A one-day Foresight Forum on strengthening local government in Tamil Nadu was conducted on 15 December 2018 at ICSA programme centre in Chennai. There were a total of fifty-two participants (38 men and 14 women) from seven political parties, twenty-seven from civil society organisations (CSOs), five from social movements, and three civil society networks. There was one ex-elected representative in local government (presidents and ward members). The meeting was followed by a press briefing.
Local government elections in Tamil Nadu were due on 24 October 2016 and the new batch of elected representatives should have taken charge by now. But the elections have not been conducted for more than two years. They have been repeatedly postponed for various unacceptable reasons. This one-day consultation ‘Towards ensuring decentralised grassroots governance’ is to discuss strategies for ensuring that the local government elections are conducted at the earliest.
The repeated postponement of elections to local self-government has not found sufficient space in the mass media. Advocacy through the media is very important. During a disaster, including the recent Gaja cyclone, data on destruction has been scarce due to the absence of elected representatives.
The participants agreed on the following action plan:
1. Organise events and signature campaigns in rural and urban areas using art, posters.
2. Conduct research on the impact of the absence of elected local government in village development.
3. Organise a public hearing on the impact and consequences of the absence of elected local self-government.
4. Advocacy could be done through panchayat leaders, media and social movements.
5. Conduct model grama sabha meeting.
6. Pass a resolution in each grama sabha to conduct local body election.