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

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Linking Public Action

Kerala’s Challenges in Comparative Perspective in the Years of the Pandemic

Kerala suffers less from clientelism, authoritarianism, and neo-liberalism than many other parts of the world, but it is affected by the universal dilemma of how to unify numerous actors and build democratic links between the local, the wider government, and the economy. This article’s comparative insights indicate that the state requires democratic partnership governance to avoid parties and individual leaders cornering power.

Kerala has again testified to the importance of having decentralised governance and public action. During the floods in 2018 and 2019, local governments combined state support with their own resources and those of civil society, facilitating, for example, the participation of the fisherfolk and other volunteers in the rescue work. Similarly, in fighting the Nipah virus in 2018 and the COVID-19 in 2020, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Health Minister K K Shailaja and her team, backed by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, and Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac (a pioneer of decentralised peoples planning), among others, could immediately, from January, support and rely on local governments and civil society in containing community transmission and flattening the curve. The measures included educating residents, tracking the spread of the viruses, and organising local quarantines, along with providing food and welfare, especially for vulnerable sections of the population (Chathukulam and Tharamangalam 2020; Heller 2020; Isaac and Sadanandan 2020; Rahul and Ranjith 2020).

In April and May 2020, however, numerous challenges occurred that were difficult to handle locally. We shall return to the details, but the hurdles indicated how decentralised governance and action alone were insufficient. Comparative insights point to two basic dilemmas. First, the political and economic context. Second, whether and how it is possible to link local governance and public action to wider arenas and efforts.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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