44. Centralization: a discussion

In any organization we have the Head Quarters and the Field gencies; there are the Central Governments and Regional authorities. An important queston is how much work should the Headquarters or the Centre do and how much it should leave to the field agencies? IF very little power is given to the field agencies or departments , it called Centralization. If on the other hand the centre lays down broad guidelines and leaves the field agencies or departments intiative to act , it is called decentralization. It is an illustration of Gulick’s Area Principle in operation. We shall now discuss the concepts of Centralization and decentralization in some detail. First we shall examine the various kinds of decentralization. Next we shall examine certain views on decentralization: the inevitability of decentralization; the illusion of decentralization; the romantic idea of decentralization; decolonization and decentralization etc.,

32 thoughts on “44. Centralization: a discussion

  1. We saw in the Basic concepts of Pub.Ad that there are mainly four types of decentralization. One is Political Decentralization which aims to give citizens or their elected representatives more power in public decision-making. The concept implies that the selection of representatives from local electoral jurisdictions allows citizens to know better their political representatives and allows elected officials to know better the needs and desires of their constituents. Certain questions arise here: It is no doubt true that the just as the wearer of the shoe knows where it pinches, the local corporator or Panchayat representative or local official knows local conditions better and can deal with them more effectively. But how far are our Municipal Corporations doing their job effectively? Are not the Panchayats involved in party politics? Indeed there seems to be a lot of corruption at the local level. That is why Anna Hazare has been demanding greater involvement that the lower bureaucracy should also come within the ambit of the Lok Pal. What do you think of these?

    1. Definitely, with respect to the functioning of the Municipal Corporations rampant aspects of corruption amidst denial of any functioning of its activities at different levels are known by any of the officials concerned. In my view, I’d see a placid functioning of the Municipal Corporation. Now their “alarm bells” have begun off late.
      Definitely, I see politics prevailing in the Village Panchayats too. A great developed by the Father of the Nation to set up an ideal platform at the grass root level has been today plagued by the influence and impact of the Political class upon this “once happy and idealistic form of self governing body”.

      Inclusion of the Lower Bureaucracy too must be involved under the scanner of the Lok Pal for its this section that comes in close proximity with the public and serve as hoses for corruption. A check on this section is absolutely needed.

      1. “In my view, I’d see a placid functioning of the Municipal Corporation” It should be I would like to see etc., Study Criminalization of politics Doc, Track, Test 13

  2. Next we shall take up Administrative Decentralization
    It seeks to redistribute authority, responsibility and financial resources for providing public services among different levels of government. It is the transfer of responsibility for the planning, financing and management of certain public functions from the central government and its agencies to field units of government agencies, subordinate units or levels of government, semi-autonomous public authorities or corporations, or area-wide, regional or functional authorities. We may examine certain issues here.

  3. If the centre keeps all powers to itself, it may over burden itself. This is what is called administrative apoplexy and with too heavy a load no work gets done. Also there cannot be one fit for all situations. Local conditions must also be taken into account. But this in turn means endless lobbying: the more powerful politicians get what their areas. Distant regions may be neglected. In a democracy one who shouts most gets heard. Delhi, as they say is, door ast. What do you think of this?

    1. “Apoplexy at the Centre and Anaemia at its extremes” refers to the aspect of too much work at the Centre , not carrying out any of its functioning leading to failure of the system and weakness felt at the grass root levels. These events call for Decentralization to take place.

      “ Delhi Door Ast “- to highlight this a bit more, if a person staying in Trivandrum faces a problem , do we expect him to raise his concern at Delhi which will be a mere waste of time and mind space, rather the person would address his concern at the respective Local Body in Trivandrum itself where he’d see some action and hope for his problem to be looked into.

      This aims at decentralization which focuses its synergy at setting up of a body at the grass root level and empowering it with autonomous powers to sort different issues. Hence the inner meaning of the phrase outlined.

  4. Third Financial Decentralization:
    Financial responsibility is a core component of decentralization. If local governments and private organizations are to carry out decentralized functions effectively, they must have an adequate level of revenues. Financial decentralization advocates sharing of distribution of finances at national, state and local level. But what about checks on expenditure? Under the MNREGP it is laid down that the names of all farmers who have been given work, the numver of days they are employed, the work done should all be displayed prominently in the village. A proper social audit ny Civil Society is necessary. How prepared are well for this. In India political power is taken as an opportunity to loot. Should the farmers be paid through banks? The UID is supposed to do this but it is already facing problems. Anything that affects the work of our political class is stymied at the source. What shall we do?

    1. Under Financial Decentralization ,as ascertained in the fact that sharing of distribution takes place, it is essential that every rupee spent should be properly accounted for. This calls in autonomous and responsible powers to be undertaken by the respective Authority under picture.

      With respect to the social Audit at the grass root level, an aim/effort needs to be emphasized within the Local Panchayat system. By empowering these powers and outlining guidelines for the effective functioning to take place, a social audit can be possible. This requires effective knowledge sharing by higher authorities to the lower local bodies. In my view, every Governmental / local self governing body must aim to focus on a “servant leadership” approach.

      The influence of the Political Class upon the functioning of the system needs to be under the scanner and the bodies that are dealing with administration must be “self empowered” to deliver the best, rather than succumb to injuries causing a huge failure of the functioning.

  5. Next we have Economic Decentralization
    Economic decentralization advocates government’s perspective of privatization and deregulation, because they shift responsibility for functions from the public to the private sector. But has economic decentralization like Privatization worked? has it not widened the gap between the rich and the poor?

    1. Privatization and deregulation have reduced the govt responsibilities, and have also helped improve economic statistics of the State. This economic decentralization also claims to generate employment and improve standard of living of the people, and in some cases it may. Many Public Private Partnership projects have seen success, and also meant to promote standard of living of the poor like Yeshasvini Health Scheme, and telemedicine incentive in Karnataka.

      But decentralization of some basic amenities may not have assuring results. Decision of Nagpur Municipal Corporation to privatize water works has seen protests among the people against the irregularities, contaminated water, high bills etc.
      Deregulation seems to strengthen ownership concentration, worsened the spread of income, declined the public service ethic, and promoted the growth of selfish greed. Competition widens corporate salary differentials. Even if the trend is not making the poor poorer, it is definitely making the rich richer. Thus, widens the gap between rich and poor.

  6. What are the occasions when decentralization becomes necessary?

    A. Organizations becoming very large and tasks becoming huge, Can you think of any such case?
    Fesler says “ decentralization s more complex in concept and practice than is generally acknowledged” Decentralization by breaking up a large organization intio manageable institutions may actually lead to experimentation and product differentiation. How far do you agree with this. Different regions may experiment differently and produce startlingly good decisions. Do you have any case in mind?

    1. Decentralization becomes necessary when it gets too hard to manage the proceedings of an organization. In July 2011, memorandum of agreement was signed to form Gorkhaland Territorial Administration aimed to cater to the aspirations of the people living in the hills. Demands to create Telangana, and divide UP into 4 states are other examples for political decentralization in this context. This reduces the area and the resources to deal with and can ensure better accountability of the leadership and bureaucracy, the only flip side being division of resources.
      It can be noted that the newly formed states Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, and Chattisgarh have shown better results than their parent states.
      As an example we can consider agriculture which is a state subject; this allows states to experiment differently with the funds as per the resources available to them. Bihar has started organic bio-farming and is also promoting to use SRI method to grow wheat for higher productivity.

    1. We cannot keep on decentralizing for greater geographical area as it will leads to collapse of administrative system. Like increasing span of control, finally administrative system will lose the control. Example: We can’t decentralise Kashmir to greater extend.

      1. You have not understood the question. By geographical spread we mean giving a government agency a larger area to operate. Thus a Panchayat Officer may be asked to look after the forest areas in the village in addition t his ordinary responsibilities. He would then be able to have a greater say i the prosperity of the village. This would mean reduction in the powers of the District forest officer but the village gains by this measure. You have confused this point with granting more political autonomy to States.

  7. C. Organizational efficiency demands autonomy. Thus Politicians should not be allowed to interfere with the working of Scientific Research institutions. They should have the freedom to take decisions. How far can this freedom be allowed be allowed? Again should social media be allowed autonomy or should we police it as Sibal suggests? Does he have any idea of the size of the Face Book? It is regarded as a country in itself?

    1. Let the Organizations like Scientific Research institutions have freedom to take decision, meanwhile should be accountable to public and government.

      Seditious comments against country should not be allowed in social media. A proper legislation mentioning what content should not be placed on social media will make social media accountable.

    2. There is already an Ethics committee to deal with scientific research. The Political masters and the Bureaucracy can ask for financial accountability and can even ask for delivery of scientific research. In the name of research the Scientists cannot duplicate work nor can they produce sub standard and socially useless work. But bv and large they must be allowed autonomy and there should be no day to day meddling with the work. As for Sibal’s demand for policing the social media it s a mad proposal for as things stand today the Net cannot be policed unless you close it down totally.

    1. Video conferencing has increased de-centralization since officials can work from their rooms instead of going all the way to Headquarters. But it has also led to greater central control since it may mean the Centre breathing down the necks of distant officers through the Video.

  8. E. Does Democracy improve by allowing people to participate in decision making? How far can it do in our country where literacy levels are low and lobbies strong? Take FDI. Farmers will be paid more by Walmart than what our mandi merchants pay them. More peole will be employed by the MNCs even of Kirana a traders lose their jobs. Besides will the Kiran traders really lose their business. Instead of tackling these questions, the Kirana traders’ lobby forced the Government to out FDI in cold storage. (Here I am asking you to take a new look at FDI in retail) The point is how far can people be allowed to participate in decision making?

    1. Every reform has its opponents. Thus when colour TV was introduced, there was a furore of opposition. But it has come to stay. It was unfortunate that Government did not clarify the controls that would be placed on Walmart and others and yielded to the Kirana lobby. Now the farmers have declared that they will organize an all India agitation if FDI is not allowed. they want to put an end to exploitation by the middlemen and desire more prices for their products. Also care should be taken to see that MNCs do not exploit the situation. Walmart had a turn over larger than the total budget of Bihar, UP and Uttarakhand. with such vast money power it may play mischief. Let us therefore allow it but with stringent regulations..

  9. A modern way of looking at Centralization and Decentralization. I am from the Book New Horizons of Public Administration. Mohit Bhattacharya quoting Kotchen and Deutsch agrees that they are issues of Logistics. Decentralization involves cost effective and rational movement of men and messages from one end of administration to another. When this is considered profitable institutions will change and give up their historical privilege of centralizing power. This it is ultimately a case of Logistics. In this connection do you think that decentralization should be even at the ward level in a corporation?

    1. Decentralisation is good and every institution needs distribution of authority and responsibilities for the smooth functioning and faster achieviement of goals..
      At the same time no institution can decentralise to the extent that it’s existence is threatened and where achieving goals become difficult..
      decentralising at ward levels just adds up to the frustration for achievement of goals in stipulated time..

  10. Decentralization as a Romantic Ideal: Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of Gram Swaraj was a romantic ideal. It has now been incorporated in the 73rd and 74th amendments. Freedom should be at the base, Gandhiji said. Will this not leave the villages out of the main stram development?

  11. Fesler speaks of illusory decentralization. The Deputy commissioner has always a hold. Financial crippling is always there. And while here may be Administrative centralization, political parties in India are highly centralized. Thus Sibal wants to prove that he is a good boy and make the Head Mistresses happy. The High Command should be happy. Hence he wishes to control social media. Do you have any comments?

    1. This is the problem with Indian democracy. The Constitution establishes a federal structure and the States have their own powers. But our political parties are organized in a highly centralized manner and there are extra constitutional heads like Sonia Gandhi who has vast power but no responsibility. And behind the BJP there is the RSS which is accountable to none.

  12. Fesler speaks of Dual Role Approach. The Colonial period administrative decisions maily in terms of collection of fevenue and maintenance of law and order. De colonisation has brought to the fore the issue of development. Development demands that people at the grass roots level should be allowed to participate fully in development. This demands decentralization. This de colonisation and decentralization go together. Any comments?

    1. That is the logic of development. we became free from Britain. hat was de-colonization. But why should we be bossed now by Delhi in all matters. Naturally de colonization and decentralization are closely connected.

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