Dissertation Abstracts

Participatory Rural Development in India: Network-Based Social Capital in Panchayats of Uttar Pradesh

Author: Mudit K Singh, mudit.develop@gmail.com
Department: Humanities and Social Sciences
University: Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology Allahabad, India
Supervisor: Ravindra Tripathi
Year of completion: 2018
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Social Capital , Community Participation , Local Governance , Social Networks
Areas of Research: Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management , Political Sociology , Community Research


Since World War II, nations across the globe have devised many institutions from local to global levels to achieve the best possible governance of resources in order to meet development goals. On one hand, scholars argued for the engagement of local people for the success of development projects. On the other hand, there were scholars who stressed the building of democratic institutions that may involve the public through direct and indirect means. Word Bank and the United Nations also considered the importance and need of such local institutional building for the success of development projects. Thus, local democratic institutions are highly important for developing countries like India where the majority of the population still lives in villages. Since independence, various states of India started building democratic institutions called Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) run by the elected members and bureaucrats. With an objective to decentralize the power in the favour of the villagers at the grass-root level, eventually, the system was applied to all over the country after the 73rd constitutional amendment in 1993. Since then there have been continuous debates among politicians and scholars with field studies especially from the southern and eastern states of the country to make decentralization efforts successful through the PRI system. This study is primarily based on field study of seven local village governance units called gram panchayats from Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh is the most populous and first state to enact PRI system in 1947 and yet, it has received very little attention from the scholars. This study has used two important indicators- attendance and ability of attendees to speak in the meetings as a measure of their participation (passive) and active participation respectively. The socioeconomic factors- income, age, landholding, embedded social capital in the social networks (whom they are friends with and seek help), education, gender etc. all have shaped up their decision to participate and the ability to actively participate. This research has used logistic regression models and network analysis as a quantitative and community narratives as a qualitative approach to get an in-depth insight into factors explaining the participation of villagers in a decentralized Indian state. The results suggest that with high social capital access (strong social networks), higher caste, higher education level and male-headed households are vocal in the open meetings regulated by village panchayats. This way, the study highlights the good of social capital working for the individuals whereas, social capital potentially working against the collective efforts for the rural poor. Further, the research finds that the creation of new villages facilitated by the state administration might help to achieve the attendance level of villagers but active participation level does not improve in comparison to their parent old villages. Narratives from the community suggest that villagers demand further decentralization especially of financial powers at the village level itself. According to them, this may truly empower the village council members that may result in the revival of village committees to meet the objective of power transfer to villagers while treating participation as an end.