Local Governments in Rural West Bengal, India and their Coordination with Line Departments

Bhaskar Chakrabarti, Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, Suman Nath


In India, the 73rd constitutional amendment of 1992 decentralises agriculture, irrigation, health, education along with 23 other items to the Panchayats, the village level self-government body. It is envisaged that the three-tier Panchayat system at the District, Block and the Village level would coordinate with different ‘line departments’ of the government for planning various schemes and their implementation. In West Bengal, a state in eastern India, where the Panchayats were revitalised before the constitutional amendment, the initial years were marked by strong coordination between the Panchayats and other departments, especially land and agriculture, making West Bengal a ‘model’ case for the Panchayats. However, where service delivery through the Panchayats has been criticised in recent years, the disjuncture between Panchayats and the line departments is a cause for alarm. In this paper, we search for the causes behind the low level of coordination between government departments and the Panchayat at each tier. We analyse the complex process of organisational coordination that characterises decentralisation, and show how decision making in local governments is nested within various levels of hierarchy. The study focuses on the formal structures of coordination and control with regard to decision-making between the Panchayats and the line departments. We show how these processes work out in practice. These involve lack of role definition, problems of accountability, and politics over access to resources and relations of power within, as well as outside, the Panchayat.

Full Text



Action for Social Advancement (2005) Capacity building of PRI through hand holding support by Spear Head Team - a paradigm shift from conventional approach of one off training. Bhupal: ASA. Accessed from http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/resource/res_info_28110503.doc. Retrieved, April 20, 2009

Adler, P. S. and Borys, B. (1996) Two types of bureaucracies: Enabling and coercive. Administrative Science Quarterly, 41: 61-89, http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2393986 & quot;

Agranoff, R. and McGuire, M. (1999) Managing in Network Settings. Public Policy Review, 16 (1): 18-41

Alper S., Tjosvold D., Law K.S. (1998) Interdependence and controversy in group decision making: antecedents to effective self-managing teams. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 74: 33-52, http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/obhd.1998.2748

Bastien, D. T. & Hostager, T. J. (2001) Jazz as a Process of Organizational Improvisation, in K. N. Kamoche & M. Pina E Cunha & J. Vieira Da Cunha (eds), Organizational Improvisation. London: Routledge

Bechky, B. A. (2003) Sharing Meaning Across Occupational Communities: The Transformation of Understanding on a Production Floor. Organization Science, 14(3): 312-330

Blake RR, Mouton JS. (1970) The fifth achievement. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 6: 413-426, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/002188637000600403

Broadbent, J., Diethrich, M., Laughlin, R., (1996) The development of principal agent contracting and accountability relationships in the public sector: conceptual and cultural problem. Critical perspectives on accounting. 17: 259 – 284, http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/cpac.1996.0033

Chwe, M. S.-Y. (2001) Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

Conlan, T. (1988) New federalism: Intergovernmental reform from Nixon to Reagan. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution

Crowston, K. (1997) A Coordination Theory Approach to Organizational Process Design. Organization Science, 8(2): 157-175

De Dreu CKW, Harinck S, Van Vianen AEM. (1999) Conflict and performance in groups and organizations. In Cooper CL, Robertson IT (eds). International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (pp. 369-414), Wiley: Chichester

Fisher R, Ury W. (1981) Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving. Houghton Mifflin: Boston

Foucault, M. (1971) The Archeology of Knowledge. New York, Pantheon Books: NY

Galbraith, J. R. (1973) Designing complex organizations. Addison-Wesley: Reading, Massachusetts.

Gendenhuys, A. J. (2008) The crux of intergovernmental relations. In. Michiel S. deVries, P. S. Reddy and M. Samsul Haque (eds.). Improving local government: Outcomes of comparative researches, (pp. 88 – 106), Palgrave, Macmillian: NY

Giddens, A. (1984) The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration: University of California Press: Berkeley, CA

Gioia, D. A., & Poole, P. P. (1984). Script in organizational behavior. Academy of Management Review, 9, 449-459. http://dx.doi.org/10.5465/AMR.1984.4279675, & quot;

Goss, S. (2001). Making local governance work. Palgrave Macmillan: New York

Grodzins, M. (1966) The American system: A new view of government in the United States. Rand McNally: Chicago

Habermas, J. (1984) The Theory of Communicative Action.: Polity Press:Cambridge, UK

Hutchins, E. (1991) Organizing Work by Adaptation. Organization Science, 2(1): 14-39

Hutchins, E. (1990) The Technology of Team Navigation. In J. Galegher & R. E. Kraut & C. Egido. (Eds.). Intellectual teamwork: Social and technological foundations of cooperative work. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Hillsdale, New Jersey

Hirschman, A.(1991) The rhetoric of reaction, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA

Jessop, B. (1996) Partnership in greater Manchester and the Thames gateway. Paper for DoE Seminar

Kickert, W.J.M., Klijn, E.H. and Koppenjan, J.F.M. (1997) Managing Complex Networks: Strategies for the Public Sector. Sage: London

Kiesler, S., Wholey, D. and Carley, K. M. (1994) Coordination as Linkage: The Case of Software Development Teams. In H. Harris (ed.), Organizational Linkages: Understanding the Productivity Paradox, Vol. 52: 96-123, National Academy Press: Washington D.C.

Klijn, E.H. (2005) Networks and inter-organisational management in Ferlie, Ewas et al. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Public Management, . Oxford University Press: Oxford

Krane, D. and Wright D. S. (2000) Intergovernmental relations. In M. J. Snafritz. (eds.) Defining public Administration. Westview Press: Oxford

Lawrence, P. R. and Lorsch, J. W. (1967) Organization and environment: Managing differentiation and integration. Harvard University Press: Boston, MA

Lax DA, Sebenius JK. (1986) The Manager as Negotiator Bargaining for Cooperation and Competitive Gain. Free Press: New York

Levesque, L. L., Wilson, J. M., & Wholey, D. R. (2001) Cognitive Divergence and Shared Mental Models in Software Development Project Teams. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 22: 135-144, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/job.87

Mathew, G., Jain, L.C. (2005) Decentralisation and local governance. Orient Blackswan. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=fLMhoSjuLbkC, Retrieved April 20, 2009

Meuleman, L. (2008) Public Management and the Metagoverance of Hierarchies, Networks, and Markets, Physica Verlag: Heidelberg

Miller, W., and Dickson, M. (1996) Local Governance and Citizenship. University of Stranthclyde: ESRC

P & RD. (unpublished) Annual Administrative Report 2002 – 2003

P & RD. (unpublished) Annual Administrative Report 2006 – 2007

P & RD, GO (2005) Assignment of responsibilities on three tier panchayati raj institutions and mapping of activities of P. R. bodies. Government Order No6102/PN/O/V/4P-1/05 Date: 07. 11. 2005

P & RD, GoWB (2006) Gram sansad bhittik gram panchayat parikalpana, rachana o rupayan er ruprekha. Village Panchayat planning based on village sansad (in Bengali). Kolkata: P & RD

P & RD, GoWB (2007). West Bengal fiscal decentralization to rural governments: analysis and reform options – a study by World Bank. Kolkata: Strengthening Rural Decentralisation (SRD)

P & RD, GoWB (2008) Proshno-uttore gram panchayat. Village panchayat in question and answer (In Bengali). Kolkata: P & RD

P & RD, GoWB (2009). Roadmap for the panchayats in West Bengal: A vision document. Kolkata: P & RD

P & RD, Extraordinary (2008) The kolkata Gazette. 25th November. No. WB(part-1)/2008/SAR-397

Polanyi, M. (1975) Meaning. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL

Putnam, R. (1993) Making democracy work. Princeton University Press: Princeton

Rubin JZ, Pruitt DG, Kim SH. (1994) Social Conflict. Escalation, Stalemate, and Settlement. McGraw-Hill: New York

Schein, E. H. (1992) Organizational Culture and Leadership. Jossey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco

Schutz, A. (1967) Phenomenology of the Social World. Northwestern University Press: Evanston, IL

Scott, W. R. (1992) Organizations: Rational, Natural, and Open Systems. Prentice-Hall Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Stewart, W. H. (1984) Concepts of federalism. University Press of America Lanham, MD

Stokes, R. and Hewitt, J. P. (1976) Aligning Actions. American Sociological Review, 41(October): 838-849

Thomas K W. (1992) Conflict and conflict management: reflections and update. Journal of Organizational Behavior 13: 265-274,

Thomas K. W. (1976). Conflict and conflict management. In Dunnette MD (ed.) Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (pp. 889-935), Rand McNally: Chicago

Thompson, J. D. (1967) Organizations in Action. McGraw-Hill: New York

Tjosvold D. (1991) The Conflict-Positive Organization: Stimulate Diversity and Create Unity. Addison-Wesley: Reading, MA

Tushman, M. L. & Nadler, D. A. (1978) Information processing as an integrating concept in organizational design. Academy of Management Journal, 3: 613-624

Van de Ven, A. H. & Delbecq, A. L. (1974) A Task Contingent Model of Work-Unit Structure. Administrative Science Quarterly, 19(2): 183-197

Van de Vliert E., Nauta A., Euwema M.C., and Janssen O. (1997) The effectiveness of mixing problem solving and forcing. In De Dreu CKW, Van de Vliert E (eds) Using Conflict in Organizations (pp. 38-52). Sage: London

Wageman, R. (1995) Interdependence and group effectiveness. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40: 145-180,

Weick, K. E. (1993) The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38: 628-652, http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2393339

Weick, K. E. & Roberts, K. (1993) Collective Mind in Organizations: Heedful Interrelating on Flight Decks. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38: 357-381, http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2393372

Weick, K. E. (1979) The Social Psychology of Organizing. Addison-Wesley: Reading, MA:

Weick, K.E. (1995) Sensemaking in Organizations, Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks CA

Wright, D. S. (1988) Understanding intergovernmental relations.: Brooks/Cole: Pacific Grove, CA