In my last column (Why the traditional model of NGO-led development must end), I argued that NGOs must cede the space for providing services to panchayati raj institutions (PRIs). Already, most of the government’s flagship schemes have roles for gram panchayats—to either manage funds or manage the implementation processes determining the selection of beneficiaries or overseeing physical delivery. Clearly, this is a lot to expect from the PRIs and one reaction I get very often to all of this is that we are placing too much faith on them; that PRIs are bound to fail under the burden of such expectations.
However, I argue that there is no reason to be fatalistic about PRIs. No doubt, PRIs are crippled by lack of funds and staff. But often, critics wouldn’t even allow the debate to get that far, criticizing the very allocation of function, funds and staff to PRIs. In this column, I will look at some of the most popular reasons why PRIs are said to be bound to fail and attempt to explain why we need to look beyond these fears