(A retired NRI with over 35 years overseas life experience)
As an overseas Indian from Kerala, I realised that Kerala’s and India’s development have been slow, erratic and imbalanced. During the last years of my working life, I tried to find an efficient governance model for the fast socio-economic development of my native state Kerala and my motherland India. My first discovery was Singapore, the most successful city of the 20th century. Its system of ‘Meritocracy’ is very efficient and highly productive; it made a city of superlatives. Singapore’s institutionalisation is worth emulating. But, the small city-state’s authoritarian and restrictive rule is not practical in Kerala and India.
On further search, I discovered ‘Porto Alegre Innovation’. The Brazilian city of Porto Alegre was bankrupt in 1988, spending 96 percent of its revenue for salaries and routine expenses – no funds for development projects! On pressure from local NGOs, the new Workers Party Mayor Mr. Olivio Dutra, together with the NGOs, devised and introduced a yearly cyclic Participatory Budgeting (PB) Process in 1989. This PB process evolved into world’s most systematic, very flexible and highly efficient proceess for fast, comprehensive, equitable and sustainable socio-economic development. Thru this process, Porto Alegre became Brazil’s city with the best quality of life in 12 years! Thus, the process became world famous as ‘Porto Alegre Innovation’!
It is simple and decentralised at the bottom level. Its flexibleility, people centred process etc make it suitable and acceptable to any village, town or city in any country. The well defined, self-improving and adapting process spread in Brazil and outside. In addition to about 300 communities in Brazil, more than 1200 communities in over 40 countries like Argentina, Chile, China, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, UK, USA etc are adapting the PB process! But, most are doing simple versions of PB! The innovative PB is a real panasea for socio-economic ills. Only a close study will reveal the ‘Angels in Details’ and provide the specifics, which if adapted can transform Kerala and India very fast.
Dr Geoge Mathew
Institute of Social Sciences
New Delhi 110070
The 33 km. drive from Srinagar to Nagam block, Badgam district in the summer goes through beautiful landscapes. The apple groves welcome you, but the village roads are pathetic, no maintenance. My mission was to meet the villagers of Karkpura ward, Shakarpura Halqa Panchayat where Hassina was killed on 15 April during the second phase of the 2011 Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Hassina’s eldest daughter, son, sisters and neighbours welcomed us with tears in their eyes. The elections were scheduled to be held on 17th April. On 15th night about 10 o’clock, Hassina (45) was preparing to sleep. Her dream was to win the seat. But seven men knocked at her door, pulled her out and shouted at her: how dare you contest the elections? Withdraw from the poll. Hassina agreed. But they wanted Hassina to make statement to that effect before the Numberdar. She refused, but they forced her to walk in the dark to the village headman’s residence with her son. Midway through, the seven men disappeared and she was shot dead by a person who was hiding nearby. Why did she contest the panchayat elections? Hassina was suffering from extreme poverty; her husband had deserted her. Her friends and neighbours convinced her that if she contested the panchayat election and won, that would be the best way to overcome her miseries. Hassina is no more. Her dream also died with her. She had dared to fight the panchayat elections, a legitimate democratic aspiration. I was eager to meet her rival candidate Taja. This 65 year old woman was very disturbed. The same night Hassina was killed, five men went to her house as well and physically abused her, they swore vengeance if she defied their diktat.
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Dr. P.P. Balan
Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA)
Mulagunnathukavu P O, Thrissur – 680581
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Fifteen voters from each Community Development Blocks of Kupwara, Budgam, Kangan, Qoimoh Samba and Udhampur in the Jammu and Kashmir regions were interviewed on the day of first phase of Election. In addition to this, government officials who were involved in the election process were interviewed. Discussions were also conducted with the Chief Electoral Officer, representatives of the media and political parties.
After a decade of gap, election to Panchayat Raj Institutions has been held in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Unlike in the 2001 elections polling percentage turned out to be relatively good. Vote percentage of 2001 election was very low leaving nearly half of the seats vacant. In spite of 1/3 of reservation for women, the state was able to fill only 6% of reserved seats. It is important to say that in case of many seats, there was not even one contestant. The militant and separatist groups called for boycotting the election and disturbed the election process in many places in Jammu and Kashmir.
Polls to the local governments were not held in 2006 in Jammu and Kashmir due to security concerns. However, elections this year gives an entirely different picture. Panchayats Election was conducted in sixteen phases starting from13th of April. This process ended on the 8th of June. Over 50 lakh eligible voters participated in the electoral process to elect 4130 Sarpanches[i] (2164 in Kashmir and 1966 in Jammu) and 29,719 Panches[ii] (15,959 in Kashmir and 13,760 in Jammu). There are 143 Block Panchayats (77 in Kashmir and 66 in Jammu) and 22 District Panchayats in state went for polls.
The Panchayat election was held in the backdrop of a boycott call by some of the separatists groups who burned down some Panchayat Ghars[iii] and attacks on some political party activists which even went up to the murder of a woman candidate. The murder of Moulana Showkat Ahmad, president Jamiat-e-Ahliadees (JeA) in an improvised explosive device near Maisuma mosque in Srinagar created chaos in the valley just before the first phase of election