Research Studies in Progress

1)Study on Agricultural Stagnation in Kerala and Local Level Planning

The Kerala economy, while showing an admirable performance at present in terms of overall growth, is characterized by a general stagnation in agriculture associated with a substantial deceleration in area under and production of food crops. It is in this background that agriculture was given a major focus in the developmental schemes of the local level planning in the State. However, the experience of the decentralized planning so far indicates that its impact on the productive sectors leaves much to be desired. It needs a detailed enquiry as to why several successful experiments in a few villages have not been able to push the agenda of agricultural development wider to halt the decline in a substantial way. It appears that while the planning exercises attempt to address the immediate problems facing agriculture, there is a need to understand the agrarian problem in a more comprehensive manner in order to address the problems more systematically in future. The proposed study is an attempt to carry out such an exercise.

2)Study on Rural Labour Market in Kerala and the Rural Productive Sectors

The stagnation or decline of agriculture and other rural traditional production activities has been identified as a major challenge facing the Kerala economy. This has been a leading issue in the formulation of local level plans under the scheme of decentralized planning. The shortage of labourers for farm work has been often raised as a reason for the decline of agriculture in the State. In Kerala, we see a very complex system of rural labour market characterized chiefly by high wage rates and the paradox of labour scarcity amidst labour surplus. This situation cannot be analysed fully with the help of the conventional demand-supply framework. There have been several initiatives like formation of labour groups (called haritha sena, labour banks etc.,) under decentralized planning to augment labour supply for farm activities. Such efforts were also supplemented with collective programmes for mechanization of farm activities like ploughing, transplanting, weeding, harvesting and threshing wherever possible. However, the problem of labour shortage in various rural activities still remains a serious issue. A deeper understanding of the problem, with its nature and reasons and the regional specificities, is needed to tackle this serious issue in a comprehensive way. The present study is an exploration in this direction.

3) Decentralizing Development and Governance: Lessons from Well Functioning Panchayat Raj Institutions in Kerala

The study is intended to take stock of the functioning of the new Panchayat Raj in Kerala since the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution of India. The overall objective is to assess the process of institutionalization of a third tier of government in terms of its achievements, problems and challenges. This objective is sought to be operationalised by focusing on the well-functioning Village Panchayats in the State. The study also intends to draw lessons from successful local government experiments with the help of a thorough documentation and analysis of such experiments. The output of the study is expected to be a useful guide and reference material for LSGs in the State as well as outside.

4) Working of an Exclusively Tribal Gram Panchayat

This is a study on the functioning of a Gram Panchayat populated exclusively by a single tribal community. The Panchayat Raj experiment started in this village only a year and a half ago. The study will focus at the initiation problems, how the idea of an exclusive tribal gram panchayat is received by different sections of the society and the bureaucracy, resistance if any, co-operation or non co-operation from various governmental and semi-governmental agencies etc. The study will also attempt a comprehensive benchmarking of the present status of the self-governance of the Panchayat so that it will be of immense use for future research in the area.

5)Impact of Middle Classisation of Kerala Society on Local Development

The study is intended to assess the participatory trends in the local level development, particularly the involvement of the middle class in the development process. It will examine the extent of participation of the middle class population in the formation of local plans and how the different sections among the middle class look at the issues which concern developmental priorities and help mould the direction of local development. The study will analytically look into the attitude of the middle class to the emerging participatory democracy and the grass root level planning of developmental activities.

6)A Study on Commuting Workers in Kochi City.

This is an urban study aimed at assessing the urban planning problems in the context of large numbers of workers commuting to the city for various jobs facing obviously inadequate urban facilities such as public transport, public health and sanitation facilities etc. The study will analyze the different dimensions of the problems of the commuting workers employed in the commercial and industrial establishments in Kochi city. The study is expected to be a guide to urban planning in the city.

7) Residents’ Associations- Do they make a bridge between the civil society and the local self government institutions? A case study of Thiruvananthapuram

A study aimed at analyzing the functioning of the residents’ associations in Thiruvananthapuram. The study will assess whether such associations can bridge the gap between the people and the local governments and identify the possible of such organizations in local level planning and development.

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