GOVERNMENT OF KERALA
OF PANCHAYAT RAJ IN KERALA
73rd Amendment HISTORY
rather slow in enacting the concomitant legislation in
accordance with the Constitution. It was at the eleventh
hour that the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 was brought
into effect. This Act was basically a mixture of the provisions
of the old Kerala Panchayat Act and the provisions of
the Constitution. The only significant feature was the
provision that the Government shall, after the commencement
of the Act, transfer to PRIs all institutions, schemes,
buildings and other properties connected with the subjects
listed in the respective schedules dealing with these
elections to the three tier Panchayat Raj set up were
held in September 1995 and the Panchayats came into being
on the 2nd of October. A significant event
was the issue of a comprehensive government order in September
1995, transferring various institutions and staff to the
three tier PRIs (see Annexure I). Another noteworthy event
was the budget of 1996 which had a separate document known
as Annexure IV, which detailed the grants-in-aid, and
the schemes transferred to the local bodies. Thus the
allocation for the local bodies was seen as an independent
subset of the State Budget giving it the stamp of legislative
approval and protecting it from the vagaries of executive
a change of Government in May 1996 and the Left Democratic
Front Government embarked on a policy of massive decentralisation.
Two landmark events in enlarging and deepening the process
of decentralisation need to be mentioned. First is the
launching of the People's Planning Campaign on 17th
of August, 1996. This was spearheaded by the State Planning
Board in partnership with the Department of Local Administration
(now appropriately renamed as the Department of Local
Self Government), with the full association of political
parties, non-government organisations, professionals and
elected members. It went beyond a government sponsored
programme and soon assumed the nature of a movement resulting
in an alliance of all those who reposed faith in decentralisation.
It succeeded in harnessing public action for participatory
planning at the grass roots level and created not only
a favourable environment for genuine decentralisation
but also built up a powerful demand for radical reform
in the legislative, administrative and developmental systems,
thereby helping to formalize and institutionalise the
paradigm shift to a people-centered, bottom-up approach
to planning and development giving a direct and continuing
role to the people.
the Committee on Decentralisation of Powers under the
late Dr. S.B.Sen was set up. The Committee laid down clear
and coherent first principles in its inception report
in August 1996 and they have been accepted as the guiding
light of government policy. Later the Committee on Decentralisation
of Powers interacted closely with the People's Planning
Campaign and this synergy resulted in recommendations
for basic restructuring of laws of local government. These
recommendations were incorporated in to the Kerala Panchayat
Raj Act in February 1999, providing the legal foundation
for healthy and accountable institutions to local self-government.
These and further recommendations of the Committee (still
popularly known as the Sen Committee) have contributed
immensely in institutionalising the gains of People's
Planning Campaign into a solid foundation for local self-government.
vision about decentralisation.
as it is being attempted in Kerala is not a political
fad or an ad hoc gesture of tokenism or an administrative
ritual. It is informed by a rare clarity of vision about
the nature of local governments and the process of empowering
them. This vision is best captured in the words of the
Committee on Decentralisation of Powers:
What is Local Self Government?
is essentially the empowerment of the people by giving
them not only the voice, but the power of choice as well
in order to shape the development which they feel is appropriate
to their situation. It implies maximum decentralization
of powers to enable the elected bodies to function as
autonomous units with adequate power authority and resources
to discharge the basic responsibility of bringing about
"economic development and social justice". It
is not enough to formally transfer powers and responsibilities
to the LSGIs. They have to be vested with the authority
to exercise them full which requires concordant changes
not only in the appropriate rules, manuals, government
orders and circulars governing development administration,
but also in the conventions, practices and even, the value
premises of the governmental agencies. Decentralisation
does not mean just deconcentration where a subordinate
is allowed to act on behalf of the superior without any
real transfer of authority, or delegation where powers
are formally conferred on a subordinate without any real
transfer or authority. It implies devolution where real
power and authority are transferred to enable autonomous
functioning with the defined areas.
in its true sense would be democratic decentralisation.
With the constitutional recognition accorded to Grama
sabhas and Wards Committees, the necessary condition for
genuine participatory democracy has been created. The
greater the involvement of these people's bodies and the
more effective their functioning, the fuller would be
the realization of the objectives of LSGIs. So power should
flow through the elected bodies and its members to the
people and should not be blocked at any level, as power
ultimately belongs to the people and it is only legitimate
that it is handed over to them.
would facilitate exercise of legitimate and legal authority
by the people and the elected bodies. It should put an
end to the various extra-constitutional power centres
influencing the development process at the grass roots
level. Often power is seen, felt and recognized by its
abuse at times, arbitrary discretionary exercise of power
is found attractive. Power denotes separation and distance
from the powerless and is distinguished by typical symbols
and trappings. It is not this 'power' that is to be transferred
to the LSGIs. It is the power to build capabilities increase
production reduce inequalities and promote harmony that
is to be vested in them a facilitative power. Development
is basically enhancing the capabilities of people and
enlarging their choices.
transfer of power has to be more in the vertically downward
direction that in the horizontally sideways direction.
In other words, the powers of the State to bring about
development are to be handed over to the LSGIs and not
just the powers now exercised by the functionaries of
the State at the corresponding level. Horizontally, the
power to decide what to be done, how to be done, and the
priorities of doing, will move to the elected institutions.
The officials will retain their professional power to
advise but they have to act as per the decisions of the
elected bodies. The role of the departments henceforth
would be, not to take decisions by themselves, but to
help the people to take decisions and then carry them
out. Their professional role would expand while their
administrative role would shrink.
is a process and cannot be achieved in one stroke. It
has to undergo a continuous process of redefining, adapting
and adjusting. So it is essential to closely monitor the
working of the new system and to take measures to improve
it as and when required.
of Local Self-Governments.
principles should govern the transfer of functions and
powers to the LSGIs and their exercise by them. The salient
among them are explained below:
- The SLGIs should be left to function freely and independently.
Government supervision should be limited to the obligatory
and regulatory functions of the LSGIs. In development
matters only national and State priorities and general
guidelines need be indicated to help them take their own
decisions. Of course autonomy does not mean sovereignty.
A multi-level exercise of developmental functions implies
the existence of a sphere of independent action at each
level, a sphere of co-operative and co-ordinated action
a sphere of delegated agency function and a sphere of
guidance from above, in the descending order of magnitude.
has three basic aspects:
to be assigned clear functional areas with the required
resources staff and administrative infrastructure and
enabled to raise resources and to take independent decisions
and implement them. Autonomy implies that various levels
of LSGIs especially the Panchayats should not be seen
as hierarchically organized with one unit controlling
the others below it. However there is need for active
co-operation, co-ordination, complementation and integration.
These could be attained by an interactive process of consultation
and the system should be so designed as to facilitate
such a process.
- It means what can be done best at a particular level
should be done at that level and not at a higher level.
If this principle is applied, the process of transferring
functions and powers should start from the level of the
Grama Sabhas and Wards Committees and go up to the Union
Government. Only residual functions need get allotted
to the higher level.
clarity. This would govern the exercise of
autonomy. Decentralised development implies unity of vision
and diversity of means. This calls for a clear perception
by the various levels of their role in the developmental
process so that the sub-systems can support each other
and do not work at cross-purposes. There must be clarity
at the conceptual and operational level about what each
tier of local self-government can do in each area of development.
Of course neat divisions are not possible nor are they
desirable. Yet functional clarity should be there. Only
this can facilitate proper devolution of powers, their
creative exercise and a meaningful monitoring of the whole
This is closely related to the principle of role-clarity.
While functions should not be overlapping and repetitive
they should merge into an overall unity through a process
of horizontal integration. This would mean that the activities
of higher levels should complement those of the lower
levels and the programmes implemented by all agencies
in a given LSGI would be consistent with local needs and
priorities and would converge into an integrated local
This implies that the norms and criteria for selection
of beneficiaries sites or prioritization of activities
and pattern of assistance within a given LSGI would be
the same for all programmes implemented within its area
irrespective of the agency sponsoring such a programme.
participation. It is necessary to involve the
people fully particularly those sections hitherto excluded
from the development process. And participation should
not be limited to mere information giving or consultation
or contribution or even seeking prior concurrence. It
would reach the level of empowering the people to take
their own decisions after their analysing their situation.
Genuine participation is not the same as mobilization.
provide the institutional structure to facilitate participatory
of seats for women Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
in the various LSGIs is meant to ensure greater participation
of vulnerable sections in the process of development.
People's participation should be there in all stages of
a development programme right from identification of a
need and formulation of a scheme through its planning,
implementation, operation and maintenance as well as monitoring
and evaluation phases. The Grama Sabhas and Wards Committees
are ideal vehicles for promoting direct decision-making
and mobilizing local resources in cash, kind and labour.
The LSGIs are accountable to the people within
their jurisdiction and in certain respects, to the whole
nation. The accountability to the people is not to be
left to the elections alone to be settled. There has to
be provision for continuing social audit of the performance
of the LSGIs in the Grama Sabhas and Wards Committees
as well as by special groups. The accountability to the
nation can be ensured through objective audit both concurrent
Every decision taken has to be based on norms and
criteria evolved on the basis of social consensus and
the rationale behind each decision has to be made public.
There should be freedom to the people to know every detail
of how money is going to be spent, before a scheme is
taken up and how it was spent, after its completion. The
procedures and the language of the administration need
to be demystified and made people-friendly."
economy had been facing severe constraints to growth since
mid '70s. In fact the economy of the State was being kept
afloat mainly from remittances from abroad, particularly
from the Gulf countries. The sharply adversarial political
relations in the State further complicated the economic
problem. It was in this context that decentralisation
was recognised as a probable way to break the impasse.
Seen again this background the objectives of decentralisation
could be summarised as follows:
1. To improve
the quality of investment by allocating resources for
priorities fixed by the local people.
2. To facilitate
emergence of local solutions to developmental problems
through improved planning, better implementation, use
of traditional knowledge and appropriate technology etc.
3. To exploit
local production possibilities.
4. To enable
people's participation leading to better vigil in execution
of schemes followed up with better upkeep of assets.
5. To provide
the enabling environment for people to make contributions
in kind and cash for development programmes identified
by them for priority action.
6. To bring
about a convergence of resources and services to tackle
development problems with greater vigour.
7. To unleash
public action resulting in a demand led improvement in
the delivery of developmental and welfare services.
In the process
of realising these objectives it was felt that it would
lead to a new politics of development emerging out of
dialogue and consensus rather than conflict and collusion
and help forge a realistic approach to development based
on a clearer understanding of problems and issues at the
creation of Institutions of Local Self Government.
are certain peculiar Socio-political features, which need
to be clarified for a clear understanding of Panchayati
Raj in Kerala. First is the relative size of the three
tiers. The Grama Panchayats (990 Nos) are very large in
size their distribution according to population
(1991 census) is as follows:
Below 10,000 -
10,000 to 20,000 -
20,000 to 30,000 -
30,000 to 40,000 -
40,000 to 50,000 -
50,000 to 60,000 -
60,000 to 70,000 -
Above 70,000 -
(It is interesting
to compare this with the Municipalities (55 Nos) of Kerala.
Less than 20,000 -
20,000 to 30,000 -
30,000 to 40,000 -
40,000 to 50,000 -
50,000 to 60,000 -
60,000 to 70,000 -
70,000 to 80,000 -
Above one lakh. -
several implications. It provides the natural right
size for several development services, especially
viable service areas for PHCs, Veterinary Hospitals, Krishi
Bhavans and so on. Of course it makes it difficult for
direct participation by people for the whole village and
the problems can be surmounted only by limiting it to
the ward level -i.e. the constituency of a Grama
Panchayat Member. With large village Panchayats and relatively
compact Districts (14 Nos), it becomes difficult to earmark
exclusive functions for Block Panchayats (152 Nos.) which
they alone can perform better than others.
the rural-urban continuum, which exists in the settlement
pattern in Kerala. This is reflected in the functional
responsibilities of rural and urban local bodies. PRIs
especially the Village Panchayats have several civic and
regulatory functions and the municipal bodies have several
developmental and welfare functions.
feature is the influence of the political milieu. All
elections are fought on party basis and there is considerable
polarization in the political composition of local governments.
This had led to the policy decision to treat PRIs as non-hierarchical
i.e., the District Panchayat has no control over
Block or Village Panchayats. This arrangement while it
keep the system free of political victimisation and strengthens
local government autonomy and instills a sense of responsibility,
creates operational problems in monitoring, reporting,
financial supervision, passing down of information and
even in integration of plans across tiers.
Legal Framework of the Panchayat Raj System.
Panchayat Raj Act particularly through the amendments
brought about in 1999 has several innovative features
laying a strong legal foundation for building up strong
local self government institutions. The salient features
are described below:
Kerala model of decentralisation aims at empowerment of
the people particularly the common man. It envisages power
flowing to the people through the Panchayat Raj Institutions,
which are to serve as a vehicle for participation. The
policy aims at giving not only voice to the people but
the power of choice as well. Though Kerala does not have
traditional villages which are natural sociological units
marked by a compact spatial cluster of settlements with
a social pattern in their lay out. It has made a bold
attempt to induce people's participation by creating a
fourth tier in the form of Grama Sabhas equated with the
electoral constituency of a Village Panchayat Member,
as all the electors of the Ward are members of the Grama
Sabha. In the modern period, meetings of the village have
been very rare and what is now being attempted is a kind
of Socio-political engineering to create an entirely new
set up for direct democracy. It is because of this that
the Kerala Act dwells at length on the powers and responsibilities
of the Grama Sabha so that these fledgling institutions
are able to develop with a clear idea of their role. The
powers of the Grama Sabha as defined in the Act are :
A. Powers, functions and rights of the Grama Sabha,--
(1) Grama Sabha shall, in such manner and subject to such
procedure, as may be prescribed, perform the following
powers and functions, namely:-
(a) to render
assistance in the collection and compilation of details
required to formulate development plans of the Panchayat;
(b) to formulate
the proposals and fixing of priority of schemes and development
programmes to be implemented in the area of Village Panchayat;
(c) to prepare
and submit to the Village Panchayat a final list of eligible
beneficiaries in the order of priority relating to the
beneficiary oriented schemes on the basis of the criteria
(d) to render
assistance to implement effectively the development schemes
by providing facilities locally required;
(e) to provide
and mobilise voluntary service and contribution in cash
or in kind necessary for the development plans;
the location of street lights, street or community water
taps, public wells, public sanitation units, irrigation
facilities and such other public utility schemes;
(g) to formulate
schemes to impart awareness on matters of public interest
like cleanliness, environmental protection, pollution
control and to give protection against social evils like
corruption, illicit and clandestine transactions;
(h) to promote
harmony and unity among various groups of people within
the area of the Grama Sabha and to organise arts and sports
festivals to develop good-will among the people of that
(i) to monitor
and render assistance to the beneficiary committees engaged
in the developmental activities within the area of the
(j) to verify
the eligibility of persons getting various kinds of welfare
assistance from the Government such as pensions and subsidies;
(k) to collect
information regarding the detailed estimates of works
proposed to be implemented in the area of the Grama Sabha;
(l) to make
available details regarding the services to be rendered
and the activities proposed to be done by the concerned
officials in the succeeding three months;
(m) to know
the rational behind every decision taken by the panchayat
regarding the area of the Grama Sabha;
(n) to know
the follow up action taken on the decisions of the Grama
Sabha and the detailed reasons for not implementing any
of the decisions;
(o) to co-operate
with the employees of the village panchayats in the sanitation
processes and rendering voluntary service for the removal
(p) to find
out the deficiencies in the arrangements for water supply,
street lighting etc. within the area of the Grama Sabha
and to suggest remedial measures;
(q) to assist
the activities of parent-teacher associations of the schools
within the area of the Grama Sabha;
(r) to assist
the public health activities especially prevention of
diseases and family welfare, within the area of the Grama
(s) to perform
such other functions as may be prescribed from time to
Grama Sabha shall, in its ordinary meeting or in a special
meeting convened for the purpose, discuss the report referred
to in sub-section (6) of section (3) and it shall have
the right to know about the budgetary provisions, the
details of plan outlay, item-wise allocation of funds
and details of the estimates and cost of materials of
works executed or proposed to be executed within the area
of the Grama Sabha.
Audit report or the performance audit report placed for
the consideration of the Grama Sabha shall be discussed
in the meeting and its view, recommendations and suggestions
shall be communicated to the concerned Village Panchayat.
quorum of the Grama Sabha shall be ten percent of the
number of voters of its area and the procedure for convening
and conducting meetings of the Grama Sabha shall be such
as may be prescribed:
that the quorum of the meeting of a Grama Sabha which
was adjourned earlier for want of a quorum shall be fifty
when convened again.
officers of the Village Panchayat shall attend the meetings
of the Grama Sabha as may be required by the president
and an officer nominated by the Village Panchayat as the
co-ordinator of the Grama Sabha shall assist the convenor
in convening and conducting the meetings of the Grama
Sabha and in recording its decisions in the Minutes Book
and also in taking up follow up action there on.
Sabha may appoint, elect or constitute, general or special
sub-committees for the detailed discussion on any issues
or programmes and for the effective implementation of
the schemes and its decisions and in furtherance its rights
that such committees shall consist of not less than ten
members of whom not less than half shall be women.
may be passed on majority basis, in the meetings of the
Grama Sabha in respect of any issue within its jurisdiction,
however, effort should be made to take decision on the
basis of general consensus as far as possible.
beneficiaries are to be selected according to any scheme,
project or plan, the criterion for eligibility and order
of priority shall be fixed by the panchayat subject to
the terms and conditions prescribed in the scheme, project
or plan and such criteria shall be published in the manner
prescribed and intimated to the Grama Sabhas.
priority list prepared by Grama Panchayat after inviting
applications for the selection of beneficiaries and conducting
enquiries on the applications received, shall be scrutinised
at the meeting of the Grama Sabha in which the applicants
are also invited and a final list of the deserving beneficiaries,
in the order of priority, shall be prepared and sent for
the approval of the Grama Panchayat:
that the village panchayat shall not change the order
of priority in the list sent by the Grama Sabha for approval."
assigned by the Act are:
Responsibilities of Grama Sabha.- (1) The Grama Sabha
shall have the following responsibilities, namely:-
of information regarding developmental and welfare activities;
in and canvassing of programmes of Health and Literacy
and such other time bound developmental programmes.
essential socio-economic data;
feed back on the performance of development programmes;
to moral suasion to pay taxes, repayment of loans, promote
environmental cleanliness and to maintains social harmony;
local resources to augment resources of the panchayat;
development activities as volunteer teams and
arrangements for reporting urgently incidence of epidemics,
natural calamities etc.
Grama Sabha shall make periodical reports to the village
panchayats in respect of matters specified in section
has only a very small tribal population (just about a
percent of its total population) it provides for separate
Grama Sabhas for tribals wherever their population is
50 or more in a ward. Such Grama Sabhas have the same
powers and responsibilities of the general Grama Sabhas.
of functional domains. The 11th Schedule of
the Indian Constitution actually does not carve out the
functional domains of local governments. It only lists
developmental areas where such local governments could
have a role in planning for economic development and social
justice and in the implementation of such plans. Unlike
many State Acts, Kerala has attempted to define the functional
areas of the different tiers of PRIs as precisely as possible.
In areas related to infrastructure and management of public
institutions, the functional differentiation is sharp
and clear, but in productive sectors it is difficult to
clearly earmark functions separately for each tier. Only
through experience can the natural functional area in
such sectors get marked. There is a clear recognition
that there is a role-range for local governments
Agent, Adviser, Manager, Partner and Actor with
the objective being to reduce the agency role and expand
the autonomous actor role. The Kerala Act classifies
functions as mandatory functions, general functions and
sector-wise functions. The functions assigned to the three
tier Panchayat Raj Institutions are given in Annexure
System. All Village and Block Panchayats have three Standing
Committees and the District Panchayat five Standing Committees.
The Standing Committees are constituted in such a way
that every Member of the Panchayat gets a chance to function
in one Standing Committee or the other. Each Standing
Committee is assigned certain subjects and these Committees
are expected to go into the subject areas both at the
planning and implementation stage in great detail.
purpose of co-ordination a Steering Committee is constituted
consisting of the President and Vice President of the
Panchayat and the Chairpersons of Standing Committees.
In addition, there are Functional Committees for different
subjects which can include experts and practitioners and
the Panchayats are free to constitute Sub Committees to
assist the Standing Committee or Functional Committee.
There is also provision for constitution of Joint Committees
with neighbouring Local Governments.
by Government. The amended Kerala Panchayat Raj Act drastically
reduces the powers of direct governmental control over
Panchayat Raj Institutions. While Government can issue
general guidelines regarding national and State policies
it cannot meddle in day to day affairs or individual decisions.
The Government can cancel resolutions of the Panchayat
only through a process and in consultation with the Ombudsman
or Appellate Tribunal according to the subject matter
of the resolution. Similarly a Panchayat can be dissolved
directly by government, only if it fails to pass the budget
or if majority of its members have resigned. In all other
cases a due process has to be followed and the Ombudsman
has to be consulted before dissolution takes place. This
is a unique feature which does not exist even in Center-State
up of independent institutions. In order to reduce governmental
control and in order to foster the concept of self government,
the Act provides for creation of independent institutions
to deal with various aspects of local government functioning.
They are listed below:
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.
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.
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
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
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.
of the elected body. The President of the Panchayat Raj
Institutions has been declared as the executive authority.
The senior most officials of various departments brought
under the control of the Panchayat Raj Institutions have
been declared as ex-officio Secretaries for that subject.
The Panchayats have full administrative control including
powers of disciplinary action over its own staff as well
as staff transferred to it. In order to ensure a healthy
relationship between officials and elected Members, the
Act prescribes a code of conduct, which lays down certain
directive principles of polite behaviour, respect for
elected authorities and protection of the freedom of the
civil servant to render advice freely and fearlessly.
governance features. In order to promote people's participation
and make the PRIs agents of good and responsible governance,
certain special features have been laid down in the Act.
There is a chapter on right to information. The Act mandates
publishing of a Citizen's Charter by every PRI describing
clearly the entitlements of a citizen vis-à-vis a Panchayat
with respect to the quality and standards of various services
rendered by the Panchayats.
FEATURES OF RELEVANCE
a separate Act Kerala Local Self Government
(Prevention of Defection) Act, 1999 (Act 11 of 99)
- dealing with defection in Local Governments. Defection
is punishable by termination of Membership of a local
government and barring from contesting election for six
years. The State Election Commission is the authority
to decide on such disqualification.
path breaking step to broaden the legal entitlements of
local governments is the decision of the Government to
amend 44 Acts which deal with subjects which have some
thing to do with the functions allotted to local governments.
The list of Acts for which the amendments have been cleared
is kept as Annexure III. (Formal amendments are to be
made in March 2000). These amendments are again based
on the recommendation of the Committee on Decentralisation
of Powers. The rationale behind the amendments as stated
by the Committee in its report submitted to Government
in October 1997 is very relevant and needs to be quoted.
sum, the objectives governing the proposed amendments
which essentially create the necessary legal frame work
for the smooth functioning of the third tier of governance
are the following:
functional domains more clearly;
by removing contradictions;
to meet present requirements;
a supportive legal framework for exercise of local government
new institutions and systems.
amendments it is expected that the Local Governments would
emerge as a well-defined tier in Government working more
as a partner than as a subordinate functionary. It is
also hoped that this legislative exercise would be a trend-setter
for the future when the local government implications
of most of the legislations would be significant and would
have to be taken into account in the legislative process.
has also made a far-sighted recommendation. This recommendation
is to be operationalised by the Legislature. Now every
Bill when it is presented to the Legislature has to be
accompanied by a financial memorandum enabling the Legislature
to know the financial implications of the provisions of
the Bill. On this analogy the Committee on Decentralisation
of Powers has suggested that in future all Bills should
be accompanied by another memorandum dealing with the
local government implications of the proposed legislation.
This would help the Legislature to take a balanced view
and take precautions against the powers listed out by
one legislation being taken away by another legislation
through general notwithstanding clauses.
planning. As mentioned earlier decentralised local level
planning has been used as the engine for harnessing public
action in favour of decentralisation. In order to shake
the system and force the process, a campaign approach
has been followed. This campaign has succeeded in setting
the agenda for decentralised development.
Planning Campaign has succeeded in providing a concrete
methodology for participatory planning for local level
development. The roots of the methodology can be traced
back to an experiment carried in Kalliassery Panchayat
of Kannur District in the early 90s. In 1996 it was modified
and adapted for large-scale application. The salient features
of this methodology are described below, stage by stage.
identification: Through a meeting of Grama Sabha,
the felt needs of the community are identified. There
is a period of environment creation to mobilise maximum
participation in the Grama Sabha. Statistics reveal that
about 10 12 % of the rural population has participated
in the Grama Sabhas held as part of the People's Planning
Campaign. The Grama sabha meetings are held in a semi
structured manner with plenary sessions and sub group
sessions dealing with specific developmental issues. The
decisions are minuted and forwarded to the Panchayats.
analysis: Based on the demands emanating from the
Grama Sabha and based on developmental data, both primary
and secondary, exhaustive Development Reports have been
prepared and printed in the case of every Panchayat Raj
Institution in the State. These reports describe the status
in each sector of development with reference to available
data, analyse the problems and point out broad strategies
for further development.
setting: Based on the Grama Sabha feed back and the
Development Report, a one day seminar is held at the PRI
level in which participation of experts, elected members,
representatives nominated by Grama Sabhas, practitioners
from among the public is ensured. The development seminars
decide the broad priorities and general direction of developmental
projects to be taken up for a particular year.
The ideas thrown up by the above three stages are translated
in the form of projects by Task Forces at the PRI level.
For each PRI there are about 12 Task Forces dealing with
different sectors of development. Each Task Force is headed
by an elected member and is convened by the concerned
government official. The Vice Chairman of the Task Force
is normally a non-government expert in the sector. The
projects are prepared in the suggested format outlining
the objectives, describing the benefits, explaining the
funding and detailing the mode of execution and phasing
of the project.
finalisation: From among the projects based on the
allocation communicated, the concerned PRI finalizes its
plan for the year and this plan is submitted to the DPC
through the Expert Committees.
vetting: The Expert Committees at the Block and District
level vet the projects for their technical viability and
consonance with the government guidelines on planning
and costing and forward them to the District Planning
approval: The DPC gives the formal approval to the
plans after which the PRI can start implementation. It
is to be noted that the DPC cannot change the priority
of a PRI. It can only ensure that government guidelines
are followed. Administrative approval for implementation
is given project-wise by the PRI. Every PRI has unlimited
powers of Administrative sanctions subject only to the
limits of its Financial resources.
noteworthy feature of the decentralised planning process
is the freedom to plan and prepare projects according
to local priorities for which a huge grant-in-aid, practically
untied, is evolved to the PRIs. The only restriction on
the PRI is that they have to spend at least 40% on the
productive sector meaning agriculture and allied
activities, industries, self-employment etc., and not
more than 30% on infrastructure. A general stipulation
that 10% of the funds have to be spent on women development
projects is also there. The Special Component Plan/Tribal
Sub-Plan component for each local government is indicated
clearly. Also upper-limits subsidy for beneficiary oriented
schemes is stipulated by the Government largely in consultation
with the PRIs. Thus one third of development schemes in
the State are conceptualized, formulated and implemented
by local governments.
feature of the People's Planning Campaign has been the
effective capacity building efforts taken up. In the first
year a cascading system of training was introduced to
enable quick outreach to the cutting edge level. About
600 Key Resource Persons (KRPs) were identified at the
State level both from Government and outside representing
various disciplines. At the district level about 10,000
District Resource Persons (DRPs) and at the local government
level about 100,000 Local Resource Persons (LRPs) were
selected. All the DRPs and LRPs and a good number of KRPs
were selected by the Local Governments themselves from
government officials, professionals and activists. The
massive training programme ensured that at the level of
the Village Panchayat, there would be nearly 100 persons
sensitized on the objectives and methodology of decentralised
planning. These Resource Persons took active part in spearheading
the campaign as well as intervening in critical stages
of the Plan preparation and implementation cycle.
to fortify and simplify the training system in the second
year, handbooks on various development sectors were prepared
by expert panels and circulated widely among the local
governments and Resource persons. These handbooks outline
the problems and possibilities of the sector and contain
model projects, which can be adapted according to local
needs. Sixteen such handbooks were prepared.
focus is on strengthening the capacity of the Task Forces
on various sectors. Institutions like Medical College,
Agricultural University, Centre for Water Resource Development
and Management (CWRDM) etc., are being utilised to provide
high quality technical training to members of Task Forces
in their respective disciplines. In addition, local governments
which have evolved successful models are now utilised
to train fellow local governments by exposing them to
the models evolved.
training programmes are getting consolidated and institutionalised
around the Kerala Institute of Local Administration, one
of the few institutions of that kind existing in the country.
It was set up by pooling the funds of various Village
Panchayats and Municipal bodies and this institute is
perceived as one owned by the local governments and has
excellent credibility in reaching out to them. The experience
from the training programmes is being utilized to strengthen
the Kerala Institute of Local Administration which is
expected to grow into a national centre of excellence
for capacity building for local governments.
of PRIs. Only the Village Panchayats are given the power
of taxation. The establishment cost of Block and District
Panchayats are met by a non-plan grant-in-aid from Government.
The major taxes levied by Village Panchayats are Property
Tax, Profession Tax, Entertainment Tax and Advertisement
Tax, the last one practically not exploited. The assigned
taxes by the State Government consist of Land Revenue
and Surcharge on Stamp Duty and the shared tax is the
Motor Vehicle Tax. The per capita collection/share of
these taxes for the year 1998-99 in Grama Panchayats is
Tax :: Rs.20.4
Tax :: 11.3
Tax :: 3.2
on Stamp duty :: 16.5
Tax :: 16.3
the tax base of the Grama Panchayats is quite good. The
Kerala Panchayat Raj Act provides for levy of user charges
and also availing of institutional finance by Panchayat
Commission. The first State Finance Commission was constituted
in May 1994 and it gave its report in February 1996. This
Commission did not have the benefit of knowing the full
extent of decentralisation as powers were transferred
only in September 1995 and even this was a general transfer
and did not clearly indicate the quantum of responsibilities
assigned to local governments. However, the Commission
did commendable work in analysing the resource mobilisation
aspect in local governments and suggested fundamental
changes to ensure rationalisation and to control tax evasion.
Some of the salient recommendations of the Finance Commission
accepted by Government are :-
basis of calculation of property tax, which was hitherto
relatively subjective assessment of rental value, has
been changed to the transparent system based on the plinth
area of the building assessed.
(b) A provision
has been made for assessing entertainment tax based on
tickets sold or on gross collection capacity.
profession tax slabs have been rationalised and enhanced.
Land Revenue has been doubled and the additional revenue
generated is being divided among the Block Panchayats
and District Panchayats.
licence fees prescribed in various rules have been enhanced.
(f) A rural
pool has been constituted by merging various grants in
aid formerly given to the village panchayats and adding
25% of the surcharge on Stamp duty to it.
has been given to the local governments to utilize non-plan
grants for the purpose decided by them.
Vehicle Tax Compensation has been fixed at 20% of the
television has been brought under entertainment tax.
(j) A new
provision for service tax as an independent tax has been
in allocation of grants has been removed.
(l) In order
to ensure prompt payment of dues to local governments
a 2% penal interest per month has been stipulated for
Chief Secretary has been made as statutory authority to
give annual reports to the Governor showing the quantum
of statutory and non-statutory grants due to local governments
and the amount actually paid to them.
Finance Commission recommended one per cent of the net
revenue of the State to be devolved to local governments,
the Government went far beyond and decided to devolve
35 to 40% of the Plan Funds to local governments. The
details of grant-in-aid from Plan to the PRIs is given
IN AID TO PRIs
(In crore rupees)
||S. M. VIJAYANAND
State PLANNING BOARD & SECRETARY (PLANNING &
ECONOMIC AFFAIRS) GOVERNMENT OF KERALA