The concept of governance since its evolution in the 1990s, has taken different forms and meanings depending upon specific contexts and situations. Basically it implies a shift from hierarchies and markets to networks; from formal authority of the state power to steering and coordinating, from actions of the state to interplay of plural actors.
In the context of rural areas, one tends to speak of rural development and the need to develop local self governing institutions which are yet to find their niche in the practices and processes of governance, despite various constitutional provisions. Even though the PRIs appear to be well placed for integration of sectoral, social and spatial priorities in rural areas, most of the states in India are far from developing self governing mechanisms, not to speak of extension thereof to integrated partnerships with civil society.
Rural areas studies generally focus on assessment of specific sectors and programmes, rather than on rural governance. Practically no work has been done even in respect of urban governance in the states north of Delhi. Keeping the existing scenario in mind the Institute for Development and Communication (IDC) took up a series of studies on governance starting with urban governance in medium and large towns in Punjab. The present study is second of the series and covers rural areas on the ‘edge’- three villages located at the peripheries of the states of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.