KERALA INFO: Local Self Government

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Local Self Government

by by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)  (Feedback)



The State has 991 Grama Panchayats, 152 Block Panchayats, 14 District Panchayats, 53 Municipalities and 5 Corporations. Consequent to the 74th Amendment to the Constitution of India, the Local self-government Institutions (LSGIs) are to function as the third tier of Government. In Kerala, LSGIs have been meaningfully empowered through massive transfer of resources as well as administrative powers. Coupled with a grassroots level approach of Participatory Planning whereby the developmental programmes are identified and implemented through Grama Sabhas, the LSGIs have emerged as effective agencies for the implementation of developmental programmes.

New Panchayats 
 
In order to make the administration of the panchayats efficient, large-sized panchayats having more population were divided and 20 new grama panchayats were formed. These panchayats came into existence from October 2000. For the convenience of the people, 11 grama panchayats were delinked.

The Planning Progress

The People's Campaign for Decentralised Planning was formally inaugurated on the first day of the Malayalam year, 17th August 1996. The Campaign was organised in a phased manner with clearly defined objectives for each phase. Each of the six phases had a nodal event and involved a separate round of training at state, district and local level. Extensive environment creation activities were also undertaken. A High Level Guidance Council was formed comprising of eminent personalities in the state. The council was also intended to assure the highest possible degree of consensus around the Campaign. Apart from the representatives of all political parties and major mass organisations, the council also included vice-chancellors of universities, heads of centres of excellence and cultural leaders.  
 
Phase I: Grama Sabha 
 
Identification of the needs of the people is the first step in the decentralised planning exercise. It is accomplished by convening the Grama Sabhas, ensuring maximum participation of people, especially, women and other weaker sections of the society in order to discuss the local development problems. In the urban areas Ward Conventions are organised for the purpose. Squads of volunteers visit households and explain the programme.

Phase II: Development Seminars 
 
After the identification of the felt needs in the grama sabhas, the next step in the planning process is to make an objective assessment of the natural and human resources of the locality. Only by matching the two could a perspective be developed for local level development that would make optimal use of the resources in tune with the aspirations of people. The approach to planning had to be such as to secure a judicious blend of local needs with local resource availability.  A series of participatory studies are also usually undertaken in every grama panchayat and municipality, most important of which were the following-

  • Collection of secondary data

  • Study of local geography and natural resources

  • Review of ongoing schemes

  • Survey of local history

  • Consolidation of grama sabha reports

Phase III: Task Forces 
 
Sector-wise committees constituted at the grassroot level one supposed to projectile the recommendations and suggestions, which emerged from the development seminars. On as average, 10 task forces were constituted in each local body to cover various development sectors .As many as 12,000 task forces were organised at the village level alone with a total participation of at least 1.2 lakh people. The task of project preparation demanded participation of more officials and technically qualified people than the earlier phases. Accordingly, special efforts were made to ensure participation of officials and local level experts. While the chairperson of the task force was an elected representative, an officer from the concerned line department was its convenor. A simple and transparent format was proposed for the projects to be prepared by the task forces.

Phase IV: Annual Plan Finalisation 
 
Plan funds under each of the above heads were devolved between urban and rural local bodies on the basis of population and certain other criteria. As for the rural local bodies, the total general sector allocation was distributed between the grama panchayats, block panchayats and district panchayats in the ratio of 70:15:15. Within each tier the allotment is made entirely on the basis of the each local body. The principle of taking population as the sole criteria drew widespread criticism on grounds of equity, since some were lagging in development or having to cover larger geographical areas than others.

Phase V: Annual Plan of Higher Tiers 
 
Block and District panchayats are supposed to start preparation of the annual plans only after grama panchayats had drafted their plants. The sequential ordering of the processes was made in order to ensure that the plans of the various tiers were integrated and the plans of the higher tiers did not duplicate, but complement those of the lower tiers. A simple method of integrating the analysis and programmes of the grama panchayats at block and district level is also proposed. Every block panchayat is to prepare a printed Development Report in which the problems identified in the Development Reports of the grama panchayats in the block area and the type of projects included in their plan were integrated for each sector.  
 
Phase VI: Plan Appraisal 
 
 A sample review of the projects prepared by the local bodies revealed that a significant proportion of them had to be modified to ensure their technical soundness and viability before they were approved for implementation. Realising that the DPCs did not have the technical manpower or infrastructure in undertake a proper scrutiny of the projects, a major improvisation in the original programme of the Campaign was called for. Therefore, a new (sixth) phase was added for the technical and financial appraisal of the projects and plans. More than one lakh projects have to be evaluated each year. The evaluation was not for selection or rejection of the projects, but to actually rectify the technical and financial weaknesses of the project proposals. Technical specifications and even designs might have to be prepared. Further, the entire work has to be undertaken within a span of three to four months.

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