ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Remembering EMS

Kerala

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Kerala remembered EMS on his death anniversary recently and recalled his contributions to social thinking. One of the first tasks of the state government he headed, on the formation of Kerala state, it was recalled, was to make the usual representation on behalf of the state to the Finance Commission. EMS was very clear that the primary task of a Finance Commission was to ensure that, taking into account the responsibilities the states were supposed to shoulder under the Constitution, the states must be provided with access to financial resources which are adequate and which would enable them to discharge their constitutional responsibilities. Decentralisation could not be effective until and unless the task of providing adequate resources to the states was satisfactorily performed. EMS was aware that there would always be a tendency on the part of the central government to keep with itself as many powers and responsibilities as possible and that even where there existed a clear division of subjects and responsibilities between the states and the centre, there would be a tendency on the part of the centre to take on a supervisory role which would give the centre a say in the administration of these subjects and responsibilities. Such tendencies, EMS felt, would have to be guarded against and the only way this could be effectively done was to ensure that the states were financially made as autonomous as possible.

Whereas EMS, in all his writings and public speeches, always took pains to emphasise that decentralisation had to be from the centre to the states, he also made no secret of his conviction that from the state level there had to be decentralisation of functions and responsibilities to the local bodies, right down to the village level. He was utterly opposed to the idea of powers and responsibilities being concentrated at the state level. This aspect of decentralisation in favour of local bodies he was keen to emphasise in the particular context of development so that (1) local level development could be made as participatory as possible, (2) the local level priorities and resource picture got fully reflected in local programmes and projects, (3) the benefits of developments were better distributed among regions and localities, and (4) the beneficiaries of developments under various local programmes and projects were considered deserving of those benefits in the light of the evaluation of the local people. It is in the context of decentralising local level development that the contribution of EMS to People's Planning in Kerala was highlighted.

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