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Title: Kerala's experience with governance reforms : mismatched rhetoric and suppressed norms
Author: Gopinath, Deepak
ISNI:       0000 0004 2670 935X
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2009
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In contrast to other states across India, Kerala that is already at the centre of attention for its progressive approaches to achieving high levels of social development has been creating 'inclusive' forms of governance to involve communities and non-state actors, starting with the People's Plan Campaign (PPC) in 1996 and later with the Integrated District Development Plan (IDDP) in 2001. This was seen as a radical shift in governance practice in India given that the national governance framework does not talk about involving communities or non-state actors. This research set out to explore how governance reforms unfolded in Kerala and why, particularly in how the notion of 'involving more people' played out on the ground. The nature of this investigation required that an in-depth account of governance practices on the ground as well as the range of factors influencing such practices be revealed. As a result, this research examined what was happening in Kerala and why, by not only building on existing research on the PPC but also by extending this understanding to examine what has succeeded it. Thus, the study took a broader view of governance in Kerala by examining the challenges and constraints of the current governance practice, the IDDP as well as developed an understanding of how 'more people' were involved in relation to the PPC as well. Empirical findings reveal that actors identified in policy documents to be part of governance arrangements did not actually get involved in reality, for instance in how communities and non- state actors were merely 'consulted' in the lOOP and similarly how the levels of participation in the ppe were lower than the rhetoric might suggest. Secondly, although 'inclusive' forms of governance in Kerala since 1996 had talked about shifts in some aspect of governance from a central ('higher level') to a more spatially dispersed ('lower level') set of actors, evidence from the ground reveal the significance of strong 'central' control, though to a lesser extent in the IODP than in the PPC. Thirdly, it appears that how 'more people were involved' in both the current and previous governance practice, were shaped by people's understanding 'on who should be involved' and where elite individuals/groups were competing to define local norms for involvement, through the use of the notion of an 'enlightenment community', or 'those who are fit to ruIe'. This research provides a rich empirical understanding of the possibilities and constraints facing governance practice in Kerala. It also challenges the notion of governance in Kerala as being 'inclusive' and in doing so, revealed that local norms on governance are at work which are not reflected in policy documents. Thus, the findings in this study demonstrate that local culture affects how 'fashionable' prescriptions play out on the ground and that governance practice needs to be understood beyond 'a set of formal organisations and procedures'. Further, this has implications not only for governance practice in Kerala but also for the wider progressive approaches in the state that needs to take into account the modern relevance of 'informal' norms that are contextually grounded.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available