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The term â€˜decentralisationâ€™ has generally been used to refer to a variety of institutional reforms. It has sometimes been considered as a change in the organisational framework in which political, social and economic decisions are made and implemented. It is also understood as a mechanism to transfer responsibility and authority. In recent years, decentralisation has received singular attention all over the world. It has been considered as one of the most important elements in development strategy. It is a global and regional phenomenon, and most countries have attempted to implement it as a tool for development, as a political philosophy, and as a mechanism for sharing responsibility at different levels.
Since 1980s, developing countries have increasingly adopted decentralised form of governance. Decentralisation means the transfer of authority and responsibility from central to intermediate and local governments. Although the democratic decentralisation in terms of Panchayati Raj Institutions (village councils) was a post-Independence phenomenon, there has been a legacy and tradition of village panchayats since time immemorial in India. The 73rd and 74th Amendment Act, 1993 of the Constitution of India has made the Panchayat an institution of self-government. As per the constitution, Panchayats shall prepare plan for economic development and social justice at their level. The District Planning Committee shall integrate the plan so prepared with the plans prepared by the local bodies at district level. The success and failure of the Panchayats would depend on planning and implementation. It also depends on maximum peopleâ€™s participation at every stage of planning process, from proposal to implementation. Peopleâ€™s participation in local-level development has been exercised through the formulation of the Panchayat-level development plan, project coordination at intermediate and district levels of the Panchayats.
The Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in West Bengal are very strong bodies, which function as real institutions of self-governance. In West Bengal, the planning process of grass-root level has some stages from proposal to implementation. After introduction of 3-tier Panchayat system in 1978, the Government of West Bengal brought about need-based reforms in the system from time to time from the very beginning. Encouraged by the State Governmentâ€™s strong commitment to rural decentralisation, Department for International Development (DFID), Government of UK came forward to support the ongoing rural decentralisation initiatives and upscale the bottom-up planning process. In the present study, an attempt has been made to understand the role of DFID for strengthening decentralisation in rural Bengal.
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