Campaign for Democratic Decentralisation in Kerala
I. THE STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRATISATION
Democratic decentralisation is the process of devolving the functions and resources of the state from the centre to the elected representatives at the lower levels so as to facilitate greater direct participation by the citizens in governance. The basic principle governing the devolution of functions and resources should be that of subsidiarity:
what can be done best at a particular level should be done at that level and not at higher levels. All that can optimally be done at the lowest level should be reserved to that level. Only the residual should be passed to the higher levels. The different tiers while functioning in ways complementary to each other, should have functional, financial and administrative autonomy. The concept of democratic decentralisation proposed here also requires a movement beyond representative democracy. Appropriate institutions and opportunities but also necessary capabilities have to be created at the lower levels in order for ordinary citizens to participate in the decision making, implementation, monitoring and sharing of the benefits and responsibilities of governmental activities. Such popular participation would make the elected representatives continuously accountable to the citizens and would facilitate a transparent administration.
The description just presented closely corresponds with the principles of decentralisation enunciated by the Committee on Decentralisation of Power (popularly known as Sen Committee, after its late chairperson Dr. Satyabrata Sen) appointed by the Government of Kerala: autonomy, subsidiarity, role clarity, complementarity, uniformity, people's participation, accountability and transparency. The legislative and administrative changes that are being introduced in the state to empower the local self-governments have been guided
Professor, Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum, Kerala
Social Scientist, Vol. 29, Nos. 9 - 10, Sept - Oct 2001