Saturday, August 13, 2011

Role of Grama Sabhas in local planning stressed

by Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It is time that the grama sabhas shed their lethargy and live up to the demands of participatory planning as the state gears up for the 12th Five Year Plan. This was one of the major suggestions mooted by experts in the field of local governance during a workshop on `Rethinking the methodology of participatory planning in Kerala’ organised by Centre for Development Studies at the CDS seminar hall on Thursday.

Inaugurating the seminar, Planning Board vice-chairman K M Chandrasekhar said that the state had achieved a steady per capita growth. However, there had been no development on the agricultural front. Though the services sector and the tourism sector have registered good growth, the small and medium industrial sector which had good scope in Kerala were still neglected. The same was the case with infrastructure development, Chandrasekhar said.

The concept of a District Plan is yet to gain momentum. To achieve greater momentum, it is necessary to have better expertise in local bodies in prioritising plans and mobilising and utilising resources. The local bodies should play an integral part while formulating the 12th Five Year plan which will begin in 2012, Chandrasekhar said. Academic institutions like CDS and KILA must help the panchayats in the process, he said.

Moderating the morning session, economist M A Oommen said that it was time to reassess the development experience of local bodies over the last 16 years when decentralised planning had been in vogue in the state. The strengthening of planning process must begin from the grama sabhas. Whatever be the new methodology adopted, the participatory mode in the planning process must not be abandoned, he said. Participants like Anil, Trichur District Panchayat Development Standing Committee chairman, Prathapan, vice-president. Kerala Grama Panchayat Association, and social activist K Bhaskaran were of the opinion that the mode of working of grama sabhas must be changed.

Bhaskaran said that a statutory body must be put in place as a grama sabhas where the initial planning had to be initiated. Prathapan said that the concept of preparing a draft plan and taking it to the grama sabhas for discussion must change. Grama sabhas should instead be the place where planning must take place. Many participants at the workshop felt that it was necessary to work out ways to strengthen grama sabhas.

Participants, which included elected representatives of local bodies, officials, scientists and economists, were of the view that procedural snags were delaying the process of local planning. The bureaucratic intervention, the myriad government orders and the long-winding planning procedures at the local level were barriers to smooth planning methodology, they said.

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