Steps in Decentralized Planning in Kerala

1 What is Planning?

Planning is a process in public governance that analyses the situation, identifies the needs, sets the priorities, allocates the resources and fixes the targets for achieving the pre determined objectives. A plan must be a realistic account of the expectations. Preparation of a comprehensive plan may not guarantee success, but lack of a sound plan will almost certainly ensure failure.
The objective of the plan can be increasing production, establishing public facilities, creating job opportunities, reducing disparity among different sections of people, enhancing capacity of citizens, redressing of physical inabilities, improving knowledge level of the population or so. The process of prioritization is used in different components of planning such as need identification, choosing focus areas, allocation of resources, fixation of targets etc. Success in planning depends on how the planner can use prioritization skill and strategically use the developing and critical sectors in enhancing the economic development. Proper sequencing of components and strategic timing are other elements that make planning a success. A plan should reflect economic aspects of sustainability, spatial perspective for fair distribution of benefits and public policy concerns for reducing inequality.
Decentralised plan here refers to the plan of the local governments at the sub-state level at the district or below. Decentralised planning is an integral component of national planning that complement each other. It is nothing but participatory process plan formulation by the local governments as part of the national and state level planning.

1.1 Peoples Planning Campaign

The much acclaimed decentralised planning in Kerala started under a campaign called Peoples Plan Campaign (PPC) launched in 1996. It was a pioneering movement towards decentralised planning and governance at the sub-state level.

Under the campaign, the government took the process of decentralised local planning as the initial entry point to spearhead an all pervading local government reform in the state. It was thought that the decentralised planning under PPC should focus on reducing Kerala's dependence on food grains from outside and making each panchayat self-sufficient in the production of vegetables, fruits, fish, meat and eggs. It was as well believed that gram sabhas, the people’s assembly at the ward level, could play a major role in resolving a number of contentious issues that affect the production process. People’s planning is probably the most radical development that has taken place in Kerala in the recent past.

 In order to break the initial inertia, the campaign started with high-voltage publicity and by  involving all stakeholders in it. The campaign later moved on to the staggering phase of institutionalization and succeeded in evolving a concrete methodology for participatory planning and development at the sub-state level for the first time in an Indian state. But neither the Campaign nor the institutionalization process was without problems or threats against its long term sustenance. The process of decentralized planning is ongoing in the State in some form or other.

2 Steps in Decentralised Planning

Kerala follows a multi-stage decentralised plan formulation process that has tremendous de-bureacratisation potential. The different stages adopted and found successful in this decentralized planning are environment setting, situation analysis, need identification, vision setting, plan formulation, projectisation, plan vetting, plan approval and plan implementation. Each stage has a few sub-components too.

2.1 Environment Setting

 Creation of Working Groups and making them functional for setting the plan process move on, are the twin items coming under this.

Constitution of Working Groups

In Kerala, it was made mandatory for each local government to constitute Working Groups for the sectors, as listed below, at the beginning of every Five Year Plan.
The first activity towards situation analysis is the constitution of Working Groups for important development sectors in Local governments. The local governments have the freedom to constitute as many Working Groups as required in addition to the following mandatory ones.

Mandatory Working Groups

The mandatory working groups are :-

  1. Watershed Management including Environment, Agriculture, Irrigation, Animal Husbandry, Dairying, Fisheries and related sectors.
  2. Local Economic Development other than agriculture including local industries, promotion of private and community investment and mobilization of credit.
  3. Poverty Reduction including housing
  4. Development of Scheduled Castes
  5. Development of Women and Children
  6. Health
  7. Water Supply and Sanitation including Solid Waste Management
  8. Education, Culture, Sports and Youth
  9. Infrastructure
  10. Social Security including care of the aged and disabled
  11. Energy
  12. Governance Plan

 The Local Governments having allocation under Tribal Sub Plan will have to constitute a separate Working Group for Development of Scheduled Tribes, in addition. In Urban Local Governments, the Working Group on Poverty Reduction would look after the Slum Development sector too.

Working Group: Its Structure

Each Working Group will have an elected member of the Local Government as its Chairperson. The Working Group on Development of Scheduled Castes should be chaired by an Scheduled Caste Member and the Working Group for Women and Children by a women member. The Working Groups on Watershed Management and Anti Poverty Sub Plan should be headed by the Chairperson of the concerned local government.  A leading expert in the sector, who is nominated by the local government has to function as the Vice-Chairman of each Working Group. The Convener of each Working Group in the local government should be the senior most official devolved to the local government in that sector. Other professional officers and    Experts capable of contributing to the functioning of Working Groups can be included  in the Working Groups as members. The experts from outside the local government jurisdiction who are willing to work voluntarily in the Working Group can also be included. In short any practitioner or professional showing interest and activism in the sector can be included in the Working Group.
At least one member of the Community Development Society of the Kudumbashree should be included in each Working Group and two should be there in the Working Groups on Poverty Reduction, Development of Women & Children and Development of Scheduled Castes. Scheduled Caste Promoters should be nominated to every Working Group.  The Working Group has the power to co-opt more member to its fold and to set up Task Forces to perform any task devolved on to it.

Working Group Meeting: Procedure

The Working Group has to meet as frequently as possible and keep a brief record of its deliberations. The quorum for the meetings shall be four including the mandatory presence of the Convener. It should be ensured that representatives of commercial banks participate, in the Working Group on Watershed Management and on Local Economic Development, to the extent possible in order to ensure the bank loans for plan projects. In Local Governments having the Forest areas, officers of the Forest Department and the Presidents & the Secretaries of Vanasamrakshana Samithies shall be inducted into the Working Group on Watershed Management.

2.2 Situation Analysis or Status Assessment

Preparation of status report for every Sector

Survey of existing resources, analysis of situation, and exploration of development potential come under this. Each Working Group will have to prepare a development status report for each sector with the following items of content for the purpose:

  1. List of schemes taken up in the sector in earlier Five Year Plans by the Local Governments.
  2. Key indicators of physical and financial achievements of the above schemes.
  3. A comprehensive list of beneficiaries of the plan projects for earlier plans in the local government
  4. A list of assets created during earlier plans.
  5. List out major schemes implemented in the sector by Government or other agencies within the Local Government. area
  6. The database relevant to the sector from all available secondary sources
  7. A note on issues in the planning, implementation and monitoring aspects in the last ten years.
  8. Preparation of development problem matrix for different wards or areas in the local government.
  9. A note on key issues facing the sector, existing gaps, local potential for development in the sector, strategies for addressing the issues and achieving the potential for development.
  10. Potential projects - for Plan and Maintenance Plan

Methodology for Working Group Report Preparation

The Working Group may verify records, conduct field visits, discuss with selected beneficiaries of previous scheme, interact with key stakeholders, conduct surveys or make studies, for the preparation of the working group report.  The Working Groups should maintain frequent interaction or sharing among the key members so as to bring about cross-sectoral linkages but should not remain as watertight compartments.
It is necessary to use services of all officials devolved to the local governments in the functioning of respective Working Groups. A framework of the Working Group Report was also developed in the form of  a template to serve as a guide in the preparation of the report. Working groups shall continue to work even after the preparation of annual plan till the final stage of plan implementation.
.The Working Group reports containing a microcosm of the plan set the basic framework for local development. The working group reports will be acceptable to people in the next stages, if they are in tune with the people’s perception.

2.3 Need Identification 

Identification of the needs of the people is the next step in the process. The need identification encompasses a wide range of consultations and consolidation of ideas. It starts with holding of stakeholders meeting for gathering their needs.

Consultation with Stakeholders

The next component is holding of consultations with key stakeholders in each local government as enlisted below:

  1. Farmers and agricultural workers
  2. People engaged in industrial activities and services (both traditional and modern) including workers
  3. All the Area Development Societies
  4. Headmasters and key PTA office bearers
  5. Anganwadi workers and Mothers’ Committee Chairpersons
  6. All Hospital Management Committee members of the Government Hospitals within the Local Government (of all three streams) and key medical professionals within the Local government from the NGO and private sector.
  7. Youth Clubs, youth organizations and activists and functionaries of the literacy and library movements, eminent persons in the field of arts and culture and representatives of disabled groups.
  8. Vanasamrakshana Samithies and environmental activitists.
  9. Political parties and trade unions.

Citizens consultation : In the Gram Sabha / Ward Sabha

The basic purpose of this meeting is to gather development needs. Before holding the meeting of Grama Sabhas / Ward Sabhas there would be sufficient environment creation and information dissemination by using the media. Six Facilitators consisting of three women nominated by the Area Development Society of Kudumbashree and one woman and two men identified unanimously by the Local Government concerned should be trained for and involved in each Grama Sabha/ Ward Sabha. The agenda for discussion in the Gram Sapha /Ward Sapha should be a semi-structured questionnaire type one covering key development issues within the Local Government as a whole. After the plenary session the participants should divide into break-out groups based on development sectors for deeper discussion and assemble in the summing up session to consolidate the discussion in all the breake-out groups.. 
In the discussion, the Grama Sabhas / Ward Sabhas would be asked to list out development priorities ranked in the descending order of preference. In the case of infrastructure like roads, buildings, irrigation schemes, water supply schemes, electrification the Grama Sabha/Ward Sabha should put forth norms for prioritization of beneficiaries for the whole Village Panchayat/Municipality/ Corporation. The Gram Sabha/Ward Sapha should prepare suggestions on maintenance of assets separately.
The following records shall be collected and maintained by the Secretary of the local government to ensure strict compliance of the instruction.

  1. Photographs
  2. Attendance register showing details like House No., address, age, whether male or female, whether belonging to SC, whether belonging to ST, occupation etc.
  3. Record of discussions of breakout groups on development needs
  4. Recommendations of the Grama Sabha/Ward Sabha in a consolidated form

In the case of Block Panchayats, Grama Sabha like sessions would be held with all elected members of Village, Block and District Panchayats within their jurisdiction; in the case of District Panchayats this exercise would be limited to Standing Committee Chairpersons of Grama Panchayats and elected members of Block Panchayats and the District Panchayat.

2.4 Goal or Vision Setting

Every plan should be based on a development vision derived after wide discussion and consultation.

Preparation of Vision cum development Report

Next step is preparation of a two-part document Vision and  Development Report prepared by a team consisting of officials and resource persons based on the outputs from the Working groups and grama sabha meetings held as above. The report may appear like the City Development Plan under JNNURM.  The District Panchayats would not have a separate Development Report and Vision Document. The District Planning Committee would prepare the Development Report and Vision Document for the whole district.
 The vision document would set the objectives, output or outcome of planning attempt. The Vision Document part would go beyond five years and give the vision of overall development of the Local Government as well as development in different sectors.
The Development Report would focus on the development situation in the Local Government in respect of different sectors along with an overall assessment of development based on all data available locally and collecting additional data required specially for the purpose. Development Report would summarise the strategies being followed in the local Plan, the key project interventions and their outcomes as assessed by the Working Groups and project beneficiaries.

2.5 Preparation of Draft Plan

Each Local Government would estimate the broad allocations for different sectors and call a meeting of Working Groups and arrive at a consensus on key strategies and priority of schemes.  The local government should set the priority sector or sectors for the entire plan periods or annually to synchronize the local plan with the state and national plan and to focus on building up necessary pre-requisites. This meeting should finalize the draft project proposals emerged from the Development Report. The draft Five Year Plan document should consist of the following chapters.

  1. Development scenario of the local government
  2. Efforts during the past ten years
  3. Success and failures
  4. Physical and Financial achievements and outcomes in the Ninth and Tenth Plan
  5. Strategic vision of the local government
  6. Summary of possible projects sector wise within each sector giving the existing scenario, the intended scenario, size of the gap and the intended phases of filling up of the gaps with monitorable targets - separately for Plan and Maintenance plan.
  7. Allocation of resources sub-sector-wise
  8. Write up on Anti-poverty Sub Plan and Destitute Plan, Women Component Plan, Plan for Special Groups and Special Component Plan and Governance Plan ­only very brief summaries.
  9. Maintenance Plan (summary only)
  10. Write up on credit linkages.
  11. Write up on integration.
  12. Write up on monitoring arrangements intended.

The Anti Poverty Sub Plan, Governance Plan, Maintenance Plan and wherever applicable, the Tribal Sub Plan should be separate documents with full details presented. 

Consensus Building in Development Seminar 

A Development Seminars of the local government as a whole would be held by involving the key representatives from different walks of life and professionals including two representatives - one male and one female - nominated by each Grama Sabha/Ward Sabha to evolve consensus on development strategy. The Draft Plan and Maintenance Plan would be discussed in these seminars through group discussions. The gist of the Development Report and Vision Document would be circulated. The Development Seminar would thus fine-tune the specific strategies to be followed and will fix the priority. Each Local Government should have a key development theme for the Plan as a whole or for each of the five years in relation to the broad themes for the district developed by the District Planning Committee.
The following records of the development seminar need to be maintained.

  1. Photographs
  2. Attendance Register showing details like house No., address, age, whether male or female, whether belonging to SC, whether belonging to ST, occupation etc.
  3. Record of discussions of breakout groups
  4. Recommendations of the Seminar

The elected Councils of local governments would meet along with key members of Working Groups and consider the suggestions and recommendations of the development seminar and make suitable refinement in the priorities, strategies and allocations.

Stakeholder Discussion for Plan Refinement

A second stake holder discussion of modifying the allocation for each sector, setting sectoral priority and other aspects on the basis of Gram Sapha consultation and Development Seminar Discussions need to be conducted.

2.6 Preparation of Detailed Projects 

The Working Groups would then prepare detailed projects in the prescribed formats by limiting the estimated expenditure within the pre-determined allocation. The project proposals should be submitted to a web based support system to ensure standardization, easy approval and consolidation at the State level.
The quality of projects is directly related to the quality of functioning of the Working groups. While preparing projects they should have a full understanding of the experience of last ten years. Working Groups would also be responsible for proper technical assessment in matters like suitable type of irrigation projects, mix of measures in watershed management, source sustainability in water supply programmes, technological and managerial soundness in sanitation projects etc. The Working Groups should give accurate assessment of cost as well as environmental implications of projects having such implications. The number of projects should be reduced significantly by completely avoiding small and low-impact projects and thin spread of resources.

2.7 Plan finalization & Submission for Approval

Plan finalization would be done by the Local Government. The following documents should be submitted along with the plan for approval by the District Planning Committee.

  1. The documents relating to the Grama Sabha/Ward Sabha, Working Groups and Development Seminar
  2. Two printed copies of the Development reports and two CDs.
  3. Prescribed expenditure statements for the Five Year Plan 2002-07.
  4. Eleventh Five-Year (2007-12) Plan Document.
  5. Master Plan Document on Watershed development
  6. Anti-Poverty Sub Plan
  7. Tribal Sub Plan (wherever applicable)
  8. Maintenance Plan
  9. Governance Plan
  10. Statistical Annexes
  11. Details of own revenue included in the Plan
  12. Resolutions of the Local Government approving the Plan Document Nos. 3 to 9 shall also be given in electronic form to be developed by IKM.

2.8 Plan Vetting

The Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs) created at the district and block level will vet the plans. TAGs are constituted at the district level for Block Panchayats and District Panchayat, at the Block level for Village Panchayats and at the Municipality/Corporation level for Municipalities /Corporation. The members are choosen from among the experts from departments, professional colleges, academic institutions, public/private sector organizations, NGOs, Bankers and from among retired personnel and practitioners as members. The District Collector would be the Chairman and District Planning Officer the Convenor and Secretary of district level TAG. The Secretary concerned, would be the Convener and Secretary of other TAGs. The TAGs should have sub groups for different sectors. The Chairpersons of TAGs other than the District and the Chairpersons and Conveners of sub-groups of all TAGs would also be decided by the DPC. DPC would also fix the quorum for the sub groups and it shall not be less than three including one non­official.

Functions of TAGs

The functions of the TAGs are:

  1. Ensuring that local government plans are in accordance with the mandatory guidelines issued by Government particularly in relation to investment ceilings for the broad sectors, subsidy limits, sectoral guidelines, priorities to various groups, ineligible categories for assistance etc.
  2. Ensuring that the plans are in accordance with prevailing technical guidelines.
  3. Verifying whether the costing is appropriate and the phasing is reasonable.
  4. Giving suggestions for innovative plans and integrated projects, which Local Governments may accept if they so desire.

The TAG does not have any power to change the priority determined by a  Local Government or to force a local government to take up a particular scheme or work. Any dispute regarding acceptance of a scheme at the Block / Municipality / Corporation TAG may be referred to the District TAG for decision. 
The TAG sub groups should go through every project in detail, visit sites if required and make suitable recommendations to the DPC. A checklist for vetting different kinds of projects would be incorporated into an electronic process of appraisal. In case the TAG identifies any problem with Local Government projects it should hold discussions with the elected head and the implementing officer concerned of the Local Government and sort out matters across the table. No plan, which does not have the required allocation for the mandatory schemes, should be forwarded to DPC.
The appraisal of projects by Technical Advisory Group should be done scrupulously to ensure quality of projects. The District Collectors can initiate penal action against those members of Technical Advisory Group who recommend projects without proper scrutiny.

The Local Governments would submit their plans in one lot to the Secretary of the TAG concerned and obtain receipt. The Secretary of TAG should conduct a quick preliminary scrutiny and then divide the projects among different sub groups of the TAG and pass them on to them for detailed scrutiny. The TAG shall not take more than 10 days for vetting the Plan of a local government.
The draft Plan of District Panchayat and Corporations are to be submitted to a State Level Technical Group after vetting by TAG. Technical Advisory Groups should submit a special report to the DPC on their general assessment of the quality of projects along with suggestions on improving the quality of implementation.

2.9 Plan Approval

The projects vetted by the Technical Advisory Groups should be considered in detail by the DPCs. Technical Advisory Groups may be asked to present their assessments before the DPC and a considered decision taken. DPCs should go beyond ensuring adhering guidelines to verifying whether the plans of local governments match with the priorities outlined in their vision documents as well as the district vision.  DPCs cannot give adhoc clearances or conditional clearances. If DPCs view that modification of a Local Government plan is necessary, discussion should be held with key representatives of the Local Government including the elected head. If there is a dispute that cannot be sorted out locally, the matter needs to be referred to the Decentralization Co-ordination Committee at the State level.
A summary of the approved plan in an electronic form containing details like allocation, implementing officer, physical targets, implementation charts etc., would be given to the office of the DPC for approval. An official order containing those details would be issued by the DPC. The order would be used for fund release by treasuries and monitoring purposes by the DPC.