Kerala’s comrades come up with a new version of People’s Plan

Kerala’s comrades come up with a new version of People’s Plan

The decentralized People’s Plan, which earned both kudos and brickbats and was seen as one of the most radical steps taken by the Left regime in Kerala in 1996 since land reforms, is back.

This time around, there is marked shift in focus and enhancement of rural production with agriculture set to get priority, along with economic development of local areas and uplift of the rural poor, all part of an effort to have at least 40% of the 11th Plan funds reach the grass roots level for productive purposes, said Paloli Mohammed Kutty, the state’s local administration minister.

The earlier People’s Plan was focused on asset creation at the local bodies’ level. Though it attracted agencies such as the World Bank as an experiment in decentralization where locals were involved in decisions about their localities and had a say in development activities, there were charges of spreading corruption and fund diversion.

Those allegations contributed to the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) coming back to power in 2001.

The UDF government then rechristened the scheme as Kerala Development Plan, but made little headway in local development.

The shift in focus this time appears to stem from lessons from the past where asset creation—better roads in rural areas, new buildings for schools, community centres and water supply schemes—were initiated, but areas such as agricultural production took a back seat. During the first People’s Plan, 35% of funds from the 9th Plan outlay was set aside for programmes such as drinking water projects and other infrastructure development schemes.

Paloli has said Kerala will follow the People’s Plan approach during the current 11th Plan, with at least 40% of the Plan funds being utilized for productive sectors.

The maximum amount that can be spent for infrastructure sectors is 20% of the total funds and 15% for maintenance and repair of existing assets.

The government will also have 10% of the funds for programmes for women and 5% for the welfare of destitute people. The remaining share can be utilized for the service sector.

The government has earmarked Rs8,404 crore in the 11th Plan for local self-government bodies.

Besides, they will also get another Rs1,920 crore as maintenance grant and Rs1,600 crore as general purpose grant.

Some political observers see the People’s Plan as a plank for an apparent show of unity in the faction-riddled Communist Party of India (Marxist), which has run into problems because of infighting.

The CPM is hoping the new plan would help jumpstart the government’s efforts to increase its popularity in the state.