Decentralisation and Governance

Since the 1990s when the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Indian Constitution came into force, decentralisation and local governance have been crucial to questions of welfare and development in India. This coincided with an interest in developing planning from below in ways that deepened democracy in Kerala, and with accelerated urban expansion in Kerala and elsewhere. Also, the coming of decentralised democracy meant the expansion of opportunities for women, both in the elected local bodies through reservations and in self-help groups. Research at CDS has followed these processes from different disciplinary perspectives and different methodological perspectives. Major projects that focused on local level development since the 1990s have been carried out. Studies have ranged from changing institutional structures of local governance, welfare programmes and redistribution, social security, infrastructural development, to local government finances. The Research Unit on Local Self-Government at CDS has been carrying out research on agriculture and local self-government and on environmental challenges in urban areas. Gender has been a key theme in research on local government at CDS. This has included research on elected women leaders in Kerala’s rural and urban local bodies, gender budgeting in panchayats, and the state-wide network of women’s self-help groups under the Kerala State Poverty Alleviation Mission, the Kudumbashree. Recent work includes research into the opportunities opened by decentralisation for women of the most marginal communities in Kerala and the ways in which these women have availed of them. A small but significant theme that is emergent is about the challenges in urban governance in a rapidly-urbanizing Kerala. Studies on urban housing schemes implemented by local governments are ongoing.