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					                                                                                                                  CHAPTER 9
                                                                           DECENTRALISED GOVERNANCE AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT     149

Thrissur district), people’s planning would not have been
able to do the considerable amount of preparatory work it
has done, as for example, in mobilising people, conducting
seminars and camps, working as resource persons, drawing
up projects and development reports, organising training
programmes and the publication of a large number of
books, manuals and guidelines.

But this invited considerable criticism on the ground that
it resulted in a politicisation of the PRIs, reflected in the
selection of experts and nature of mass organisations
inducted into the campaign as also in muting the
development of in-house capacity of PRIs and the difficulty
of sustaining such an arrangement. Despite the substantial
number of training programmes undertaken, however,
what remained lacking, as brought out by some micro
studies was a strengthening of capability for effective
utilisation of resources. The expert committees have been
recently abolished.                                             With respect to the functioning of the financial and
                                                                accounting systems of panchayats under the campaign,
3.3 Decentralised Governance                                    where more effective action should have been taken by
    and Human Development                                       the state government to support the local governments in
                                                                enhancing their capabilities, the situation was unsatisfactory.
Whether decentralisation in Kerala, a sincere attempt at        While the amended Panchayat Act (1999) exhorted
“bringing government closer to the people” and eliciting        local bodies to present integrated budgets including plan
their participation, has resulted in enhancing well-being       grant-in-aid, state and centrally sponsored schemes, own
of the disadvantaged groups is a question, the answer to        revenues, institutional finance and voluntary/beneficiary
which is mixed- problems and successes abound (see Box          contribution, very little of this was found in practice.
9.4 and Box 9.5). Its effectiveness can be gauged in terms      A substantial number of panchayats have still to complete
of physical achievements or through beneficiary assessment       their accounts for the Ninth Plan period.
of public expenditures and tracking improvements thereof
in individual/collective well-being. In terms of physical       Two important questions here are regarding a perceived
achievements, spelt out in the official sources, the             transformation in the quality of service delivery, since
performance is impressive in the areas of agriculture related   quantity as we know has been less of a problem in Kerala;
activities, self-employment generation, and in providing        and second, to what extent has it resulted in greater
minimum needs infrastructure like housing, water supply,        horizontal equality. There has been a general view that
sanitation and connectivity. The local bodies are also          quality of such services as education and health has not
credited with reasonably good performance in natural            undergone any significant change, nor have disadvantaged
resource management, particularly in utilisation of water       groups like STs derived much benefits in public service
resources for productive purposes. However, there have          delivery (Vijayanand, 2001; Eapen and Thomas, 2005).
only been a few isolated success stories in the productive      However, a recent study spread over a fairly large number
sectors, where agricultural production and productivity         of panchayats (72 in number) yields different results
have increased significantly. Similarly, one does not hear       (Chaudhuri et al 2004). Based on responses from ‘key
of many innovative schemes for skill development of             respondents’ in each panchayat (selected to capture a
the large numbers of educated unemployed with 10 or             range of opinions across the socio-economic and political
12 years of general schooling, who constitute the hard core     spectrum of Kerala society), the study highlights that the
of the educated unemployed; perhaps this is a function to be    evaluation of change, before and after the campaign was
performed at a higher tier of local governance. The outreach    positive, having moved from a predominantly ‘below
of health services as well as remedial coaching for laggard     average’ service delivery before to ‘average’ after the
students has definitely improved and the infrastructure for      campaign. The range of services included primary
health and education has been upgraded.                         health care, child care, primary education, drinking

   Box 9.4: Decentralisation: Initial Challenges

   Notwithstanding its physical achievements, the experiment has abounded with problems and further challenges
   (Vijayanand, 2001: 23-24):

   i)     No staff increase has been provided for, and exemption made only in a few cases of professionals and highly
          skilled technical personnel and in special schemes with assistance for staff.

   ii)    The outliers like Scheduled Tribes are still to gain from decentralisation. In scenarios where one section of the
          poor lives off another section, decentralisation has certain inbuilt limitations.

   iii)   The poorest among the poor need social safety nets particularly for food and health emergencies. This cannot
          be provided by local governments.

   iv) The management of services particularly health and education have not been more efficient
       than before and these services have direct implications for local development especially poverty

   v)     The flow of bank credit into local schemes has been limited resulting more from bankers’ reluctance to
          deal with local governments than from inadequacies of project formulation. This has resulted in higher

   vi)    In a State like Kerala where the number of educated poor is very high there is an inherent limitation in local
          government action. Linkage with job markets through skill up-gradation or identification of self-employment
          opportunities or small-scale production activities with assured markets are all functions which can be done
          better at higher levels.

   vii) There is a tendency to spread resources thinly with preference being given to every electoral constituency
        whenever a development scheme is taken up. Distribution of assets and inputs, not necessarily productive,
        has been common.

   viii) Vertical integration of local level programmes has proved difficult to achieve.

   ix)    Participatory aspect of planning is often limited to airing of needs and sharing of benefits. There is need for
          enhancing the quality of participatory planning so that there is a healthy discussion by all sections of the
          population based on data and norms, generating a prioritised list of developmental needs.

water, sanitation, roads, irrigation facilities, housing for     3.3.1 Women’s Empowerment
poor, support for cultivators, income and employment
creation for women, SCs and STs. Similarly by collecting         Given the tremendous interest generated in Kerala’s
data on social composition of participation (measured            decentralised    development      experience,    which
in terms of participants as a percentage of total relevant       consciously attempted to address ‘gender’ issues,
population) in grama sabhas, development seminars and            with a targeted women’s component plan (WCP), high
project preparation by the task forces, the Chaudhuri            expectations had been aroused regarding its impact on
et al study (2004) finds a fairly consistent representation       gender justice. Would it enhance women’s freedom
of SC/ST groups and women over the three stages of the           in a society increasingly moving towards patriarchal
participation cycle. In terms of voice and empowerment           structures within the family and in the public sphere.?
of these groups through enhancing access to public               A number of studies were done to understand the
services, such as housing, assistance to the poor, income        nature and content of the WCP in terms of resource
and employment for women and SCs/STs, the response               allocations and its impact on women both in terms of
was that there was greater distributive justice for the          meeting their practical as also strategic gender needs
disadvantaged groups under decentralised governance.             (Isaac and Franke, 2000; Seema and Mukherjee, 2000;
However, it was still not adequate. We take up the gender        UNICEF, 2001; Radha and Chaudhury, 2003; Thampi,
question in greater detail.                                      2004; Eapen and Thomas, 2005).
                                                                                                                                         CHAPTER 9
                                                                                                  DECENTRALISED GOVERNANCE AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT     151

  Box 9.5: Lighting Up Remote Hamlets – Mini- and Micro-hydel Projects

  Despite cent per cent rural electrification, achieved long back, more than 15 per cent of the households
  in Kerala still remain unelectrified, most of them being in remote hilly areas all along the Western Ghats.
  Electrifying these households from the grid involves problems of accessibility and high costs, on account
  of low density and long distance to be covered. The Electricity Act 2003 lays down that the appropriate
  government shall endeavour to supply electricity to all areas including villages and hamlets. The Act envisages
  formulation of two policies: a National Electricity Policy permitting standalone systems (including renewable
  and non-renewable sources), and a National Policy for Rural Electrification for purchase of bulk power and its
  local distribution in rural areas.

  Micro- and mini-hydel power stations (up to 100 KW capacity) have already proved to be a useful standalone source
  for lighting up villages in remote, mountainous terrain in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal,
  West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh as well as in Kerala. About 198 small hydel sites have so far been identified in
  Kerala with a total capacity of 467 mega watts (MW), of which 10 sites (with a capacity of 72 MW) have so far been
  set up, most of them in Idukki district, and another 10 (with 73 MW) are under construction (Government of Kerala,
  2004). It should be noted that the decentralisation drives have opened up ample opportunities for exploiting the
  potential available for harnessing mini- and micro-hydel projects. Given the enabling environment, several local
  bodies have taken up initiatives to develop locally available sources of energy with people’s participation.

Most studies found that armed with an understanding of                              Given the fact that 70-75 per cent of women in Kerala are
gender15 as a crucial parameter in economic and social                              engaged in household duties, many of the SHG activities
analyses, the proponents of the decentralised planning process                      enabled women to combine roles and earn some incomes.
made a sincere attempt to address women’s issues with a                             Mushroom cultivation, poultry, kitchen garden, umbrella
view to 'empowering' them, that is enhancing their choices.                         making, etc. allow work to be carried out in/near home and
The ‘empowerment approach’ had gained considerable                                  is not full time in nature. Women perceived these activities
popularity and appeal in the 1990s. Although first invoked in                        as a boon and the extra work appeared to be no burden to
the 1980s and envisaged within a 'transformative' tradition                         them. In fact, these are perceived to be better choices than
of planning, characterised as a political, conflictual process,                      working in the fields or as casual labour in non-agriculture,
it came to be widely interpreted in very narrow terms in                            choices that are also dictated by the wide spread of literacy,
the mainstream development discourse of the 1990s. The                              and social norms/practices which shape job expectations.
analysis of the WCP, through a gender lens reveals that
in Kerala too, despite the well meaning intentions of the                           While such an approach certainly enhances the
policy-makers on mainstreaming gender into the Plan                                 choices and productivity levels of individual women,
process, at the level of implementation the approach tied up                        we have to see how this collectivity of women backed
much more with the narrow interpretation, relying heavily                           by a feminised political leadership can generate a
on ‘empowering’ women through self help groups. While                               larger agenda of changing the social environment for
the mandatory 10 per cent appears to have been more or                              women. It was here that the strategy failed as far as
less achieved for the five year period as a whole, some items                        gendered planning was concerned. The difficulty of
of general expenditure were really ascribed to the WCP like                         translating innovative ideas into concrete projects for
anganwadi feeding, toilets, drinking water and roads, thereby                       women to achieve greater gender justice, lay in the
cutting down on resources intended primarily for women..                            absence of a gender analysis framework. Discussions
There was hardly any difference in the nature of projects in                        within such a framework (which also requires the
the women headed panchayats. This is not to undermine                               presentation of gender statistics in a manner teasing
considerable efforts by some panchayats to move into new                            out the underlying causes of unequal gender relations
areas such as IT, auto rickshaw driving, women’s transport                          and the consequences) in the task forces (now working
cooperatives, etc.                                                                  groups) would have helped in the formulation of more

15 That is the social relationship between men and women through which women have been systematically located in an inferior
   position in society.

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