Kerala may not feature much in the textbooks of students studying professional courses in the state but halfway across the world in Harvard, the state is a topic that regularly comes up for discussion.
A study titled ‘Building local democracy: Evaluating the impact of decentralisation in Kerala’ conducted jointly by Patrick Heller of Brown University, K N Harilal of Centre for Development Studies and Shubham Chaudhuri of World Bank in 2007, has been listed as a required reading material for the students of an Urbanisation and International Development course offered by Harvard University’s graduate school of design.
Michael Hooper, an assistant professor of Urban Planning at Harvard, who takes the class, told Express that Kerala comes up for discussion quite often in his class. “I chose to include the Kerala study because it highlights some very important lessons on decentralisation and democratisation from one of the most prominent global cases of this type. In fact, we discuss Kerala quite a bit in the class, as it’s one of the several well- documented cases of decentralisation around the world. I would say that many, if not most, people who study international comparative politics, political economy or urban policy are familiar with Kerala and its decentralisation experience. The paper you mentioned also appears in the syllabus for another class I teach called ‘Public participation in planning and development: Theory and practice,’ he said.
Kerala has been a case study for his students for the past three years.
Hooper said that nearly 60 students, spread over the two courses that he teaches, participate in the discussion on Kerala and its decentralisation model every year. And not all students are your typical bright-eyed youngsters either.
“Many mid-career fellows, who take the course, are usually quite senior officials from government or international organisations. The nationality mix of the class is very diverse,” said Hooper.
Harilal, who co-authored the study, was unaware of the fact that it is a study material at Harvard. “It is a study that has been cited quite often in papers across the world. Kerala is a very significant model when it comes to decentralisation experiments,” he said.