Kerala is one of the few states in the country considered to have taken serious efforts in transferring powers to Local Self Government (LSG) institutions for strengthening the decentralisation process. The high rate of urbanisation in the state calls for powerful LSG institutions in urban areas. More than 47 per cent of the state’s population live in urban areas. In such a scenario, institutions such as municipalities and corporations have an important role to play, as most of the urban issues can be best handled at the local level.
Even though the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994 entrusts the municipalities and corporations in the state with a list of functions, the institutions are not able to execute them efficiently. The Act, while laying down the provisions, gives the State Government overriding powers over LSG institutions. The operations of para-statal agencies in the domains of work parallel to LSG institutions lead to overlapping of powers, weakening the decentralisation process in the state.
The financial position of the municipalities and corporations in the state is very weak; they are highly reliant on grants from the Central and State Governments. The own revenue has only a meagre share in the total receipts of these institutions. While there is a large scope to increase the own revenue, the provisions in the Kerala Municipality Act giving excessive power to the State Government hinder its growth.
The municipalities and corporations in Kerala are functioning in a restrictive setting. The result is that they are unable to exercise the powers that are transferred to them. The paper aims at analysing the above issues and suggests measures to strengthen the process of decentralisation in Kerala.
This study was conducted by Deepthi Mary Mathew (Research Associate, CPPR) and D Dhanuraj (Chairman, CPPR)
Click here to read the study: Defending Decentralisation in Kerala: Probing the Autonomy of Kerala’s Urban Local Bodies