This research was carried out in the state of Andhra Pradesh (AP), India. Like other Indian states, AP has agreed to devolve functions and responsibilities to local bodies. However, analysis of this process suggests that the decentralisation has been only partial, with most policies still being set by the state rather than by local governments.
The objective of this paper is to assess whether the government of AP is giving sufficient priority to investment in children at the state and the sub-state levels, through both rural and urban local bodies, to ensure improved outcomes for children. The research therefore sets out to examine the mechanisms in place within this decentralised structure to enable greater and better-quality spending on children, with a particular focus on rural bodies or panchayat raj institutions (PRIs). PRIs make up the three-tiered elected structure of rural governance which, as a result of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment in 1994, is meant to provide new avenues of political participation by including representatives from different sections of society (backward castes, Scheduled Castes [SCs], Scheduled Tribes [STs] and women) in decision-making bodies at the local level.
The initial premise of the present study was that the decentralised planning process in PRIs, particularly with the inclusion of women as elected representatives, might encourage greater prioritisation of children's needs in planning and budgeting decisions at the local level. However, the research found that this was seldom the case. Even though the focus was more on rural local bodies, findings were also drawn from two urban bodies, in order to build a more comprehensive picture of the visibility of children in budgets and spending.
In trying to understand how budget outlays can lead to positive outcomes for child wellbeing, it is essential to understand the mediating factors that constrain or facilitate service delivery. Therefore, in assessing resource flows to local bodies, the role and commitment of various government officers and elected representatives within the PRI structure in relation to decisions about spending on child-focused services and improving the implementation of schemes was briefly examined. This will help in assessing the potential for improving spending on children at the local level in response to locally identified needs.
This paper is structured as follows: Following the introduction, Section 2 examines the theoretical background underpinning the field research. Firstly, the rationale for undertaking local level budget analysis is considered; secondly, some of the realities of decentralisation in AP are examined; and thirdly, the possible spaces available at the local level to ensure that children's needs receive adequate attention in budgets are investigated. Section 3 describes the research methodology used, while Section 4 explores key findings in the light of the theoretical background. The last section draws out the conclusions and some policy recommendations that could help to raise the priority level accorded to investment in children at the substate level in AP with the aim of achieving better outcomes for children, particularly for the poorest.
Young Lives, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK/UNICEF, 33 pp