The Union government, some state governments and civil society organisations (CSOs) have taken efforts towards the practice of local democracy in India. Local democracy is often considered a tool to facilitate public participation, improve service delivery, strengthen communities, end marginalisation and improve development outcomes.
The discussions on field experience of various issues related to local democracy such as participatory planning, poverty alleviation, empowerment of women and Dalits contribute to a better understanding of local democracy. However, it is a long road ahead. Much remains to be done before the promise of the Constitution is fulfilled.
The CSOs of India, as some outstanding examples have shown in the past, can play a crucial role to develop a vibrant local democracy in the country. Fortunately, there are many CSOs that are willing to devote themselves to the cause but do not have the domain knowledge to work on local democracy issues.
The Centre for Local Democracy came into existence in 2020. This Centre is a collaborative initiative between Azim Premji University, Philanthropy, Field Institutes and various partners engaged in the Field.
The Centre supports Azim Premji Foundation’s work on deepening and widening local democratic institutions and processes on the ground through partners in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, Gujarat and Uttarakhand.
Further, the Centre hosts the research grants of the Foundation on the same subject; the first cycle of the grant has already been released in 2021, and the second cycle is underway. In addition, the Centre is spearheading a local democracy narrative building pilot project in Jharkhand to create and disseminate inspiring stories of local democratic practices and development.
The Centre has started offering a Continuing Education course named Local Democracy: Theory, Policy and Practice, from February 2021. The course has been designed to equip learners with knowledge and understanding of the key issues related to local democracy.
The course is designed and intended for CSOs who are working or are interested in working on local democracy/Panchayati Raj issues.
The course explores the theory, policy, and practice of local democracy in India, with a focus on rural local government, i.e., Panchayati Raj Institutions. Participants will be provided an overview of various ideas and policies that has informed India’s local democracy initiatives.
Case studies of successful collaboration between local governments and CSOs will be highlighted. Finally, the participants will be guided to develop their own vision and projects related to the strengthening of local democracy in their respective field areas.
For more details about the course, check here: Local Democracy: Theory, Policy and Practice