Decentralisation of Power Enabled Local Bodies to Deal with Covid-19: Kerala CM

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Decentralisation of power under the people planning campaign has enabled local self government institutions in the state to deal with the challenges posed by the COVID pandemic and ensure the health and food security of the populace, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Tuesday. Speaking on the occasion of the silver jubilee of the People Planning Campaign, which began in 1996, the CM said democracy does not make sense just by voting and electing a government every five years, rather people should be able to intervene in the exercise of power. He said that the Kerala model of decentralisation was unique in the country as under it one-third of the state budget was handed over to the local bodies with full planning authority.

Decentralisation was not limited to the transfer of power, but financial powers and funds were also transferred and as a result the local bodies were able to "think and plan more broadly beyond the goal of regional development".As a result of this empowerment, local governments, in coordination with the state government, were able to prevent catastrophic floods, deal with natural disasters and fight the COVID pandemic.

He said that urban planning needs to be implemented with a broader vision by taking into account the environment as well as catastrophic floods and the pandemic affected more than just one area. Vijayan further said that one of the major benefits of the people planning campaign was the social housing scheme. "Two and a half lakh new houses have been constructed as part of the Life Housing Scheme, which aims to ensure that not a single homeless person is left in the state. This activity continues even under this government. There are still those who approach the government for life housing." "More sponsorship needs to be mobilised for this. The operations of the missions will be further enhanced by utilising the potential of information technology. Deficiencies in the monitoring system in the past will be addressed," he said.He said that a large number of people are unemployed in the state and therefore job possibilities at the local level need to be explored for the full and effective utilisation of this workforce.

"Jobs can be created in manufacturing, industrial and service sectors, including agriculture, and through startups. Attempts to create new possibilities are emerging," he said.Another issue he referred to was rural drinking water which he said would be available in all households in the state soon and would be the outcome of the decentralised planning process.

"Another notable achievement of decentralisation and people planning was the formation and growth of Kudumbasree. Kudumbasree has become one of the largest self-help groups working with local bodies for women empowerment and poverty alleviation," he said.Decentralisation is an important factor which is fast making Kerala a poverty-free state, he added.

He also said that while the government was striving to ensure the quality of public services and upgrade them in a timely manner, the reality was that "it is not available to the people as we envisioned." "This is why people are forced to rely on the private sector," he said.He said that participation of the youth in people's planning activities should be ensured as more than anyone else, they can apply new knowledge and technology to the development issues of the country.

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