Activity Report 2011-12

CDS-Research Unit on Local Self-Governments (CDS-RULSG)

The activities of the Unit have gained further momentum during the year 2011-12. A two-year work plan was prepared in July 2011 and the activities of the Unit are progressing as proposed in the plan. The work-plan that lists the immediate tasks to be accomplished in the coming two years is prepared with a long-term perspective of developing the RULSG into an international resource centre for local level participatory planning and governance. The plan visualizes achieving this objective by developing the unit into a place of learning, research, training and extension in the area of democratic planning and governance. In addition to generating new knowledge, the unit could also function as a platform for exchange of ideas and experience, which could be of use to local governments in India and abroad. With this perspective, a set of programmes have been proposed in the work-plan. The programmes includes research studies, seminars and workshops, publications, training, organization of a local history archive and launching of a website that would work as an observatory on democratic decentralization in Kerala.

Seminar/Workshop

1) Rethinking the Methodology of Participatory Local Level Planning in Kerala, August11, 2011

The workshop was a first round brainstorming exercise aimed at identifying the problems and limitations of the existing methodology of local level planning in Kerala. The participants of the workshop who came from different parts of Kerala represented various stakeholder groups such as elected representatives, bureaucrats, activists, researchers and technical experts. Shri. K. M. Chandrasekhar, Vice Chairman of the Kerala State Planning Board, formally inaugurated the workshop. Prof. Pulapre Balakrishnan, CDS Director delivered the welcome speech. The theme of the workshop was introduced by Dr. K. N. Harilal, coordinator of RULSG.

Almost all the participants underlined the need to have a serious rethinking on the methodology adopted so far in local level planning. Earlier in the 9th plan, a methodology and certain procedures were adopted in the state. During the 10th plan these were improved and again during the 11th plan further changes were brought particularly in procedures. The enthusiasm witnessed in the initial years of local level planning is missing today. There have been problems of different nature that need to be sorted out. It is in this context that an improvement of the methodology of local level planning has become necessary.

2) Follow up Workshop on Rethinking the Methodology of Participatory Local Level Planning in Kerala, January16, 2012

In continuation of the first workshop on the theme “Rethinking the methodology of participatory local level planning” held on 11August, 2011, a follow up workshop was conducted on 16 January, 2012. This was organized to discuss the document prepared by the CDS-RULSG on the subject based on the discussions in the first round workshop. The document was a fairly comprehensive attempt to identify the problems and limitations of the local level planning presently practiced in the State. The focus of the document was on evolving an alternative planning methodology that can address the problems of delay in plan formulation and implementation, declining trend in people’s participation, bureaucratic hurdles, inadequate attention to the strengthening of democratic processes, issues in the context of fund utilization, plans’ failure in the productive sectors of the economy and the general weakness of the local plans to meet the needs of local level development.

3) Discussion on Devolution Formula, November 17, 2011

The RULSG has organized a discussion on the devolution formula suggested by the Fourth State Finance Commission (FSFC) on November 17th. The meet was organized against the backdrop of the 12th Five Year Plan document being prepared by the State Government. Prof D Narayana, Fellow, Centre for Development Studies, presented the theme paper. The paper identified three problems in the devolution formula suggested by the FSFC. Firstly, the weightage pattern suggested in the FSFC could lead to `iniquitous’ distribution of Plan funds to the local bodies. Secondly, the formula for the calculation of deprivation index as mooted by the FSFC is beset with some inherent bias and may lead to misleading results. Third, giving 10% weightage in the devolution formula to incentivize the tax efforts is not prudent. Prof M A Oommen, Chairman of FSFC, reflected that the critique has not taken into account the perspective of fiscal federalism in which the FSFC report was prepared. Second, population (normalized by per capita status) must be treated as a dependable variable while working out entitlements. Despite the limitations of the data, incentivizing tax efforts has been given importance since it can improve the resource base of local bodies. However, it was agreed that the work of the FSFC was constrained to a large extent by the non availability of specific information and data. State Planning Board Member CP John, however, differed with Prof Narayana and said the deprivation index mooted by FSFC was well rooted. The Planning Board member also underlined the need for a permanent and well laid out practice to build up a more reliable data system. CP Narayanan, former member of the State Planning Board also concurred with the argument. Prof KP Kannan said that a reasonably good BPL list would be more appropriate in working out the devolution formula.

4) Seminar on Aspiring for Women’s Full Citizenship in Kerala: The Kudumbashree Mission, 21 December 2012

This seminar was jointly organised by the Research Unit on Local Self-Government, CDS and the Kudumbashree Mission, Kerala at CDS on 21st December, 2012. This meeting sought to initiate closer interaction and dialogue among the members of Kudumbashree Mission and the leading scholars on women’s studies and the community engaged in gender focused research and activism. At present, the Kudumbashree is much more than a poverty alleviation programme. It touches the lives of lakhs of women in diverse ways. Nevertheless, its members are faced with many institutional, political and cultural hurdles in their struggle to expand their life choices. Hence there is need to broaden the ambit of discussion.

The meeting had four sessions focusing on women’s political participation, livelihood initiatives, presence and interventions in local governance and their agency in the family. In each session, besides a presentation, several women spoke about their experience of self-transformation and the successes, the failures and the hurdles in their bid for public life. Several scholars on women’s studies from India and abroad attended the meeting. Honourable M. K. Muneer, Minister for Social Welfare and Panchayats spoke at the concluding session. The seminar requested the government to extend more and continued support to the Kudumbashree Mission.

Publications

The RULSG is planning to start an occasional paper series in the year 2012-13. The first occasional paper, an offshoot of the RULSG workshops on Rethinking the Methodology of Participatory Local Level Planning, is ready for publication.

Other programmes

A proposal for establishing an archive on local governments and democracy is on the anvil.

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