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Day 9 – Q 2.Tokenism and surrogate representation have severely constrained the efficacy of panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) as instruments of socio-economic transformation. Comment.

2. Tokenism and surrogate representation have severely constrained the efficacy of panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) as instruments of socio-economic transformation. Comment.  

टोकनवाद और सरोगेट प्रतिनिधित्व ने सामाजिकआर्थिक परिवर्तन के उपकरणों के रूप में पंचायती राज संस्थानों (पीआरआई) की प्रभावकारिता को गंभीर रूप से बाधित किया है। टिप्पणी करें।


Direct local democracy has been mandated constitutionally through the 73rd and 74th Amendment. However, the actual progress of decentralisation has been uneven across States. In the absence of adequate financial clout, functioning of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) have been severely constrained. It has been argued  that the current functioning of panchayats fares poorly on the criteria of efficacy in service delivery, inclusiveness and accountability.


Issues like Tokenism and surrogate representation are hindering the socio-economic development process as below.


  • Panchayats have not been granted enough powers for revenue generation. As a result, they only have limited functional autonomy. Even after 25 years of constitutional backing, the PRIs are able generated only 5 percent of their revenue.
  • Elections are not held regularly. For example, in Tamil Nadu elections were not held for 3 years after the term ended.
  • Devolution of power which is imperative for socio-economic development has not been addressed properly.
  • Separate cadre for local administration should have been setup for effective implementation of policies and decision making.
  • Even after a decade and a half after the PESA Act, there is very little awareness about the Gram Sabha being designated as a self‐governing body or having legal jurisdiction over the natural resources and forests. Neither is there any support mechanism for the Gram Sabhas to play any significant role.
  • Recommendations of State Finance Commissions (SFCs) are generally not taken seriously

Surrogate representation

  • Twenty-five years after women were given 33% reservation in local self-governance bodies, many women sarpanchs remain faceless wives and daughters-in-law. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledgement the fact that ‘Sarpanch Pati’tradition should be ended.
  • With the backing of national and state political parties, the object of direct and grassroot democracy gets defeated.
  • The state and central government have also started creating separate structures or units for implementing specific projects on education, health, and so on; this limits the role and powers of the PRIs.


It is imperative to acknowledge the potential of women in ensuring inclusive democracy and the phenomenon of ‘sarpanch pati’ should be addressed with the backing of effective law. PRI representatives need clear mandates of local functions, and the ability to raise their own revenue, to foster better local governance. With adequate functions and finances, PRIs efficiency can be improved.

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