Children contribute to the national five-year plans
India’s national five-year planning process is replicated at village level, with Panchayats (village councils) reporting on their objectives, priorities and needs for the coming five-year period. CWC has long advocated children playing a central role in the village-level planning process. In 2004, CWC facilitated children to participate in the five-year planning process in the five Panchayats of Toofan Programme and to present the findings to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Udupi district, Shri Gopal Shetty. Impressed by the evidence the children had compiled in support of their observations, Shri Shetty recommended that the process of children’s participation in the five-year plans be repeated across the 56 Panchayats of the Taluk of Kundapur. CWC was assigned to train the children and their adult facilitators, and to monitor the process.
Through interviews, observation, group discussions and consultation, children collected information that enabled them to identify the needs of their respective communities. The list of problems identified was long, ranging from poor road conditions, rickety footbridges and lack of street lights to scarcity of water sources, distant and poor quality health facilities, inappropriate education and alcoholism.
In Kergal Panchayat, for example, the children found that 30 families were without ration cards. In Bijur Panchayat, they pointed out that 15 families were without nearby drinking water. In Kalavara Panchayat, they noted that silting of the nearby river was damaging local agriculture.
Members of the community and the Panchayats, as well as the bureaucracy, were impressed by the children’s ability to collect information through various methods, compile the data, prioritise the issues, document the entire process, and most importantly devise plans to solve those issues. Their plans were accepted by the District government and became part of the official 10th five-year plan. Having proven they can make a valuable contribution, the children were again invited to participate in the next five-year planning process in 2008-9.