This comparative study of panchayat elections in West Bengal and Punjab focuses on the broad objective of studying the process of institutionalisation of panchayati raj institutions. What forms they take in different contexts? What factors facilitate or retard the process?

Afghanistan has signed a near-identical MoU with three institutions in India - Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and Institute of Social Sciences (ISS) for collaboration to promote the cause of local government.

Decentralization is broadly defined as transfer of power to the lower level of government (PRIs). It mainly takes three forms, namely political, administrative and fiscal.

Akhil Bhartiya Vidarthi Parishad activists wave the national flag during a protest in Jammu. JAMMU: Protesters blocked traffic and fought pitched battles with police here as the BJP-Shiv Sena sponsored shutdown demanding removal of Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra over the Amarnath Shrine land row entered the second day on Tuesday. Three BJP activists were injured in skirmishes with police as demonstrators burnt tyres and torched effigies of the Governor, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, police said.

Despite substantial decentralisation of power through panchayati raj institutions in West Bengal, the presence of an entrenched centralised party in power in the state has meant the use of such institutions as instruments of patronage. Violent battles have invariably taken place during panchayat elections, as these are seen as necessary by all political parties to capture or retain hold over the institutions.

Decentralisation of power and the institution of the panchayati raj system in West Bengal have been expected to aid the disappearance of subalternity (or a state of powerlessness) by way of caste, class and gender. On the contrary, an ethnographic investigation in a village panchayat reveals that divisions between the elite and the subaltern continue to exist in a complex form despite grassroots democracy in the state.

The national goals of removal of all forms of social injustice, inclusive development and removal of income and non-income poverty will remain elusive unless we enrich the practice of local democracy.

This paper makes an effort to provide a framework for good governance in India by identifying its essential features and shortcomings in its working. No theory of governance could be intelligible unless it is seen in the context of its time.

New institutions created through decentralisation policies around the world, notwithstanding the rhetoric, are often lacking in substantive democratic content. New policies for decentralised natural resource management have transferred powers to a range of local authorities, including private associations, customary authorities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Scholars see such transfers as detrimental to the legitimacy of local democratic institutions, leading to a fragmentation of local authority and dampening prospects for democratic consolidation.

a proposal to bring urban and local bodies under one head has been mooted once again. Mani Shankar Aiyar, Union minister of panchayati raj, has asked for urban local bodies to be put under his