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Need For Local Governance Solutions – Gandhian Approach

Need For Local Governance Solutions – Gandhian Approach

UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-2- Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

In news:

  • Governance systems at all levels, i.e. global, national, and local, have experienced stressas a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Architectural flawshave been revealed in their design.
  • Breakdownsin many subsystems had to be managed at the same time — in health care, logistics, business, finance, and administration. 
  • The complexity of handling so many subsystems at the same time have overwhelmed governance. Solutions for one subsystem backfired on other subsystems.
  • For example, lockdowns to make it easier to manage the health crisis have made it harder to manage economic distress simultaneously.
  • In fact, the diversion of resources to focus on the threat to life posed by COVID-19 has increased vulnerabilities to death from other diseases, and even from malnutrition in many parts of India.
  • Modern governance institutions:
  • Human civilisationadvances with the evolution of better institutions to manage public affairs.
  • Institutions of parliamentary democracy, for example, and the limited liability business corporation, did not exist 400 years ago.
  • Institutions of global governance, such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, did not exist even 100 years ago.
  • These institutions were invented to enable human societies to produce better outcomes for their citizens.

Put to test:

  • They have been put through a severe stress test now by the global health and economic crises.
  • The test has revealed a fundamental flaw in their design.
  • There is a mismatch in the design of governance institutions at the global level (WHO) with the challenges they are required to manage.

Interconnected issues:

  • The global challenges listed in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, which humanity must urgently address now, are systemic challenges.
  • All these systemic problemsare interconnected with each other.
  • Environmental, economic, and social issuescannot be separated from each other and solved by experts in silos or by agencies focused only on their own problems.
  • A good solution to one can create more problems for others, as government responses to the novel coronavirus pandemic have revealed.

No one size fits all policy:

  • Even if experts in different disciplines could combine their perspectives and their silo-ed solutions at the global level, they will not be able to solve the systemic problems of the SDGs.
  • Because, their solutions must fit the specific conditions of each country, and of each locality within countries too, to fit the shape of the environment and the condition of society there.
  • Solutions for environmental sustainability along with sustainable livelihoods cannot be the same in Kerala and Ladakh, or in Wisconsin and Tokyo.

So what is needed then:

  • Solutions must be local.
  • Moreover, for the local people to support the implementation of solutions, they must believe the solution is the right one for them, and not a solution thrust upon them by outside experts.
  • Therefore, they must be active contributors of knowledgefor, and active participants in, the creation of the solutions.
  • Moreover, the knowledge of different experts — about the environment, the society, and the economy— must come together to fit realities on the ground.

A case for Gandhism in economics:

  • Governance of the people must be not only for the people.
  • It must be by the people too. This will achieve the true ideal of a democracy.
  • Gandhiji and his economic advisers, J.C. Kumarappa and others, developed their solutions of local enterprises through observations and experiments on the ground.
  • F. Schumacher, founding editor of the journal, Resurgence, and author of Small is Beautiful, had pointed out by the 1970s, the flaws in the economics theoriesthat were driving public policy in capitalist as well as communist countries.
  • He had proposed a new economics, founded on local enterprise, very consistent with Gandhiji’s ideas.
  • Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, had developed the principles for self-governing communities from research on the ground in many countries, including India.

Evidence of such a theory:

  • The pandemic has not passed yet, but evidence is emerging that some States in India, such as Kerala, have weathered the storm better than others.
  • And some countries, such as Vietnam and Taiwan, better than others too.
  • A hypothesis is that those States and countries in which local governance was stronger have done much better than others.
  • This is worthy of research by social and political scientistslooking for insights now into design principles for good governance systems that can solve problems that the dominant theory of government is not able to solve.

Way forward:

  • The dominant theory in practice of good government is ‘government of the people, by the government, for the people’.
  • The government has to support and enable people to govern themselves, to realise the vision of ‘government of the people, for the people, by the people’.
  • Which is also the only way humanity will be able to meet the ecological and humanitarian challengeslooming over it in the 21st century.

Source:” The Hindu“.


In this uncertain times of pandemic, the Nations with a strong local governance has performed well. Discuss, considering the Gandhian way of economics and governance.