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>> Research (]T\§Ä) / Issues Related to Administrative Decentralisation and Administering of Decentralisation



Originally Presented at the Workshop on Decentralisation organized by the Institute for Social and Economic Change at Bangalore on 31st May and 1st June, 2001.

I. Background

1. When to decentralize? A good time to decentralize seems to be when a new government takes over. In the case of Kerala it was a new government, which transferred functions and staff in 1995, and another new government transferred financial resources and launched the People's Plan Campaign in 1996. Also a favourable point of time for decentralisation would be when there is a change-over from one Plan period to another Plan period. This is because the natural step-up in resource allocation can be diverted to local governments without facing much resistance. Kerala's decision to earmark about 35% of its Plan resources was facilitated by the fact that the launching of the 9th Five Year Plan in 1997 had resulted in significant increase in Plan size.

2. How to decentralize? Traditional wisdom calls for capacity building of local governments and then giving power to them in degrees to match the improvements in capacity. But real and effective decentralisation probably calls for a big bang approach - functions, powers and resources are transferred at one go. If decentralisation is effected in one fell blow the suddenness would stun potential dissenters into silent acceptance; before people realize what they have lost, decentralization would have become a fait accompli. The 'reversals' - of giving responsibility and then building capacity, of giving powers and then creating procedures and systems, of giving funds and then setting up umpiring systems - help in another way. If government transfers a lot of responsibilities and funds considerable pressure would build on government from various sides to ensure that the responsibilities are carried out effectively and the funds are utilized properly. It would then become Government's responsibility to ensure that decentralization works.

3. Need for a clear vision. The first and the most critical impulse to start off decentralization is the political decision - and that too a decision based on a vision about decentralization with respect to why it is required, what it is about, how far it should go, what it should achieve etc. Once this vision is clear, the administrative aspects become easier. In other words there should be a well-articulated decentralization policy.

4. Nature of decentralization. It would seem that political decentralization, and that too, a kind of democratic decentralization with accent on people's participation, is more sustainable than administrative decentralization. Power should flow from both the political executive and the administrative executive to the local governments, and through the local governments to the people. It is the downward transfer of power rather than the sideways transfer of power from officials to elected bodies that is more important. Also there is need for a thorough understanding and consensus on what power means - not just arbitrary kind of "power over" but more of a legitimate motivational "power to". Insistence on due process while local governments take decisions is a sine qua non of democratic decentralization - to avoid possibilities of whimsical, arbitrary and partisan exercise of powers.

II. Roles and Functions of Local Governments.

(1) Defining the functional domain.

This is a very difficult activity and it is totally dependent on the political vision of decentralisation. Also the size of the local government particularly that of the Village Panchayat is a critical factor in assigning its functions. Most of the State legislations give more or less the same functions to all the three tiers of local governments. It would be a healthy practice if a legislative definition of the functional domain is done with as much precision as possible. (The functions assigned to local governments in Kerala are delineated in Annexure 1) But this is a rather difficult task. Kerala found that it is easier to define the functions in the management of institutions, creation of infrastructure and provision of services but when it came to the question of defining the functional areas in sectors like agriculture and industries there is bound to be certain overlaps, and only based on several years experience can the comparative advantage of each tier in performing various functions would be known clearly. Thus a process approach is called for in demarcating the functions of different tiers of local government as also the role of the State Government in such development areas.

(2) Role definition

Within their functional areas, local governments would have to perform various roles and one can see a range rather than discrete role types. Yet it is possible to identify certain broad types within this gamut:-

(i) Informer - just providing information to government

(ii) Consultant - providing advise and opinion to government

(iii) Agent - carrying out things on behalf of government without any real decision making

(iv) Manager - managing institutions and services on behalf of the government with the power to take decisions necessary for management.

(v) Partner - doing part of a development programme with government doing the remaining portion.

(vi) Actor - playing the role of an autonomous agency deciding priorities and resource allocation by itself.

It should be possible for government to define the role range in each of the areas assigned to local governments.

(3) Inter-tier linkages.

In the case of rural local governments the question of inter-tier linkages is very important. It may not be proper to allow one tier control over the tier below. At the same time linkages would have to be provided for, to enable complementarities and performance of higher order functions. One direct way of doing it is to make the heads of lower tier local governments ex-officio members of the higher tier. This can be reinforced through formal consultative processes. A still more difficult method would be to design the development planning process in such a way that linkages get taken care of through a sequential multi-level planning exercises.

(4) Freedom and its limits.

For each function and each kind of activity the freedom of local governments as well as the limits to the freedom need to be indicated. This is best done through a process of experimentation followed by consultation with local governments to reach a consensus. Such an exercise was undertaken by Kerala when it was found that local governments were giving abnormally high subsidies to individual beneficiaries of various schemes.

(5) Legislative entitlements.

As far as practicable all that has been mentioned above may be put in the form of an Act so that they have the best stamp of approval - that is the legislative sanction.

Another point of relevance is that there are several legislations related to subjects handled by local governments like those dealing with water supply, irrigation, land development, fisheries etc., and those having a bearing on local government like land acquisition, land conservancy, land assignment etc. Amendments to such allied Acts would be justified to ensure that local governments are not just creatures of one or two Acts but have legal position and space in all legislations having something to do with their functions. This would make the local governments a clearly recognized tier in government. Kerala has amended about 35 Acts in pursuit of this idea.

To protect the future of local governments a farsighted suggestion has been made in Kerala. Now, every Bill when it is presented to the Legislature is accompanied by a financial memorandum and a memorandum on delegation of powers, so that the legislature knows that it has the power to legislate on the subject and what the financial implications would be. On this analogy a third memorandum dealing with possible local government implications needs to be introduced. This would help the legislature to take a balanced view and take precautions against powers devolved by one law being taken away by another law through general "notwithstanding" clauses.

(6) Need for appropriate administrative operating systems.

Development programmes and development administration run essentially on the basis of executive instructions which constitute the flesh and blood of administration with the Acts providing only the skeletal framework and form. Therefore any number of legal provisions and rules would remain on paper if they are not followed up with clear-cut administrative instructions in the form of Government Orders, Circulars, Manuals etc.

It would not be appropriate if the existing administrative systems and executive orders are just transplanted on to local governments. The deep structure of such instructions is oriented towards centralised governance and is tailored for hierarchy; eg., procurement instructions, accountability systems, reporting systems etc. These need to be harmonized to local government conditions without sacrificing accountability or efficiency.

In the context of the early stages of decentralisation there would be an advisory role for the State Government. Unfortunately in administration, advices cannot be conveyed in their true spirit; either guidance ends up as restrictive or it is taken too lightly interpreting it as non-mandatory. To avoid this, advisory circulars and guidelines have to be exhaustive and precise and they should be related clearly to a law, rule or order; as far as possible they should indicate what has to be followed implicitly and what could be flexibly adapted by the user.

Kerala has embarked on the exercise of fundamentally revamping the office management as well as financial management systems of local governments. Since this would take time, the State has been following an interesting strategy by framing experimental new instructions on various procedures and systems, learning from their application and attempting to upgrade them based on experience and learning from best practices elsewhere. An innovate suggestion under consideration is to free selected outstanding local governments from all rules and procedures, allow them to act according to their best judgment, document every step and then work backwards to unravel and integrate the process. Kerala is particular that the extremely rare opportunity for creating the state of-the-art administrative operating systems should be put to the best use.

III. Transfer of Resources.

i) Human Resources.

Often one comes across vague conceptualization of local governments particularly Village Panchayats as "doers", but actually they should be the 'deciders' and the 'doers' should be personnel under their control. Expecting local governments to do functions without assigning at least the staff who were hitherto performing those functions would be futile. Transfer of staff to local governments is a very tricky issue. There would be a lot of natural resistance by employees to move on to control by elected bodies particularly the lower tiers. Some of the reasons for the staff being reluctant to work under local governments are -

a) Uncertainty about service conditions

b) Problems regarding payment of salaries due to unsound financial position

c) Fear of whimsical political decisions

d) Probable loss of promotion chances due to smallness of the unit of employment

e) Reluctance to move to distant areas

f) Ego problems in relationship with elected representatives, some of whom could be semi-literate.

The way Kerala has handled these problems in spite of its highly unionized staff structure is worth looking into. The salient features are summarized below:

i) The principle of work and worker going together was enunciated. This enabled the government to transfer institutions and offices along with staff to the local governments. (The institutions, offices and posts transferred to local governments in Kerala are listed in Annexure II). Also, it was followed up by determining surplus staff both professional and ministerial in development departments at the State, regional and district levels and transferring them to local governments. This redeployment process is currently under way whereby about 1200 clerical staff will go to local governments with each of the 991 Village Panchayats getting one clerk. Similarly about 200 large Village Panchayats would get one Assistant Engineer and for the remaining Village Panchayats two of them will share an Assistant Engineer; all Block Panchayats will get an Assistant Executive Engineer.

ii) The cadre of the staff transferred is not disturbed. This prevents promotion chances being affected and facilitates movement of staff from one local government to another or from local government to government. In a sense the analogy of All India Service Officers serving both Central and State Government is relevant.

iii) The local governments have full managerial and part disciplinary control over the staff. They can assign any work to the staff transferred to them related to their area. They can review their performance and give the required directions. They are empowered to impose minor penalties on all staff transferred to them and, in the case of non-gazetted officers, resort to suspension whenever warranted.

iv) A kind of dual control is inevitable. Since the State Government carries out some of its functions through the field level staff who have been transferred to the local governments State control over the staff becomes necessary. Also, as the cadre is managed by State, such control is automatic.

v) The salaries of the staff transferred continue to be paid for by Government. This would prevent unnecessary burdening of local governments with the transactional costs and efforts of salary disbursement and account keeping.

vi) Even the own staff of local governments i.e., Village Panchayats and Municipal bodies who are paid for by the local government themselves are recruited through the Public Service Commission and constitute a local government cadre.

vii) Based on work-study, staff pattern has been fixed for different types of local governments. Only government can create new posts in local governments.

viii) A decision has been taken to have a published transfer norm which would ensure that all local governments including remote and backward ones get the staff on a rational basis. This would also prevent government from exercising partisanship in favour of local governments perceived to be on the government side or discrimination against other local governments.

ix) To protect the legitimate professional interest of staff a code of conduct has been legislated for. This would help officials in discharging their functions without fear or favour.

x) In the case of professional staff where ego conflicts tend to be more, government has been trying out a two-pronged approach - one of interfering whenever there is a complaint and sorting it out through negotiations and the other of trying to organize joint training courses for elected heads and the professional staff to foster mutual understanding and trust.

ii) Financial resources.

Kerala's experience has good lessons to offer in this area of devolution. It is summed up below:

1. Since the constitutional mandate is to share development responsibilities with local governments it was felt that local governments have a legitimate claim on development funds or Plan funds. So the important decision to devolve Plan funds to local governments was taken. One-third of the Plan funds is earmarked for local governments and around 90% of the Plan funds is given in a practically untied form to the local governments to prepare their own schemes and implement them within certain broad policy framework, which stipulates that at least 40% of the funds should be invested in productive sectors, not more than 30% should be invested on roads (with appropriate variations for urban local governments) and at least 10% should be earmarked for gender sensitive schemes and there is a consensually fixed upper ceiling for subsidies in different categories of schemes for individual beneficiaries. In keeping with its philosophy of decentralisation - to encourage people's participation - Kerala devolved about 70% of the rural share to Village Panchayats with the other two tiers equally sharing the remaining 30%

2. The entire Plan grant is investible. This can be called "pure money", as it does not carry any staff salaries or other administrative costs. (Normally at the State level 20 to 25% of the plan is taken away by such commitments.)

3. Certain plan schemes are transferred as such to local governments both centrally sponsored as well as State schemes. In general they are called State sponsored schemes and the guidelines framed for the purpose have to be followed by the local governments. Such schemes constitute only about 10% of the Plan Grant-in-aid given to local governments.

4. All the Plan grants due to local governments are separately budgeted in a document given as Annexure IV of the State Budget. Since it is passed by the Legislature it is non-divertible for other purposes by the executive.

5. In addition, traditional non-plan grants continue to be given as of before. The suggestion to share a percentage of total tax revenue, instead of giving certain taxes and grants is under the active consideration of the government.

6. Institutions like schools, anganwadis, hospitals, veterinary clinics, hostels for SCs/STs and agriculture and veterinary farms have been transferred to different levels of local governments, along with their staff, for management. The funds for these institutions other than salary and, in the case of hospitals medicine and diet charges, are routed through local governments. Since local governments control the funds the institutions tend to gravitate towards them.

7. Every single rupee devolved to local governments whether under Plan or other categories is given as per a transparent formula and there is no room for patronage or partisanship in allocation of resources to local governments.

8. A flow of funds procedure has been designed. The funds flow in four instalments. A local government has to spend at least 75% of its allocation during a year failing which the shortfall would be reduced from the next year's allotment.

9. Ad hoc accounting and reporting systems have been prescribed. After analyzing experience so far, formal systems are to be designed.

IV. Accountability Issues

Since substantial funds have been given to the local governments accountability system acquire special importance. In addition to the traditional systems new checks and balances need to be evolved. To a large extent, accountability can be ensured through open government. In a sense transparency is the best form of audit.

Corruption in local governments is to be addressed right at the beginning. It is felt that decentralised corruption is more harmful than centralised corruption for it permeates every part of the society and causes widespread moral degradation.

Some of the points, which need attention while designing accountability mechanisms, are fund utilization, decision-making process, adherence to procedures and maintenance of Files and records. Traditional accountability mechanisms like audit and inspection, if functioning regularly, can help to a considerable extent. In this respect Kerala has attempted two innovations - first, setting up performance auditing teams by pooling surplus staff in the Panchayat, Municipalities, Rural Development departments and the Secretariat to conduct regular auxiliary audit with a view to correcting mistakes as and when they occur and guiding local governments in maintaining the proper systems; second, setting up of a technical audit team consisting of senior engineers selected for their integrity to investigate complaints of malfeasance in public works.

In addition to the Ombudsman new accountability mechanisms have also come up. Regular IEC campaigns, participatory structures right from planning up to monitoring, transparency provisions and scheme formulation framework and spelling out the due process in various kinds of decision-making, which fix the rational boundaries to autonomy, are the important examples.

Reforms on the anvil relate to semi structured social audit, insistence of compulsory information giving, publishing of Citizen entitlements and Charters and use of information technology.

V. Planning Issues.

Decentralised participatory planning raises certain administrative and procedural issues. These concern the composition of participatory structures, mode of their functioning, recording of decisions, conflict resolution, grievance redressal etc.

Another challenge is to link the banking system with local government planning. The existing instructions of RBI are not conducive to a good working relationship between local governments and banks. State governments can only play a limited role in this. Yet another planning issue, which has administrative implications, is about inter-tier linkages to be brought about in the Plan preparation as well as Plan implementation phases.

Kerala has attempted to address these issues through elaborate government orders prepared on the basis of feed back from the field. But the orders require annual modifications as newer challenges crop up.

VI. Good governance features.

Government has to play a conscious role to improve governance in local governments. Experience shows that it is relatively easier to introduce good governance features at the level of the local government. To recapitulate, some of the good governance features in the Kerala experiment are -

Transparency and right to information

Public IEC campaigns

Insistence on due process

Participation in all stages

De-bureaucratization especially in technical matters

Accreditation of NGOs to act as support agencies for local governments

Giving opportunities to young professionals to serve as apprentices in local governments eg: Civil and agricultural engineers, IT professionals etc.

Recognition of best practices by selecting Beacon Panchayats

Strengthening independent umpiring institutions

Introducing code of conduct for elected representatives and officials

Making Citizen's Charter compulsory

Revising office management systems to make them people friendly

Simplification and modernization using information technology.

VII. Role of Government

Paradoxical though it may seem, the role of Government increases considerably in the early years of decentralisation; it has to play the role of an activist facilitator. Decentralization is a process and throws up several unexpected challenges during its course. The Government should have the readiness and flexibility to respond quickly. Some points highlighting the role of the Government are given below:

1) There is need for a high power co-ordination system which allows for fast-track decision-making, both policy and procedural, in respect of challenges thrown up by the decentralisation process. In Kerala there is a Co-ordination Committee under the Chairmanship of the Minister for Local Self Government which has Secretary (LSGD), Secretary (Planning), Secretary (Finance), Secretary (SC/ST), Members of the Planning Board, Director of Panchayats, Director of Municipal Administration and Commissioner for Rural Development as Members. This Committee has the powers of the Government to take policy decisions on all matters relating to decentralisation except those involving additional commitments of funds or those concerning departments not represented in the Co-ordination Committee. This has enabled the Government to respond on line to field level problems and come out with solutions very quickly.

2) Government has to have a real feel of what is happening on ground. It has to be open to feed back from formal as well as informal channels. The most effective form of feedback is direct interaction with the local governments. Kerala has been following a gruelling system whereby the Minister, Secretary and the Head of Department meet heads of local governments (Village Panchayats at the District level, Block Panchayats at the regional level, Municipalities, Corporations and District Panchayats at the State level) along with the concerned officials at least once in four months at critical points - just before formulation of the Annual Plan, midway through the financial year and towards the end of the financial year. These meetings serve to clarify various points of view and help maintain an ongoing dialogue with the local governments.

3) The concept of local governments as partners of the government implies that it is not the department in charge of local governments', which alone is responsible for their effective functioning. All departments whose functions are handled by local governments have to play an active role with the department for local self governments playing the nodal role by setting policies and procedures. Each department is to be pro- active by issuing operational instructions in consonance with government policies and the laws and procedures governing the functioning of local governments. They have to monitor the performance of local governments in the discharge of functions related to their sector.

4) When there is radical decentralisation, the roles and powers of departmental staff at all levels undergo fundamental changes. In the case of officers transferred to local governments, their professional power and responsibility increases whereas their administrative power decreases and administrative responsibility remains more or less the same. These officers need be equipped to play their new role; for example, the medical officer of the Primary Health Centre has the difficult task of being the defacto Secretary (Health) of that Panchayat. He can no longer be a mere implementer of programmes but should attain the capability of formulating programmes.

The Heads of Department and Senior officers under him who have no formal control over local governments tend to move out of the sphere of local governments; this has to be checked. They have certain critical roles to play like giving feed back to government, providing project ideas to local governments, giving the higher order technical inputs to them, laying down technical standards, motivating the staff of local governments and so on.

5) There are several structures particularly at the district level consisting of officials and non-officials, generally nominated, discharging functions which have been transferred to the local governments - like DRDAs, FFDAs, various societies under Health department etc. These were constituted at a time when there were no democratic bodies at the local level. But now they have lost their relevance. Normally they have two components - a professional component and a political decision making component. The latter one has to give way when democratically elected bodies emerge or else they can end up as parallel power centres. Ideally the professional wings should serve the local governments. Kerala has already abolished DRDAs and is in the process of restructuring FFDAs/BFDAs. A similar restructuring of various Committees would be required.

6) The role of District Collector has traditionally been pivotal in the functioning of the district administration both developmental as well as regulatory. Before the advent of local governments the District Collector was doing practically all the development functions. Now the Collector's direct role in development matters has become quite marginal. At the same time the traditional strengths of a good Collector's - dynamism, understanding of development issues, honesty, service-mindedness, capacity to co-ordinate with various agencies, leadership in administration, acceptance by people - can be used to strengthen local governments. Kerala provides a good example where government could effectively mediate the change of role of Collector from a direct development implementer to a co-ordinator for local governments and a facilitator. The District Collector has been made the Member Secretary of the District Planning Committee thereby giving him a potential proactive role in the development of the district. He co-ordinates the provision of services to local governments by various departments. He also acts as government's interface with local governments particularly to Village Panchayats, Block Panchayats and the urban local bodies. This helps him to give valuable feed back to government on policies, programmes and procedures. And Government passes down instructions through him.

7) Capacity building for managing the change is a tremendous administrative responsibility of the Government. There are so many persons to be trained both officials and non-officials. Capacity building has two components - training as well as providing professional support. In Kerala for training the institutional frame work of the State Planning Board and the Kerala Institute of Local Administration is being used. Sufficient funds are earmarked for this activity. There is a pool of master trainers identified from government officials, retired officials and NGOs who provide a kind of cascading training to the staff and elected representatives of local governments. How-to-do handbooks and case studies of best practice enrich the training process. Professional support is being provided by tapping barefoot expertise, non-government sources as well as academic institutions especially for fresh graduates who could serve the local governments as apprentices.

The challenges of capacity building have been made more formidable by the fact that the reservation-cum-rotation system results in more new office holders and elected representatives once in five years. Since the term of most of them would expire after five years there has to be an intense bunching of training activities in the first few months.

8) Genuine decentralisation demands that there should be a gradual withdrawal of direct executive control over local governments. This has to be balanced with the need for accountability. The best option is to create independent regulatory institutions or strengthen existing ones. Kerala has gone considerable ahead in this process as may be seen from the following list of institutions.

a) The State Election Commission. The Election Commission has been given powers, which go beyond those required for the conduct of elections. It is empowered to delimit Wards, which were formerly done through the executive and it has been given powers to disqualify defectors.

b) The Finance Commission. This has been given the mandate as required by the Constitution. The first SFC was constituted in 1994 and the second SFC in 1999.

c) Ombudsman for Local Governments. This is a high power institution (it is the name given to an institution rather than an individual as is the conventional practice) consisting of seven members - a High Court Judge, two District Judges, two Secretaries to Government and two eminent public men selected in consultation with the Leader of Opposition. This institution has been given vast powers to check malfeasance in local governments in the discharge of developmental functions.

d) Appellate Tribunals. These are to be constituted at the Regional/District level to take care of appeals by citizens against decisions of the local government taken in the exercise of their regulatory role like issue of licence, grant of permit etc.

e) Audit Commission. Though this has not yet been legislated a policy has been taken to set up an Audit Commission, which would be independent of governmental control and would function on the lines of Comptroller and Auditor General of India and would be able to set its own standards of audit.

f) State Development Council. This is headed by the Chief Minister and consists of the entire Cabinet, Leader of opposition, Vice-Chairman of the State Planning Board, the Chief Secretary, all the District Panchayat Presidents who are also Chairperson of District Planning Committee and representatives of other tiers of local governments. This institution is expected to take the lead in policy formulation and in sorting out operation issues.

As decentralisation progresses, the attitude of the government towards the local government has to go through appropriate phases which has administrative implications. In the initial days patience and tolerance are highly essential as several mistakes could be made - some of them bonafide and a good number of them malafide. Government should have all eyes and ears to grasp the complexities of the process. Quickly this should be followed by a corrective phase where the focus is on helping local governments to set their house in order. This would mark the period of stabilization and institutionalization. Thereafter the regulatory institutions should take over and have both preventive as well as punitive systems in place to avoid mal-administration and malfeasance.


Decentralisation throws up exciting possibilities for fundamental reforms. The general atmosphere of change opens up considerable space for far-reaching administrative reforms. There is much scope for modernization and possibilities for introduction of totally new systems and procedures. Thus decentralisation facilitates reforms from below, touching practically every sphere of governance.

Even fiscal reforms are possible. This would include rationalization of tax collection procedures, ushering in of fiscal responsibility provisions, introduce of performance-linked incentive grants, indexation of certain taxes and non-tax revenues so that they change automatically and periodically with change of money value and introduction of electronic budgeting for fiscal discipline, where every transaction and every modification would get recorded automatically for future reference.

In order to push reforms, action research and policy studies would be very useful. Here again Government has an active role to play.



"A. Mandatory functions of Village Panchayats

1. Regulation of building construction.

2. Protection of public land from encroachment

3. Protection of traditional drinking water sources.

4. Presentation of ponds and other water bodies

5. Maintenance of water-ways and canals under their charge

6. Collection and disposal of solid waste and control of liquid waste disposal.

7. Storm water drainage

8. Maintenance of environmental hygiene

9. Management of markets

10. Vector control

11. Regulation of slaughtering of animals and sale of meat, fish and other perishable food items.

12. Regulation of eating establishments

13. Prevention of food adulteration.

14. Maintenance of roads and other public assets

15. Street lighting and their maintenance.

16. Immunisation

17. Carrying into effect national and State level strategies and programmes for disease prevention and control.

18. Opening and maintenance of burial and burning grounds.

19. Licensing of dangerous and offensive trades

20. Registration of births and deaths.

21. Provide bathing and washing ghats

22. Provide of ferries.

23. Provide parking space for vehicles

24. Provide waiting-sheds for travellers

25. Provide toilet facilities in public places

26. Regulate conduct of fairs and festivals.

27. Licensing of pet dogs and destroying stray dogs.

B. General functions

1. Collection and updating of essential statistics.

2. Organising voluntary labour and contribution for community works.

3. Carrying out campaigns for thrift.

4. Awareness building on control of social evils like drinking, consumption of narcotics, dowry and abuse of women and children.

5. Ensuring maximum people's participation in all stages of development.

6. Organising relief during natural calamities.

7. Inculcating environmental awareness and motivating local action for environmental upgradation.

8. Promoting co-operatives.

9. Enhancing communal harmony.

10. Mobilizing local resources in cash and in kind, including free surrender of land for development purposes.

11. Spreading legal awareness among the weaker sections.

12. Campaigning against economic crimes

13. Organising neighbourhood groups and self-help groups with focus on the poor.

14. Awareness building on civic duties

Sector-wise distribution of responsibilities


1. Bring into cultivation waste lands and marginal lands

2. Bring about an optimum utilisation of land

3. Soil conservation

4. Production of organic manure.

5. Establishment of nurseries.

6. Promotion of co-operative and group farming.

7. Organising self-help groups among cultivators

8. Promotion of horticulture and vegetable cultivation.

9. Fodder development

10. Plant protection.

11. Seed production

12. Farm mechanisation.

13. Management of Krishi Bhavans.


1. Cattle improvement programmes.

2. Dairy farming.

3. Poultry farming, bee keeping, piggery development, goat rearing, rabbit rearing.

4. Running or veterinary dispensaries.

5. Running of ICDP sub-centres.

6. Preventive health programmes for animals

7. Prevention of cruelty to animals.

8. Fertility improvement programmes.

9. Control of diseases of animal origin.


All minor irrigation schemes within the area of a Village Panchayat.

1. All micro irrigation schemes.

2. Water conservation.


1. Development of fisheries in ponds and fresh water and brackish water fish culture, mari culture.

2. Fish seed production and distribution.

3. Distribution of fishing implements.

4. Fish marketing assistance.

5. Provision of basic minimum services for the families of fishermen.

6. Welfare schemes for fishermen.


1. Raising of fodder, fuel and fruit trees

2. Organising campaigns for tree planting and environmental awareness.

3. Afforestation of waste lands.


1. Promotion of cottage and village industries

2. Promotion of handicrafts

3. Promotion of traditional and mini industries


1. Identification of homeless people and poramboke dwellers and provide house sites and houses.

2. Implementation of rural housing programmes.

3. Implementation of shelter upgradation programmes.


1. Running of water supply schemes covering one village panchayat.

2. Setting up of water supply schemes covering one village panchayat.


1. Street lighting

2. Promotion of bio-gas.


1. Management of Government pre-primary schools and Government primary schools.

2. Literacy programmes.


1. Construction and maintenance of village roads within the village panchayat.

2. Construction of buildings for institutions transferred.


1. Management of dispensaries and primary health centres and sub-centres (in all systems of medicine).

2. Management of child welfare centres and maternity homes.

3. Immunization and other preventive measures.

4. Family Welfare

5. Sanitation.


Running of anganwadies.

Sanctioning and distribution of pensions to destitute, widows, handicapped and agricultural labourers.

Sanctioning and distribution of unemployment assistance.

Sanctioning of assistance for marriage of the daughters of widows.

Management of group insurance scheme for the poor.


1. Identification of the poor.

2. Self employment and group employment schemes for the poor especially women.

3. Providing community assets of continuing benefit to the poor.


Beneficiary oriented schemes under SCP and TSP.

Management of nursery school for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Provision of basic amenities in Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes habitats.

Assistant to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes students.

Discretionary assistance to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in need.


Construction of play grounds.


1. Examination of complaints against the public distribution system and taking of remedial measures.

2. Organisation of campaigns against weights and measures offences.

3. General supervision and guidance of ration shops and maveli stores and other public distribution centres and if necessary starting new public distribution centres.


1. Management of relief centres

2. Organisation of relief works

(Repair works to assets will be divided and carried out by the Panchayat in charge of the assets)


1. Organisation of co-operatives within the jurisdiction of the Panchayat.

2. Payment of Government grants and subsidies within the jurisdiction."

"A. General functions of Block Panchayats

1. Pool technical expertise both Government and non-government at the Block level.

2. Provide technical services to Village Panchayats.

3. Prepare plans after taking into account the plans of Village Panchayat to avoid duplication and provide the backward and forward linkages.

B. Sector-wise distribution of responsibilities.


1. Farmers' training for the programmes implemented at the village level.

2. Arrangements of agricultural inputs required for schemes at the village level.

3. Conduct of agricultural exhibitions.

4. Integrated watershed management in watersheds falling within Block Panchayat area.

5. Mobilize agricultural credit.

6. Sericulture.


1. Running of Veterinary Polyclinics and Regional Artificial Insemination Centres.

2. Provide speciality services in Animal Husbandry.

3. Conduct cattle and poultry shows.


All lift irrigation schemes and minor irrigation schemes covering more than one village Panchayat.


Development of traditional landing centres.


1. Setting up of mini industrial estates.

2. Promotion of industries with investment limit of one-third of SSI.

3. Self employment schemes in industrial sector.


1. Popularisation of low cost housing.

2. Promotion of housing co-operative societies.


Promotion of non-conventional energy sources.


Management of Industrial Training Institutes.


1. Construction and maintenance of all village roads connecting more than one Village Panchayat and other District Roads within the block Panchayat.

2. Construction of buildings for institutions transferred.


Management of community health centres and taluk hospitals within the Block Panchayat area in all systems of medicine.


Management of ICDS.


1. Planning and implementation of Employment Assurance Schemes in co-ordination with the Village Panchayats.

2. Skill upgradation of the poor for self employment and wage employment for people below poverty line.


1. Management of pre-matric hostels.

2. Promoting Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Co-operatives.


1. Organisation of co-operatives within the jurisdiction of Block Panchayat.

2. Payment of Government grants and subsidies within the jurisdiction."

"A. General functions of District Panchayats

1. Mobilize the technical expertise available from Government and non-government institutions.

2. Provide technical service to the Block Panchayats and Village Panchayats and the Municipalities.

3. Prepare plans after taking into account the plans of the Village Panchayats and Block Panchayats to avoid duplication and to provide backward and forward linkage.

B. Sector-wise distribution of responsibilities


1. Running of agricultural farms other than regional farms and research centres and establishment of new farms.

2. Integrated watershed management in watersheds covering more than one Block Panchayat area.

3. Provision of agricultural inputs.

4. Soil testing.

5. Pest control.

6. Marketing of agricultural produce.

7. Cultivation of ornamental plants.

8. Promotion of agricultural co-operatives.

9. Promotion of commercial crops.

10. Biotechnology applications.

11. Field trials and pilot projects to popularise innovation.

12. Locally appropriate research and development.


1. Management of district level veterinary hospitals and laboratories.

2. Management of dairy extension service units.

3. Promotion of milk co-operatives.

4. Management of farms other than regional farms, breeding farms and research centres.

5. District level training.

6. Implementation of disease prevention programmes.

7. Field trials and pilot projects on innovative practices.

8. Locally relevant research and development.


1. Development of ground water resources.

2. Construction and maintenance of minor irrigation schemes covering more than one Block Panchayat.

3. Command area development.


1. Arrangements for marketing of fish.

2. Management of Fish Farm Development Agency.

3. Management of district level hatcheries, net making units, fish markets, feed mills, ice plants and cold storages.

4. Management of fisheries schools.

5. Introduction of new technologies.

6. Provide inputs required for fishermen.

7. Promotion of fishermen's co-operatives.


1. Management of District Industries Centre.

2. Promotion of small scale industries.

3. Setting up of industrial estates.

4. Arranging exhibitions for sale of products.

5. Entrepreneur development programmes.

6. Marketing of products.

7. Training.

8. Input service and common facility centres.

9. Industrial development credit planning.


1. Housing complex and infrastructure development.

2. Mobilizing housing finance.


1. Running of water supply schemes covering more than one Village Panchayat.

2. Taking up of water supply schemes covering more than one Village Panchayat.


1. Taking up of micro-hydel projects.

2. Determining priority areas for extension of electricity.


1. Management of Government high schools (including LP section and UP section attached to high schools)

2. Management of Government higher secondary schools.

3. Management of Government technical schools.

4. Management of vocational training centres and polytechnics.

5. Management of vocational Higher Secondary schools.

6. Management of District Institute for Education and Training.

7. Co-ordinate centrally and State sponsored programmes related to education.


1. Construction and maintenance of all district roads other than State Highways, National Highways and Major District Roads.

2. Construction of buildings for institutions transferred.


1. Management of district hospital in all systems of medicine.

2. Setting up of centres for care of special categories of disabled and mentally ill people.

3. Co-ordination of centrally and State Sponsored programme at the district level.


1. Payment of grants to orphanages.

2. Starting of welfare institutions for the disabled, destitutes etc.


Providing infrastructure for self-employment programmes.


1. Management of post matric hostels.

2. Management of vocational training centres for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.


Construction of stadiums.


1. Organisation of co-operatives within the jurisdiction of District Panchayats.

Payment of Government grants and subsidies to co-operatives within the jurisdiction."


A. Institutions and posts transferred to Grama Panchayats

1. Agriculture Department - Krishi Bhavans of the respective places.

2. Animal Husbandry Department - Veterinary sub-centre, Veterinary Dispensary/ Hospitals of respective places.

3. Dairy Development Department - One Dairy Extension Officer and Auxiliary posts (this unit should be transferred to one of the Grama Panchayats in the Block and this should cover all the Grama Panchayats in the block).

4. Fisheries Department - One Fisheries Sub Inspector (in the Grama Panchayat wherever necessary)

5. Rural Development Department - Two Village Extension Officer posts (including lady V.E.O) (if it is not possible to deploy two posts for a Grama Panchayat from a Rural Development Block one post can be deployed for the present and additional post can be deployed as and when necessary subject to availability)

6. Social Welfare Department - Day care centres and Anganwadis of the respective places.

7. SC Development Department - Balawadies, Balawady cum feeding centre, seasonal day care centre and dormitories of the respective places.

8. Tribal Development Department - Balawadies, Medical unit, Nursery schools, Midwifery centres & Ayurvedic dispensaries of the respective places.

9. Health Services Department (Allopathy) - Primary Health Centres and Government Dispensaries.

10. Health Department (I.S.M.) - Government Ayurvedic Dispensaries and Hospitals of the respective places.

11. Health Department (Homeo) - Government Homeo Dispensaries and Hospitals of the respective places.

12. General Education Department - Government Lower Primary Schools of the respective places.

13. Public Works Department - One Public Works Overseer post (this post should be given to a Grama Panchayat in which there are no engineering posts and the incumbent should work in three similar Grama Panchayats).

B. Institutions and Posts transferred to Block Panchayats.

1. Agriculture Department - One post of Assistant Director and Auxiliary posts

2. Industries Department - One post of Industries Extension Officer.

3. Rural Development Department - The post of Block Development Officer and posts.

4. Social Welfare Department - Care Homes, Oldage Homes and similar respective places.

5. SC Development Department- (1) Prematric Hostels of the respective places.

(2) The post of Block Extension Officer (his services should be made available to all Grama Pnchayats in the Block

6. ST Development Department - Tribal Extension Officer (his services should be made available to all Grama Panchayats in the Block)

7. Health Services Department (Allopathy) - Block level Primary Health Centre/Community Health Centre, Taluk Hospitals/Government Hospitals.

8. Health Department (I.S.M.) - Taluk Hospitals of the respective places.

9. Health Department (Homeo) - Taluk Hospitals of the respective places.

C. Institutions and posts transferred to District Panchayats

1. Agriculture Department - (i) Two posts of Deputy Director and auxiliary posts.

(ii) The post of District Soil Conservation officer and auxiliary posts.

(iii)One Assistant Executive Engineer and connect posts.

(iv) Soil Testing Laboratory of the respective places.

(v) Mobile Soil Testing Laboratory.

(vi) District Sales Counter

(vii) District Agriculture Farm/Coconut nursery (These institutions which are transferred to District Panchayat should serve other districts also where such institutions do not exist).

2. Animal Husbandry Department - Veterinary Polyclinic, ICDP area office, Mobile Veterinary Dispensary, Mobile Farm Unit, Clinical Laboratories not attached to District Veterinary Centres. (the services of mobile units and clinical laboratories should be extended to urban areas also)

3. Fisheries Department - The fisheries Schools of respective places.

4. Minor Irrigation Department - One section consisting of one Assistant Engineer and connected staff.

5. Industries Department - From the District Industries Centre, one Manager post and connected staff.

6. Rural Development Department - One post of Assistant Development Commissioner and the District Women's Welfare Officer and Auxiliary staff.

7. General Education Department - (i) The Upper Primary Schools and High Schools of the respective places.

(ii) One Section from the Deputy Director's Office.

8. Technical Education Department - (i) Tailoring and Garment making Training Centre of the respective places.

(ii) Tailoring Trade Centres of the respective places.

9. Co-operation Department - One post of Assistant Registrar and one post of Clerk.

10. Public Works Department - One division consisting of Executive Engineer and auxiliary staff. (from among Local Works Division, Special Division, Building Division).

(Later the District Hospitals were transferred to the District Panchayats)

NB . Through follow-up government orders, majority of beneficiary oriented welfare and development schemes were transferred to the PRIs. Of special interest is the fact all the centrally-sponsored anti-poverty programmes including SGSY, IAY, and EAS have been fully transferred to them. Likewise all the pension/social assistance Schemes - for the Destitutes and Old aged, Handicapped, Widows, Agriculture Labourers, Unemployed - are implemented by the Grama Panchayats.

D. Institutions and posts transferred to Municipal Councils/Municipal Corporations

1. Agriculture Department - (i) Krishi Bhavans of respective places.

(ii) One post of Deputy Director of Agriculture. (this post should be under the Municipality of District headquarters but his services should be extended to all Municipalities of the District).

2. Animal Husbandry Department - The Veterinary Polyclinic, Sub-centre, Dispensary of the respective places.

3. Fisheries Department - One post of Fisheries Sub Inspector. (to the Municipalities wherever necessary)

4. Industries Department - One post of Industries Extension Officer.

5. Health Services Department (Allopathy) - Community Health Centres, Government Hospitals, Taluk Hospitals of the respective places.

6. Health Department (I.S.M.) - Taluk Hospitals of the respective places.

7. Health Department (Homeo) - Taluk Hospitals of the respective places.

8. General Education Department - Government Primary Schools and High Schools of the respective places.

9. Co-operative Department - One post of Senior Co-operative Inspector (this post should be under the Municipal Council of District Head Quarters and the concerned officer will attend to the works in all the Municipalities of the District.)

  Copyright 2003 by Information Kerala Mission , A-23, Jawahar Nagar, Thiruvananthapuram - 695041, Tel:-91-471-2313835,
  Economic Review
  Spatial Planning : Scope of Kerala's Experiment in People's Campaign for Decentralised Planning - Srikumar Chattopadhyay
and P.V. Aniyan
  Decentralisation and Health
  Moving the State - Patrick Heller


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