Smaller governance units needed to make democracy work: Abhijit Banerjee

For India’s democracy to really work, it needs smaller administrative units, Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee said Friday.

“There is a fundamental problem with the design of our democracy, which is that our states are far too big. We have 20 times as many seats in parliament as the UK,” Banerjee said.

Banerjee delivered the 27th Justice Sunanda Bhandare Memorial Lecture on the “Democracy on the Ground: What Works, What Doesn’t and Why?”

Banerjee said that although India has 20 times the population of the UK, the UK has 656 seats in parliament, compared to 543 in India. He argued that its sheer size makes it difficult for all voters to access information about their lawmakers.

Referring to his field experiments with the Delhi municipal elections, Banerjee said that when voters receive information about the performance of those elected, their voting pattern changes. “There’s almost nothing a legislator does that can actually reach you (the voter). That’s why the leaders on the ground matter little to our voters. That’s a structural problem in our democracy,” Banerjee said.

Supreme Court Judge Hima Kohli also spoke at the event and shared her memories of Judge Bhandare. “Very few know that she went to law school after she got married and that she enrolled in Maharashtra Bar Council when she had two children,” said Judge Kohli.

Justice Bhandare was a former Delhi Supreme Court judge who died at the age of 52.

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