This research project studied the emerging challenges of small and medium towns in India to improve their finances and provide good services to their inhabitants. The study assesses the ability of various local actors, institutions and processes for decentralised planning and governance. Moreover, the researchers used action research to build the capacities of these local actors with regard to decentralised participatory planning for collaborative impact.
The case study for action research was the municipality of Bemetara Nagar Palika Parishad, a small town in India’s Chhattisgarh state. The methodology of the study was participatory in nature and included three phases. The first phase was a mapping of the current status of the city administration using questionnaires. In the second phase, Samarthan, the NGO where the researchers are based, collaborated with the local urban administration to carry out participatory planning in two wards. The third phase of research was based on capturing the processes and outcomes during the implementation of the participatory ward plans.
The study exposed the importance of the powers devolved to the urban local bodies, a cooperative environment between administration and political leadership. Finally, this study recommends improving central transfers to small towns beyond the population ratio, allowing for more flexibility to use those funds according to the needs of their people and strengthening planning committees for a more participatory rural-urban planning process.
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