How can a good system for participatory planning, emerging from new socialist ideas, wither away, instead of bringing the expected result of strengthening the base of the political ideology that had given it birth?

Though not in so many words, this was the question Michael Lebowitz, Latin American economist and advocate of ‘socialist alternative to capitalism,’ asked a group of planning experts, socio-political activists, and students at an interaction at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) here on Thursday.

The question came following an observation by CPI leader and former Minister Benoy Viswom, who said the political divide between the Left and the non-Left was so thin in Kerala and the slightest shift in mood from election to election would shift the character of the government in the State.

Social audit

If it was the United Democratic Front (UDF) in power in the State now, it would be the Left Democratic Front (LDF) after the next election and so on, he said.

The strength of the process was that, in the beginning, the grama sabhas took decisions and there was a mechanism for social audit in place. The efficiency of both these eroded once the non-Left government assumed office, Mr. Viswom said.

Chilean sociologist Marta Harnecker, part of a nine-member delegation from Latin America which participated in the interaction, spoke of the participatory planning experiences in some of the Latin American countries.

Economists M.A. Oommen, K.P. Kannan, and A.V. Jose and Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad’s R.V.G. Menon participated in a panel discussion. Associate Professor, CDS, K.N. Harilal chaired the interactive session.