Elected local councils all across the developing world have long suffered from insufficient funding which deeply undermines their capacity to take constructive action. Local councils in most of India’s 28 states have long faced this problem. This is a study, based on extensive field research, of a major new anti-poverty program in India – the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
It has greatly eased this problem by providing abundant funds to councils in ruralareas where two-thirds of Indian live. It is the most generous injection of funds into elected local councils ever to occur in a developing country. Those new resources enabled local councils to accomplish important things. But ironically, the political processes which then emerged centralised power in the hands of council leaders and made them less accountable to other councillors and to citizens than before – producing an accountability deficit which is yet another serious problem.