grassroots Reality of the Panchayats: A Study of Two Districts of West Bengal, India

  • Tithi Bose
Keywords: Gandhiji, Panchayats, self-rule, decentralisation, participatory planning, West Bengal


Gandhiji believed that India lives in her villages. He felt that each village has to endure democratic practice to establish real democracy in the country. Gandhiji was the main architect of decentralisation through panchayats, and believed in complete Swaraj of villages. He was against the centralised planning process. However, the draftsmen of the Indian constitution were doubtful about the self-rule of the villages, as in their opinion villagers lived largely in the world of ignorance and illiteracy. Therefore, contrary to Gandhiji’s view of Gram Swaraj, panchayat institutions were placed in the non-justifiable part of the constitution. Throughout the planning process, it was largely realised that a decentralised planning process s s s s through steady Panchayat Raj can resolve the problem of deprivation of the villages. Thus in 1993, according to the 73rd amendment to the constitution, panchayats were recognised as the third tier of the federal structure and were entrusted with the authority of self-rule. Against this background, the present study tries to show how the self-authoritarian power of the panchayats has been hindered and the scope of decentralised planning became distorted.