IDS working papers;226

Rivalry or synergy? : Formal and informal local governance in rural India

Published on 1 January 2004

Informal local governance institutions (ILGIs) are complex organisations, which continue to be prevalent at
village level in rural India. Although generally perceived by educated Indians to be “oppressive”, ILGIs
also have progressive features and often perform a range of useful, collective functions at the village level.
Rather than shrinking in the face of modernity ILGIs have found ways to interact, often in a positive
manner, with the newer formal, elected local government institutions – Grama Panchayats. On the basis of
field research in Karnataka state, this paper tries to present a more holistic picture of ILGIs, including
their role in village governance and service delivery; the ways in which they interact with Grama Panchayats,
and the implications of their existence and role for local democracy. Finally, I present a tentative
theoretical framework that might help explain why in Karnataka – and in India generally – ILGIs seem to
be less repressive, more functional, and more likely to survive than in some other countries of the South.

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published by
AnanthPur, Kripa


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