International Conference on Democratic Decentralisation: A Synopsis
The International Conference on Democratic Decentralisation held from 23-27 May 2000 at Thiruvananthapuram under the auspices of Kerala State Planning Board was a major intervention in the process of decentralisation that is being carried out in the State of Kerala. The overall perspective which is guiding the process has two specific dimensions: one with regard to the devolution of powers and the other with regard to decentralisation of planning. While decentralisation of the planning process is reported to have been very successful in the State, there were doubts about the success made in the area of devolution of powers. There were also several other points within the so-called successful experiment in People's Planning which require additional policy and analytical assessment. All these were aimed to be undertaken at this conference which took place on the beginning of the final year of the 9th five year plan.
Such an effort evidently has to be on a massive scale. The sessions of the Conference were attended by distinguished academicians, officials and practitioners. The National Seminar on Local Self-Government Institutions was attended by Ministers and Secretaries of Local Administration from various states. The participants in the academic sessions included C. P. Chandrasekhar, Peter Evans , Jayati Ghosh, I. S. Gulati, Rajan Gurukkal, John Harriss, L. C. Jain, George Mathew, R. V. G. Menon, Surjya Kanta Mishra, M. A. Oommen, M. P. Parameswaran, Prabhat Patnaik, K. N. Raj, A. Vaidyanathan, Erik Olin Wright. The public seminars were attended by over 2700 decentralisation campaign activists and volunteers from various civic organisations. The give and take that went on between people from different backgrounds was the most exciting part of the Conference.
The Conference cannot claim to have made a definitive statement about the exciting process that is currently going on. However, the possibility that it brought forth to have a deep and honest look which will help future policy as well as mobilisation was an important achievement of the Conference. The fact that, true to the spirit of democratic decentralisation, the Conference also threw up perspectives from different quarters is really commendable.