The most significant experiment in reforming governance in India from a participatory democratic decentralisation point of view has been the introduction of constitutionally mandated Panchayat system through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment in the early 1990s. It was expected that the newly created Panchayat system drawing strength from the Constitutional provisions would emerge as effective tools of local self-governance and would strongly further the primary objectives of economic growth and social justice. Unfortunately, the expectations have largely remained unfulfilled.
This paper reports on a study in five districts in the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India, on the functioning of newly-strengthened local government. This was supplemented by a second phase of research, based largely on key informant interviews, regarding the functioning of recently introduced Gram Swaraj.