Bangalore International Centre had organized a Talk by Prof. Michael Tharakan, Shri Ramakrishna Hegde Chair in Decentralisation and Governance, Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore on 25th February, 2008 at 6.30 PM. Prof. Tharakan talked on the subject “Rethinking Democratic – popular representation in Decision Making and Governance : A Discussion in the context of Decentralisation”.
In a lucid and erudite presentation, Prof. Tharakan outlined the course of process of democratic decentralization in India and the thinkers who influenced it over the years. He stressed that the motivation of the imperialist British Rulers was quite different from Indian leaders, like Mahatma Gandhi and M N Roy. While for the British it was largely an issue of enlightened self-interest, dictated by a desire to consolidate their hold on the Indians through a mild dose of local self-government, it was an act of faith for leaders like Gandhiji who fervently believed that self-sufficient and self-contained autonomous village republics were the need of the day. Dealing with the historical evolution of democratic decentralization process in the post-independence period, Prof. Tharakan pointed out that a majority of the political leaders, with the exception of Mahatma Gandhi and a few of the Gandhi-ites, plumped in for the Westminister pattern of democracy and pushed the Gandhian ideal of village republics to the back-burner. Viewed against this backdrop, the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution of India marked a virtual watershed. Prof. Tharakan opined that the process of democratic decentralization has taken roots only in those states where effective and meaningful land reforms has taken place and that it is unlikely to take roots in other places unless the glaring assyemtry of resources within the economy particularly within the rural areas, is minimized.
In the lively interactive session which followed, several members pointed out the aberrations and systemic deficiencies which have crept into the Panchayati Raj system and felt that the system had no future. In his gentle way, Prof. Tharakan agreed that there were warts in the face of democratic decentralization process; however, one need not discard the face altogether because of warts.
Shri K Jairaj, Principal Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Government of Karnataka presided over the session.