Grass-Roots Democracy in India and China: The Right to Participate


Edited by: Manoranjan Mohanty, Richard Baum, Rong Ma & George Mathew

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part I: Institutional Structure and Local Participation

    Part II: Local Governance and the Emerging Socio-economic Issues

    Part III: Comparative Reflections

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    List of Tables

    List of Abbreviations

    ABCAgricultural Bank of China
    ACWFAll China Women's Federation
    ATRsAction taken Reports
    BJPBharatiya Janata Party
    BPLBelow Poverty Line
    BSPBahujan Samaj Party
    CEOChief Executive Officer
    CPCCommunist Party of China
    CPICommunist Party of India
    CPMCommunist Party of India (Marxist)
    CSSCentrally Sponsored Schemes
    DDCDistrict Development Councils
    DPCDistrict Planning Committee
    DRDAsDistrict Rural Development Agencies
    DRPDistrict Resource Persons
    DWCRADevelopment of Women and Child in Rural Areas
    FPCsFunding the Poor Cooperatives
    GDIGender Development Index
    GPGram Panchayat
    HPFHire Purchase Finance
    IRDPIntegrated Rural Development Programmes
    JDJanata Dal
    KCPKarnataka Congress Party
    KRPKey Resource Persons
    LDALocal Development Association
    LDFLeft Democratic Front
    LSGIsLocal Self-Governing Institutions
    MFIsMicrofinance Institutions
    MLAsMembers of Legislative Assembly
    MLCsMembers of Legislative Councils
    MOAMinistry of Agriculture
    MOCAMinistry of Civil Affairs
    MPLADSMPs Local Area Development Schemes
    MPsMembers of Parliament
    NABARDNational Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development
    NBFCsNon-banking Finance Companies
    NBFIsNon-banking Financial Institutions
    NCPNationalist Congress Party
    NDANational Democratic Alliance
    NGOsNon-Government Organisations
    NHGsNeighbourhood Groups
    OBCsOther Backward Castes
    OECDOrganisation of Economic Cooperation and Development
    ORSOpen Recommendation and Selection
    PAPPoverty Alleviation Programmes
    PBCPeople's Bank of China
    PPCPeople's Plan Campaign
    PRCPeople's Republic of China
    PRIsPanchayati Raj Institutions
    RBIReserve Bank of India
    RCCsRural Credit Cooperatives
    RCFRural Cooperative Foundations
    ROSCARotating Savings and Credit Organisations
    RRBsRegional Rural Banks
    SCPSpecial Component Plan
    SCsScheduled Castes
    SDASanchuan Development Association
    SECState Election Commission
    SETCState Economic and Trade Commission
    SFCState Finance Commission
    SGSYSwarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana
    SHGsSelf Help Groups
    SIRDState Institute for Rural Development
    SPBState Planning Board
    STScheduled Tribes
    TARTibet Autonomous Region
    TDBTaluk Development Board
    TPTaluk Panchayat/Parishad
    TSPTribal Sub Plan
    TVEsTownship Village Enterprises
    UDFUnited Democratic Front
    UPAUnited Progressive Alliance
    VCsVillagers' Committee
    VPVillage Panchayats
    VRAVillagers' Representative Assembly
    VTCVoluntary Technical Corps
    WCPWomen Component Plan
    WTOWorld Trade Organisation
    ZPZilla Panchayat/Parishad


    While the world is talking about the rise of China and India as the fastest growing economies, it is important to have a deeper look at the internal dynamics of these two most populous societies of the world. With longstanding civilisations as well as great social diversity, these post-colonial societies are currently engaged in unique experiments in social transformation both in vertical and horizontal ways. This volume is an attempt to capture the meaning of that experience. It is the product of a joint project of scholars from India, China and the United States who have closely studied the grass-roots political experience in India and China from an interdisciplinary perspective. The thrust of this project is to bring out the nature of the process of democratisation, which is characterised by many similar elements in both countries, especially the trend of expanding demands for participation and complex power structures interjecting them.

    The volume takes up issues of institutional structure and local participation and the dynamics of local governance in the emerging socio-economic environment including the issues of gender, ethnicity and religion in the local political processes. Some of the contributions present comparative perspectives while the others are based on case studies. The institutional structure has undergone many major changes both in India and China in the recent years. In the case of India, the Seventy-third Amendment of the Indian Constitution in 1993 introduced mandatory panchayati raj in rural India and in the case of China, the Organic Law of 1998, which provided for competitive elections at the village level, have initiated new political processes at the local level. The chapters bring out the extent to which political participation has been facilitated and institutional innovation has evolved in both the countries. There are case studies from minority regions as well as other areas, which add important cultural and ethnic dimensions to institutional dynamics.

    The context of economic reforms in both the countries has generated new challenges for local institutions, both in terms of integrating the local market with the global economy as well as affecting the choices of local population, including the local producers. The comparative essays on microfinance and the political economy of the rural areas present important insights on this question. This is especially evident in the research findings on gender, caste, ethnicity and class relations in the Indian and Chinese villages. To what extent the new democratic processes in the villages have reduced ethnic subordination, caste hierarchy and gender injustice or have generated new elements of class or other forms of domination, has been investigated in comparative perspective.

    This volume contributes theoretical insights to the emerging field of local governance and local democracy based on case studies and comparative analysis. Reconceptualising local democracy as a substantive process of interconnected socio-political transformation where the right to participate is a fundamental right at every level starting from the grass-roots level is a theme that emerges from this volume. India–China studies are acquiring greater significance in the contemporary world. It is hoped that studies like the present one with empirical and comparative approach can enrich that body of knowledge in the field of democratic theory and development policy.


    This collaborative effort involving four institutions in three countries owes its success to a number of individuals and agencies. We first of all thank the authorities and staff of the four institutions: Institute of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Beijing, Center for Chinese Studies, University of California at Los Angeles, Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), New Delhi and the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS), Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi. The ISS, through its Eastern Regional Centre at Kolkata organized the international conference in January 2003 where this project took its initial shape. All the participants remember the warm hospitality in Kolkata and the rich deliberations in which many eminent scholars from the city took part. We particularly record our gratitude to the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharya who inaugurated the conference and the Panchayat Raj Minister Mr Suryakanta Mishra who gave the valedictory address. We thank Mr Buddhadev Ghosh of ISS and his colleagues in Kolkata for taking great pains to make the conference a success.

    This project and the conference received funding from the Ford Foundation, Beijing which supported travel support to the Chinese participants. The scholars from the US were supported by a grant from the Pacific Rim Research Programme of the University of California. The Indian participants were supported by the ICS out of the grant from the Ford Foundation, New Delhi. The ISS supported the organization of the conference. The follow up work on the volume was carried out at the ICS under the grant received from the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India under the ICS programme of Comparative Development Studies. We express our sincere thanks to all of them.

    ICS Director Patricia Uberoi has been a constant source of support for this effort. Swargajyoti Gohain, Research Associate at ICS has worked hard helping in the preparation of the manuscript for publication. All the authors have received research assistance from a number of sources for their respective studies. We take this opportunity to express our sincere appreciation to all of them. We have benefited from many scholars who have read earlier versions of these papers and made useful suggestions. The authors and editors are, however, responsible for the inadequacies remaining in this work.

  • Glossary

    bageadministrative unit under a Banner in Inner Mongolia
    bahujanoverwhelming majority in society—referring to the vast masses of cultivating castes, former untouchable castes and the tribal people.
    bannera county level unit in Inner Mongolia
    benamiillegally registered in a wrong name
    biaohuirotating savings
    brigade/production brigaderural collective at the cun or village level which existed from 1958 till 1978
    chowkidarsguards who also performed other functions in the village for the state
    cungui minyueregulations made by the village regarding villagers’ daily life
    cunmin weiyuanhuivillagers committee
    dafadarsdesignated village guards reporting to police stations
    dalitscheduled castes, formerly untouchable
    dengji guanli jiguanregistration management agency
    Dharmalaw of things (also loosely used for religion)
    Dhobicaste of those who wash clothes
    foxiepamanager of temple facilities and public property in Tajik village
    Gacaa former Brigade in Inner Mongolia
    gaolidaihigh interest lending
    GaoteMutual Aid Team in Inner Mongolia
    gongkai xuanbamethod of open selection
    gongtui gongxuanmethod of open recommendation and selection
    grama panchayatvillage council
    grama sabhavillage assembly
    grama swarajvillage self-rule
    Grameenrural self-development programme in Bangladesh—literally meaning rural
    Guakao danweiofficial sponsoring unit
    haixuanmethod of direct election or direct nomination of candidates by villagers
    hangye xinyongtrade credit
    hukouhousehold registration
    Huzhuhui/HehuiMutual Aid Associations (for Credit)
    Janmabhoomiliterally meaning motherland, it is a programme of rural activities launched by the Telugu Desam government of Andhra Pradesh.
    jaticaste as it evolved over centuries into numerous formations
    jotedarland owner
    kaxie/kaxiepavillage chief or village authority (Lahu language characters transliterated into Chinese)
    kuoshisecond day of Lahu new year
    Kutumbasreea neighbourhood group development programme of clusters of families launched in Kerala in 1999–2000
    liudongmigration without changing the hukou
    mandal parishadthe layer of rural government above the gram panchayat in Andhra Pradesh but smaller in area than the erstwhile panchayat samitis at the Block or Taluka level which it replaced
    minjian jiedaiinterpersonal lending
    muone-sixth of an acre of land
    nagar panchayaturban council/municipality
    naxaliteMaoists of India who emerged as a Communist Stream after the peasant uprising in Naxalbari in West Bengal in 1967
    non-Brahmanother than those who belong to the caste of priests ranked at the top in the Hindu caste order
    nongcun hezuo jijinhuirural cooperative foundation
    palli Sabhaassembly at the level of the hamlet or a small natural village
    panchayat samiti/taluk samitiblock level rural council above the village panchayat but below the district
    panchayatrural local council (Panch or five-member council in traditional system in rural India)
    panchayati rajrural local self-government
    Patwarian official who maintains land records
    People's Communerural collective at the Xiang or township level which existed from 1958 till 1978 and formally dissolved in 1983
    Qianyipermanent migration
    sarpanchhead of the village panchayat
    sarpanchpatihusband of the woman sarpanch
    Shetkari Sanghatanafarmers organization
    siren qianzhuangprivate money houses (mostly illegal private banks)
    Sumua former commune in Inner Mongolia
    Three arbitraries (san luan)arbitrary taxation (luan shoufei), arbitrary fines (luan fakuan) and arbitrary expropriation (luan tanpei)
    upadhyakshadeputy chairperson
    upsarpanchdeputy head of the village panchayat
    Vana Samrakshana SamitiForest Conservation Society
    varnacaste in the sense of the original four caste divisions in the Hindu caste order
    ward sabhaassembly at the level of the ward or the segments of the village panchayat
    xiangtownship equivalent to the former commune
    yipiao foujueone vote rejects the whole election or decision making
    zhangliwho makes and repairs the farming tools in the Tajik village
    zhenxiang level town
    zhongdian renkoutargeted people
    Zhuangvillage/rural area in pre-1949 Xinjiang
    zhuobaBuddhist priest who is part of the Tajik village administration
    zilla parishad/zilla panchayatdistrict council

    About the Editors and Contributors

    The Editors

    Manoranjan Mohanty is Co-Chairperson, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi. He is also a visiting professor at the Institute of Human Development, New Delhi. Formerly Professor of Political Science and Director, Developing Countries Research Centre, University of Delhi, his research interests are Chinese politics and comparative development studies. He has also been active in the peace and democratic rights movement. His most recent publications are Class, Caste, Gender (edited, 2004), Contemporary Indian Political Theory (2000) and People's Rights (co-edited with Partha Nath Mukherji, 1998).

    Richard Baum is Professor of Political Science, University of California at Los Angeles. He was also the director of the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies (1999–2005). A student of Chinese politics and foreign policy, he has written and edited eight books, including Burying Mao: Chinese Politics in the Age of Deng Xiaoping (1996) and Reform and Reaction in Post-Mao China: The Road to Tiananmen (1990).

    Rong Ma is Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology and Director, Institute of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Beijing. He is a scholar of ethnic relations, migration, urbanisation, education and rural development. Besides having published a number of articles in various journals, he has authored Introduction to Sociology of Ethnicity (2005) in Chinese, Population and Society in Tibet (1996) and co-edited On Development of China's Frontier Regions (1993).

    George Mathew is Director, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi. The founder of the Institute of Social Sciences, he has been on the forefront of research on and promotion of democratic decentralisation in India and has taken a leading role in the international forum on federalism. His major publications include Panchayati Raj: From Legislation to Movement (1994, 2002), Communal Road to a Secular Kerala (1990) and Panchayati Raj in Jammu and Kashmir (edited, 1990). He has also produced an award-winning feature film, Swaraj: The Little Republic (2002).

    The Contributors

    D. Bandyopadhyay, a civil servant, held many important positions in the State Government of West Bengal and in the Government of India. As Land Reform Commissioner of West Bengal, he led the landmark land reform project of the state, Operation Barga. He also served as Secretary to the Government of India in the ministries of Rural Development and Finance (Department of Revenue), besides being Executive Director of Asian Development Bank for three years. An acknowledged expert on land reform, Bandyopadhyay has written extensively on governance, decentralisation, land reform and rural development in national journals, newspapers and edited volumes. He was convenor of the Task Force on Panchayati Raj, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation for over a decade. Currently he is Executive Chairperson, Council for Social Development, New Delhi.

    B.S. Bhargava, M.P.A. (The Hague) and Ph.D. (Pilani), was formerly a Professor of Development Administration at the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, and currently is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences Bangalore Centre. His areas of interest include development administration, political behaviour and panchayati raj. His publications include Lakshadweep: Towards Decentralised Governance (co-author 2000) and The Land Army and Rural Development: A study of organizational innovation in Karnataka (1994).

    Chung Siu Fung obtained an M.A. in Public Policy and Management from City University of Hong Kong and an M. Phil. in Community Medicine and Ph.D. from The University of Hong Kong. She was a teaching assistant in Division of Social Science, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She is currently the director of the John Cathedral HIV Education Centre in Hong Kong.

    Buddhadeb Ghosh served in the State Civil Service of West Bengal and held various positions in development administration including a stint as Director, State Institute of Panchayats. Currently he is Senior Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi where he participates in research projects and consultancy assignments on governance, decentralisation and institutional issues of rural development. He has published several papers on decentralisation, local government and related matters in national journals and edited volumes. The books co-authored by him are West Bengal Panchayat Election, 1993: A Study in Participation and State Politics and Panchayats in India.

    Saila K. Ghosh, Ph.D. is a retired Professor of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. He has handled several national and international research projects in the areas of Indian labour and trade union, child labour, non-formal and primary organisation, rural development and rural self government sponsored by agencies like ILO, UNICEF, UNESCO, DFID etc. He was Research Adviser to the Second West Bengal Police Commission. His papers have been published in India and abroad. Currently he is engaged in projects relating to wasteland preservation and management.

    G. Haragopal is Professor of Political Science and Dean, School of Social Sciences at the University of Hyderabad. A Ph.D. from Kakatiya University, he has worked in the areas of development administration, rural development, political economy and human rights. He is the Coordinator of the UGC Programme of Human Rights at the University of Hyderabad and Editor, Indian Journal of Human Rights. He has been closely associated with the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee. His publications include, The Political Economy of Human Rights (1997), Gandhian Worldview—A Civil Liberties Perspective (1995), and Administrative Leadership and Rural Development (1980).

    Shaoying He is Professor and Deputy President of Yunnan Minority University. He received his Masters degree in Minorities from Yunnan University. He has authored Cultural History of Naxi (2001).

    T.M. Thomas Isaac is an economist and political worker since he was a student. He has been associated with the Kerala Shastra Sahitya Parishad from 1977; and Professor at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram. He served on the State Planning Board from 1996 to 2001 and was elected to the Kerala Legislative Assembly in 2001. He has published a number of books and articles on economics, planning and politics in the leading regional, national and international journals and presented lectures and papers at conferences and seminars in India and abroad.

    Besides, he has published many books in Malayalam and English including Democracy at Work in an Indian Industrial Co-operative: The Story of Kerala Dinesh Beedi (with Richard W. Franke and Pyaralal Raghavan) (1998); Local Democracy and Development: People's Campaign for Decentralised Planning in Kerala (with Richard W. Franke) (2000); The Politics of People's Plan Campaign (2005).

    Tanzen Lhundup is Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the Institute of Social and Economic Development at the Chinese Center for Tibetological Study. He received his Ph.D. from Beijing University. He has written extensively on Tibet.

    Bidyut Mohanty is Head, Department of Women Studies at the Institute of Social Sciences, Delhi. A Ph.D. from Delhi School of Economics, she has worked in areas of famine studies, women's development and local government in India. Since 1994 she has organised the annual Women's Political Empowerment Day Programme of the ISS, assembling hundreds of elected women representatives from panchayats. She is the series editor of the Proceedings on Women and Political Empowerment from 1995 onwards. She has published many research articles on development, women and panchayats based on her extensive field level experience.

    Tony Saich is the Daewoo Professor of International Affairs and Director of the Harvard University Asia Center. He is Faculty Chair of the Asia Program and the China Public Policy Program at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. From 1994 until July 1999 he was the Representative for the China Office of the Ford Foundation. Prior to this he was the Director of the Sinological Institute, Leiden University, the Netherlands. His current research focuses on the interplay between state and society in China and the respective roles they play in the provision of public goods and services at the local level. He has written several books on developments in China, including; China's Science Policy in the 80s (1989); Revolutionary Discourse in Mao's China (with David E. Apter, 1994); The Rise to Power of the Chinese Communist Party (1996); The Governance and Politics of China (2004). He has just finished editing a book on reform of China's financial sector and on HIV/AIDS in China.

    Mark Selden is Senior Fellow in the East Asia Program at Cornell University. His books include Chinese Village, Socialist State; China in Revolution: The Yenan Way Revisited; War and State Terrorism: The United States, Japan, and the Asia-Pacific in the Long Twentieth Century and, most recently, Revolution, Resistance and Reform in Village China. He is a coordinator of the Japan Focus e-journal on Japan and the Asia-Pacific.

    K. Subha, a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Mysore is the Southern Regional Co-ordinator, Institute of Social Sciences. She has published research papers and articles in professional journals. Her publications include Women in Local Governance and Karnataka Panchayat Elections 1995: Process, Issues and Membership Profile. She has written extensively on women's political development and gender-related issues.

    G. Sudarshanam is Professor of Political Science, School of Social Sciences at the University of Hyderabad where he has been working for over 20 years. He is also the Coordinator of Post Graduate Diploma in Human Rights and Associate Editor of Indian Journal of Human Rights. He has authored a number of books and published articles in reputed Journals and edited volumes. His areas of interest are Panchayati Raj, rural development, human rights and public administration.

    Kellee S. Tsai, Ph.D. (Columbia University), is Associate Professor of Political Science at John Hopkins University. Her research interests include the political economy of development, informal finance, microfinance, and comparative democratisation with a focus on China. Her publications include Back-Alley Banking: Private Entrepreneurs in China (2002), Rural Industrialization and Non-governmental Finance: Insights from Wenzhou [in Chinese] (2004) and Japan and China in the World Political Economy (2005).

    M. Vanamala taught Economics in various colleges of Andhra Pradesh government. Her areas of research are economics of backward classes and women's development. She has won the Best Teacher Award from the Government of Andhra Pradesh. She has a number of research publications on the SC, ST and Backward Classes Finance Corporation of AP and women labour under globalization.

    Rajendra Vora is Lokmanya Tilak Professor of Politics and Public Administration at University of Pune. He is co-editor of Region, Culture and Politics in India (2006), Indian Democracy: Meanings and Practices (2004), Home, Family and Kinship in Maharashtra (1999) and editor of Socio-Economic Profile of Rural India: Vol III: North-Central and Western India (2005). He has contributed numerous papers on political process and political thought in Indian journals and edited volumes both in Marathi and English.

    Fei-Ling Wang, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania), is Professor of International Affairs at Georgia Institute of Technology. He taught at the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), guest-lectured at universities in several countries, and held visiting and adjunct positions in five universities in China, Korea, Japan and Singapore. His most recent books are China Rising: Power and Motivation in Chinese Foreign Policy (co-editor, 2005) and Organizing through Division and Exclusion: China's Hukou System (2005).

    Shengmin Yang is Professor and Dean, School of Ethnology and Sociology at the Central University of Minority Nationalities. He received his Ph.D. from the same University.

    Xuedong Yang is a Fellow and Deputy Director of the China Center for Comparative Politics and Economics (CCCPE) and Assistant Director of China Local Governance Innovations Program. A Ph.D. from Beijing University, he was a visiting fellow in Kennedy School of Government, Harvard (2001–02). He has authored/co-authored books on Chinese local politics, including his doctoral dissertation ‘Market Development, Society Growth and State Building: Taking the “county” as an analytical unit’ (Zhengzhou 2002).

    Changjiang Yu, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Beijing University received his Ph.D. from the same University. His publications in Chinese include From Idea to Practice: The Theory and Process of the Founders of Chicago School of American Sociology (2004); Next to the Ruins of History: A Sociological Reflection of Yuanmingyuan Artists Community (2005); Meeting by Chance: Several Sociological Topics on Art; Art and Society: On the Redirection of Contemporary Chinese Art by 26 Famous Critics (2005); Other See Me Seeing Us: On Fei Xiaotong's Earthbound China and Three Villages in Yunnan (2005); and ‘Life in Lara Village, Tibet’ (in English) in Contemporary Tibet: Politics, Development, and Society in a Disputed Region (2006).

    Xin Zhang is a Ph.D. scholar in the Department of Political Science at UCLA. His main research interest includes relation between institutions (economic and political) and development. He is now conducting dissertation research on the contests over corporate property rights in Russia. He has published (with Richard Baum) in The China Journal.

    Xiaohong Zhou is Dean and Professor of Sociology at Nanjing University and Director of Social Psychology Institute. He is the author of the Survey of Chinese Middle Class (2005) besides other books and articles.

    David Zweig is Chair Professor, Division of Social Science and Director, Center on China's Transnational Relations, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is also a Non-Resident Fellow, Pacific Council on International Policy, Los Angeles. He is the author of four books, most recently, Internationalizing China: Domestic Interests and Global Linkages (Cornell University Press, 2002). His most recent journal articles include: ‘China's Global Search for Oil’, Foreign Affairs (September–October 2005), ‘Learning to Com-pete: China's Effort to Encourage a Reverse Brain Drain’, International Labour Review (January 2006) and ‘Elections, Democratic Values, and Economic Development in Rural China’, Journal of Contemporary China (Fall, 2007). His current research includes China's resource-based foreign policy, Chinese mainlanders with overseas education and Hong Kong's role in China's modernisation.

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