This day, 20 years ago, the Lok Sabha approved the 73rd amendment to the Constitution that led to the creation of panchayati raj, or participatory local self-governance. The Rajya Sabha approved it the following day and it came into effect on 24 April 1993, after it was gazetted.
Twenty years on, critics may find fault with the quality of self-governance at the local level, and rightly so, but there can be no argument that the move has significantly contributed to whatever little has been achieved in terms of inclusive growth and encouraging a grassroots democratic process. For that alone, this is an anniversary to celebrate. Better still, the mandatory reservation for women in local bodies has forced a new kind of bottom-up social empowerment, the gains from which, while largely intangible are still invaluable. Consider this—of the three million elected officials of local bodies, 1.2 million are women. That’s some reason for cheer as India examines how it treats its women.