The Paul Hamlyn Foundation India programme held a consultation with NGOs to discuss the impact on their charitable works resulting from locally elected Panchayats and municipal bodies. Sixteen PHF-funded NGOs attended the two-day event, held in Jaipur on 25 and 26 February, to discuss the issues and conflicts arising from working with local-level political institutions.
Panchayats are a South Asian political system, found mainly in India, Pakistan and Nepal. The name Panchayat' literally means assembly' (yat) of five' (panch) wise and respected elders chosen and accepted by the village community.
Panchayats, which traditionally settled disputes between villages and individuals, have through recent legislation come to hold greater political power. Alongside municipal bodies, Panchayats are fast becoming important players in local politics and are crucial to large government development schemes. As they are now elected bodies, they have a mandate to take responsibility for the development of their towns and villages, a reality that charitable organisations in India, such as Paul Hamlyn Foundation and NGOs must learn to effectively work with.
At the event, after opening statements from PHF Director Robert Dufton and PHF India Director Ajit Chaudhuri, the attending NGOs' representatives took part in open and group discussions, followed by short presentations. During the individual presentations, attendees spoke of their experiences and learnings from working with Panchayats or local municipal bodies, and raised any issues they wanted others' opinions on. T.R Raghunandan, out-going Joint Secretary with responsibility to the Panchayats for the Indian governemnt, was the keynote speaker and gave an encouraging and rousing speech at the end of the first day.
PHF India Director Ajit Chaudhuri said: "The wide range of viewpoints in the discussions, and the experiences from which they have arisen, are good reflections of the diversity within our India Programme. We take from here the need to support more work in small urban centres, and to encourage peer-to-peer learning and sharing among our NGO partners."
As part of PHF's ethos of sharing learning from its grant-giving activities with others, the findings of the two-day consultation have been complied into a report, available to read or download from our publications pages.