This study investigates the decentralized water service delivery system in Kodur Gram Panchayat, Kerala.
|Community-managed rural water supply in Malappuram district, Kerala
|Year of Publication
|V. Chary, S, Jasthi, S, Uddaraju, S
|IRC, Administrative Staff College of India Hyderabad (ASCI)
The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments and the conformity of Panchayat Raj Act of 1994 and the amendments effected in 1999 provides the statutory frame work for creating functional, financial and administrative autonomy at the level of the third stratum of government in Kerala. Kerala has adopted a 'big bang' approach in transferring functions, functionaries and funds to local governments and the results are evident as Kerala is the frontrunner in the Devolution Index in India. Fiscal Decentralization initiatives in Kerala constitute a best practice with the State following the classical principles of devolving funds to Local Governments. Kerala was the first State in the country to set up a statutory Rural Development Board to raise funds from the market through debentures and channel them to Village Panchayats for commercially viable projects.
Village Panchayats have an average population of around 27000 which makes them viable units for public service delivery and for grass root planning. Panchayats emergence as institutes of selfgovernment or the third stratum of governance has resulted in high democratic functioning where citizens participate directly in the process of decision making.
Rural Water supply is substantially under the PRIs with the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) concentrating on larger schemes. Kerala Water Authority is an autonomous authority established for the development and regulation of water supply and waste water collection and disposal in the state of Kerala, India.
According to the Panchayati Raj Act, a request for a new scheme is put forward in a Gram Sabha (a meeting held at a ward level in Kerala, where a representative from each household is expected to participate in the decision making process concerning their ward). The Gram Panchayat considers this request and puts forward a proposal to KWA. The KWA prepares the technical detailed project report with financial component for implementing the scheme and passes this information to the Gram Panchayat. It is the responsibility of the Gram Panchayat to mobilize the funds for the scheme. Once the resources are pooled, the Panchayat deposits the money with KWA. KWA completes the scheme and hands it over to the Beneficiary Group. The Gram Panchayat also deploys an Engineer (or Overseers) from the Local Self Government Department (LSGD) to supervise and check the work in progress to ensure the quality of construction. The engineer and the overseers are permanent staff members with the Panchayat who have been transferred from Irrigation department.
Kodur Gram Panchayat in Malappuram district has been selected as a case to carry out the research.. The Panchayat has a population of forty five thousand seven hundred and twenty three (45,723). There are about 21 wards in this panchayat. The panchayat supports around 24 drinking water schemes. 3 schemes which serve more than 100 households (each) have been selected to carry out the research study. These schemes are – Keriparambu, Peringottupalem and Cheruparambu.
The Kodur Gram panchayat has been awarded an ISO 9001-2008 certificate. Number of standard tools and instruments for support are applied in a structured manner, for example all the proposals are applied and reviewed online (LSGD of Kerala has its own website and each panchayat has its own account. The fund transfer takes place only of the panchayat complies to all the requirements as stated in the proposal). Work is done systematically and effectively. Thus, the panchayat has become an institution of quality of service delivery to citizen and is intended to bring more professionalism in service delivery and administration.
The Panchayat has a number of communication channels that are well used for contact with the service providers it supports. All the operations are held at Gram Panchayat office. The secretary, ward members, other officers and support staff are easily accessible to the communities. One of the key areas where are service providers are totally dependent on the Panchayat is for fund mobilization. The Panchayat has spent around INR 6, 40,239 in 2014-15 towards water service provision.
The decentralization policy in Kerala has empowered the communities to operate and maintain their own water schemes efficiently. However, in case of major emergencies and natural disasters, the Beneficiary Groups are dependent on Panchayat to mobilize financial resources.