People's Planning

Kerala, Local Democracy and Development

T.M. Thomas Isaac, Richard W. Franke


LeftWord Books, New Delhi, 2021

Language: English

403 pages

5.5 x 8.5 inches

Price INR 595.00

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In 1996, the state of Kerala launched possibly the world’s most extensive and successful experiment in decentralization. The campaign mobilized over 3 million of Kerala’s 30 million people and resulted in bottom-up development planning in all of its 1,052 villages and urban neighbourhoods.

This book details the background of the campaign, traces its stages, assesses problems and successes, and evaluates concrete results and reforms. It tells a powerful story of mass mobilization and innovation, achieved by overcoming bureaucratic opposition and rooting out corruption and cynicism.

Considering the theoretical and applied significance of the campaign — both in the context of India’s development since Independence and the international debates on decentralization, civil society, and empowerment — this study provides invaluable lessons for sustainable development worldwide.

Vijay Prashad speaks to Kerala’s Finance Minister Thomas Isaac about the upcoming legislative elections in Kerala, courtesy of Peoples Dispatch.

T.M. Thomas Isaac

T.M. Thomas Isaac is Distinguished Honorary Fellow at the Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. He served as Minister of Finance of Kerala for two terms, from 2006 to 2011, and from 2016 to 2021. Previously, during his tenure as a member of the Kerala State Planning Board, he was in charge of the People’s Plan Campaign. He is the author of numerous books in Malayalam and English.

Richard W. Franke

Richard W. Franke is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey, USA. He has written extensively on Kerala.


Isaac’s great advantage is his knowledge of the intimate workings of the plan, its difficulties and drawbacks, the unfounded hostilities and the frailties of the future ahead.

 , Indian Review of Books

Contains important lessons even for those states in which cadre-based and party-directed mass mobilization is not a component in the renewal of local self-governing institutions.

 , Biblio