Anupama V. Chandra,23 May:The need for providing capacity building support to elected (PRI) representatives and officials working on local governance process has been emphasized in many state and national forums. A 3-day National Convention of Chairpersons of District and Intermediate Panchayats was held recently in Delhi in which around 8000 delegates from 26 States & UTs participated.
This include around 1500 women representatives. On this occasion, two reports were released. ‘The State of Panchayats: 2007-08, was released by the Prime Minister while ‘Study on Elected Women Representatives in Panchayati Raj Institutions’ was released by the UPA Chairperson Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. The Study reported that imparting training emerged as a critical determinant of the performance of elected women representatives. A large proportion of women who received training were found to have performed better. Hence, it recommended that training should not only be made mandatory for all elected representatives, but it should also be organized regularly, covering multiple dimensions including rules and regulations, administrative issues, budgeting and finance and the implementation of development schemes. The key rationale for capacity-building training is:
· Given the existing social inequalities, it is imperative to help particularly the women, scheduled caste and scheduled tribes fight the disadvantages and enable them to participate in the local government processes with confidence. The training and capacity building initiatives will not even out the terrain, but can equip the participants to better navigate through it and expand spaces for democracy and equality.
· Keeping in mind the fact that a majority of entrants to local government system continue to be first time entrants, there is a strong need to recontextualise their skills, and experience, equipping them with appropriate information and updating their knowledge base.
· Locating the local government system within the spirit of the 73rd amendment, capacity building efforts are also required to be able to create a cadre of local leadership that is capable of transforming the conditions of inequality and injustice within which much of the country still lives.
At the same time, for most of the government officials, the concept of devolution is new. Decentralisation and devolution require different ways of working, and they need training to re-orient their attitudes and perspective so that they can enable effective local government functioning. Decentralisation as in devolution of both authority and powers, has been considered to be necessary for poverty reduction, for enhancing participation of marginalized groups, and for ensuring greater ownership and accountability at local levels. The impetus for decentralization that is pushed by multilateral and bilateral institutions assumes largely that if the necessary technical conditions are met, participation and accountability will happen on their own. However, other scholars and activists working on the issue of governance as well as feminist writing and thinking have challenged the notion of decentralization as just a technical rearrangement of institutions of the State. Indeed there exists a whole body of experience around gender mainstreaming in institutions, which establishes that for any institutional arrangement to be prioritizing gender sensitive agendas and processes, there needs to be much more in place than just the appropriate institutional mechanism. Thus, the expectation that the presence of women, scheduled caste and scheduled tribe members would automatically lead to a transformation of development agenda, needs to take into account the fact that there need to be other conditions as well for any significant change to happen. The need to build appropriate perspectives, particularly in the Government bureaucracy, from top to bottom is a critical expectation from the capacity building process.
A Case Study: Kerala
The Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) is an autonomous institution under the Kerala Local Self Government Department set up in 1990 to facilitate training, research, documentation and consultancy in the area of local governance. Along with training and action research, KILA organizes seminars, and workshops of national and international character on various issues on decentralization. It is the regional Resource Centre for the southern states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Recognizing the changes taking place in all spheres of life – economic, political, social and technical, Kerala has a comprehensive training policy for different segments of the people. The training and capacity building efforts of KILA are designed to ensure coherence and support towards the overall Kerala Development Plan. KILA works very closely with both local bodies and the State Government. The feedback received from the participants of the various programmes helps in formulating policies by the Government. The activities of KILA are geared towards achieving the overall Kerala Development Plan. It works closely with different parts of the whole system and offers training courses of a wide variety targeted to a range of groups.
Decentralised Training: Working group members of local governments, Technical Advisory Committee members and Technical Committee members are covered through a range of trainings conducted in a decentralized manner at regional, district and block levels. In 2003-04, 1,36, 080 functionaries were trained.
Training Course for Elected Representatives: KILA conducts a ten-month course on decentralized governance to enable the elected representatives to rise above narrow political considerations and discharge the duties of elected representatives effectively. It is designed as a correspondence-cum-contact programme consisting of field studies and research work. After the successful completion of the course the trainees get inducted as master trainers and technical advisory committee members at various levels.
Course on Decentralised Governance: KILA organizes a National Level course on decentralized governance once every two months, which provides opportunity to learn more about the functioning of local bodies in Kerala. Policy makers, officials and elected members of various States of India participate in this programme regularly. It also runs an International Course on Decentralisation. Elected representatives and officials from SAARC countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh have so far attended this programme.
Panchayat to Panchayat: There are at least 200 beacon panchayats in Kerala which have introduced innovative programmes. In order to inspire and familiarize other panchayats who may be lagging behind for lack of ideas or capacity, seminars, workshops and exposures are organized in the leading, well performing panchayats.
Off Campus Training: Several training programmes are conducted off the campus and in decentralized locations. These include the working group training; technical advisory committee training; Technical Committee training; Gram Sabha training; Training for new accounting system; Training for tribal sub-plan.
Trainer’s Training: Training programmes for trainers for all the above courses are organized. Apart from these, there are training programmes for media persons, political party leaders, for officials and members of civil society.
KILA has actively collaborated with other national and international agencies for active involvement in deepening local governance. These include: UNDP, UNHABITAT, UNESCAP, SDC, HUDCO, Human Settlement Management Institute (HSMI), National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), All India Institute of Local Self Government (AIILSF). It has also been able to raise adequate resources required for its efforts.
Learnings: Kerala offers a very unique and enriching experience from where many learnings can be drawn. Some Highlights:
· Training and capacity building activities are far more effective when they are within a comprehensive framework that addresses all the components of the system. Training just sarpanch or ward-panch or just ZP members will not come to fruition unless all functionaries of the Local Governance System as well as concerned officials are addressed.
· Kerala is also one of the very few States to have addressed the issue of mainstreaming training on Local Governance by initiating courses and certified course at different levels.
· The KILA training efforts are comprehensive in that they link up with other parts of the State’s development machinery. The training efforts are closely co-ordinated with the State Development Plan, thus laying a broad context and purpose. The PRI functionaries are thus able to develop a vision for their relevant communities.
· Finally, Kerala has demonstrated that in order for training and capacity building to meet its overall purpose, there needs to be an institutional framework that is well resourced, both financially