Local self-governments are closest to the people in tourism host communities and tend to be best equipped to understand and manage their needs and desires. Local Self-Governance Institutions (LSGIs) improve meaningful participation in democratic processes and aid accountability. The 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments give recognition and protection to local governments, while each state has its local government legislation.
Tourism development in India has followed a top-down approach in planning and implementation, for the most part. This has not allowed local communities to have democratic control over their development. LSGI and Panchayat involvement in the development of tourism is crucial since these developments have boundless impacts on local communities, tourism uses both local communities and natural resources at a large scale, and since tourism is often seen as a community-development and local economic development program.
However, the implementation of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) has been complicated by the lack of harmonisation between different states enacting the provisions of the amendments, corruption at various levels of government, and a lack of awareness amongst Panchayati Raj Institution actors about their powers and functions.
Moreover, various state and central policies (such as the National Tourism Policy) centralise power by placing tourism, a state subject, in the Concurrent List, thereby undermining the scope of any meaningful participation of the state tourism institutions, district councils and by the constitutionally mandated elected bodies like panchayats and municipalities These policies and industry practices don’t really place any importance on the impact of tourism on local communities, their lives and livelihood.
In the last few decades, we have seen the creation of a vast number of Development Authorities and other ‘parastatal bodies’. These are institutions/organizations, which are wholly or partially owned and managed by the government (either autonomous or quasi-governmental). These bodies are generally formed for delivery of specific services, implementation of specific schemes or programmes sponsored by the State/Union Government/international donor agencies.
Development Authorities and parastatal bodies often encroach on the activities that should be conducted and managed by PRIs and completely undermine the functioning of local self-governance.
EQUATIONS works with communities and civil society organisations to understand how the development of tourism affects the functioning of local self-governing institutions and the spread of development authorities and other parastatal bodies. We work with other organisations to advocate for the right of LSGIs and the rights of local communities to have self-determination in the development of tourism in their backyards.
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