73rd and 74th amendment were landmark events in Indian polity.It led to institutionalisation of third tier of governance in form of panchayats and municipalities.This has led to significant changes in political land scape of India.
In last 2 decades, elections have been held on regular basis for local bodies in most of the places.30% reservation for women has led to empowerment of women in political domain. Some States like Bihar,M.P have further extended womens reservation to 50%.
Several flagship schemes like NREGA,JNNURM are being implemented through local bodies. Local bodies are being empowered to undertake social audit.
In scheduled areas gram sabhas have been given greater powers to regulate money lending, permit land acquisition and other sensitive issues.
Many of leaders from panchayat level have been able to progress to state and national level politics.Local bodies are serving as nurseries for producing future leaders.
Thus in past 2 decades ,significant strides have been made in deepening democracy.This is reflected in fact that India has over 30 lakh elected representatives at local, state and national level.
However there are several impediments that have made local bodies ineffective. Constitution envisaged local bodies as institutes of self government.However state governments reluctance to empower them has led to their becoming agents of state government.They lack adequate funds,functions and functionaries. They are forced to depend on state governments.
The rotation of reservation of constituencies led to lack of interest of elected representatives to invest political capital in developing their constituencies. Though women have been elected to local bodies, in many cases they only serve as proxy for their male relatives.
Deeply entrenched caste system has led to capture of local bodies by upper caste members , thus perpetuating discrimination of local castes.
Therefore real empowerment is lacking. There is growing disconnect between people and elected representatives at state and national level. It is in the interest of everyone to devolve powers to local bodies and make them into effective institutions of self government.This would transform India from a representative democracy to a more inclusive, participative and responsive democracy.