Participatory budgeting in Pune, India is one of few cases of democratic innovations in India. Initiated in 2007, the basic idea was to engage citizens in the process of budget creation by inviting their suggestions regarding municipal budget allocation through an online forum.
Problems and Purpose
The purpose of Participatory budgeting in Pune can be briefly summed up as an attempt to overcome the usual ills of a representative democracy. Firstly, with Pune being the 9th largest city of India with a population of 3.2 million, the initiative accommodates people from different economic statuses. While some are extremely poor and live in slums, others are extremely wealthy as well. The question was how to accommodate the needs of not only a growing population but also a city with huge economic divide. Secondly, there has been an absence of a legal or formal budget procedure in most Indian cities, including Pune. Citizens are neither aware nor even a part of the budget allocation procedure. There has been growing cases of budget allocation based on nepotism and clientelism that has prevailed ever since in the city of Pune (Menon et al., 2013). Moreover, the budget for each Prabhag (smallest unit of the city) could be no more than INR 0.5 million and the challenge was to use it effectively. Thirdly, 74th amendment and specifically the Model Nagar Raj bill in India directed local urban governments to prepare the city level budget in consultation with the citizens. However, there had not been any improvement in this regard except the limiting channels of participation through local elections. Thus, there was a need to renew the process of Budget allocation in Pune. Therefore, participatory budgeting aimed to create a forum for direct citizen participation in the budget allocation in order to make the process of Budget creation and implementation more inclusive, transparent, accountable and effective (Keruwala, 2014).
Background History and Context
The 74th constitutional amendment of India in 1992 brought with itself greater responsibility for the local government. It defined 18 new tasks in the functional domain of urban local government such as slum improvement, urban planning and emphasized greater citizen participation in local decision-making. However, prior to the 2007 participatory Budgeting, nothing really moved significantly in this direction, except a few small scale citizen participation initiatives. For instance, Mohalla (neighbourhood) committees were made by the residents with the support of Community Development organization to address various civic issues. However these were neither formal arrangements nor legal entities.
In the year 2005, at the request of civil society organisations such as ‘Nagrik chetna Manch’ and the ‘National Society of Clean cities (NSCC), a meeting with the Pune Municipal Organisation (PMC) was organized. In this meeting, the civil society organisations presented concern about the existing process of budget allocation and ideas for improving citizen’s participation in the process of budget allocation. This laid the foundation of what later evolved into ‘Participatory Budgeting’ in Pune. Following the meeting, the then Commissioner of the PMC Dr Nitin Kareer and Vishal Jain, a former Indian Administrative Officer went to gather ideas from Bangalore (a city in southern India) which had initiated a form of participatory budgeting prior to Pune. In 2006, having already gathered information about participatory budgeting in Bangalore, Dr. Nitin Kareer along with Janwani and Centre for Environment Education (CEE) created a basic procedure to carry out the process of Participatory Budgeting in Pune (Menon et al, 2013) . The first testing action took place in the slums in 2006. This was led by the urban community Development Department and the Community Development society (CDS). They organized budget meetings in the slum areas and took suggestions from the slum dwellers. As most of the slum dwellers were illiterate, volunteers also budgeted the given suggestions and sent a report to the PMC. However, the report was rejected and initiative was not accepted by the then elected party that governed Pune. One of the members of the local government even called it as ‘Death of Democracy’ without realising the importance of citizens’ participation to uphold the spirit of Democracy. But, the good news came following the elections in 2007. The new local government accepted the idea of PB and formally documented and made it public on 13th February 2007. The new government also accepted the PB suggestions from the slum areas and encouraged a similar process for the non-slum areas of Pune in 2007 (CEPT University, 2014).
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
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Participant Recruitment and Selection
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Methods and Tools Used
This initiative is an example of participatory budgeting, an increasingly common method of democratic innovation broadly described as "a decision-making process through which citizens deliberate and negotiate over the distribution of public resources." There are many benefits associated with participatory budgeting including increased civic and democratic education; increased government transparency; and an increased opportunity for participation by historically marginalized populations. 
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
The structure of governance that supports Participatory Budgeting in Pune is divided between 4 zones. These zones are subdivided into 15 administrative wards which are further subdivided into 76 Prabhags. Thus, each administrative ward caters to around 4 to 5 Prabhags. A Prabhag is the smallest governance unit of the city and represented by two elected representatives in the PMC. The budget for each Prabhag is fixed at INR 0.5 million and the cost of each project cannot exceed more than INR 0.05 million.
The process of PB as entailed in the year of its start comprised of 6 steps aimed to complete in a maximum 3 months (Menon, 2013) .
1. Preparatory Meeting at PMC office: This meeting is usually attended by the Head of the PMC, Citizen Facilitation Centre, Municipal Commissioner and chief officer of Janwani and Centre for Environment Education. It marks the beginning of PB every year in Pune. In this meeting, various decisions regarding the time frame of PB and other additional ideas for publicity or budget creation is discussed (Keruwala, 2013).
2. PB publicity and Inviting suggestions: The publicity of PB is the most essential step as PB in Pune has always lacked participation from citizens even though it is open to everyone. The first step towards publicity is a formal advertisement in all the local newspapers inviting suggestions from citizens. These advertisements provide information regarding the opening and closing dates of suggestions to PMC office. The PMC office along with Janwani and CEE also organizes public meetings at ward level to provide more information about PB and clear any doubts or provide any additional help that citizens might need. Apart from this, the PMC also makes phone calls to citizens and contacts other organisations such as Mohalla (Neighbourhood) committees, Waste-pickers Association, National Society for Clean Cities, Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs and others for spreading information and organizing workshops for further advice and help to citizens (Keruwala, 2013).
3. Submission of suggestions forms: Given the timeline for submitting the suggestion forms, citizens are expected to fill the online budget suggestion form or download the form and submit the hard copy to the PMC office by the given deadline. Suggestions can be made regarding footpaths/cycle tracks, roads, streetlights, traffic signals, bus stops, public parking, public toilets, solid waste management, water (supply), storm water, gardens, public buildings, and others (CEPT University, 2014).
4. Classification, compilation and costing of work: After the closing date of welcoming all budget suggestion forms, each suggestion is then entered into an excel database on the basis of the following date code:
Budgeted – B
Suggestions - S
Duplicated – D
Incomplete – I
Complete – C
Original – O
After the compilation of all suggestion forms, all 14 wards prepare a rough costing of each suggestion and prepare a final list (Menon, 2013).
5. Public prioritization meting: The Public Prioritisation meeting was held for the last time in the year 2008 and since then this step has been suspended. The meeting took place in all 14 administrative wards and welcomed the citizens of the respected ward who has submitted suggestions. The ward officer chaired the meeting and provided information regarding the various suggestions and the cost. The citizens were given an opportunity to review the list of suggested work and prioritize the work in case the total sum of the suggested work was above INR 2 Million (Menon, 2013).
6. Creation of final Municipal Budget: After the prioritization meeting in all 14 administrative wards, a 14 prioritized budget of all up to 2 million was sent to the PMC. The PMC then announced the final budget (PCMC, 2015).
What is worth noticing is that these processes that were entailed in the beginning significantly changed with time. Firstly, the prioritization meeting was never organized after the year 2008. Secondly, after 2008 there was never a separate budget suggestion form for the slum inhabitants and neither were they ever welcomed to submit suggestion forms. Thirdly, since 2008 the application could be downloaded online and in 2009 a complete web based application was developed.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The outcome or effect of participatory budgeting in Pune has been both positive and negative. At this point one can point towards three positive grounds. Firstly, it was one of the only few cases of citizen engagement in India; the example of PB in Pune has certainly overcome the barriers that stop such innovations from happening in India. Moreover, having been successfully carried out for the past 7 years, the example of PB in Pune shows an evolving political will towards citizens’ participation. Citizens have also become pro-active and aware about their rights for decision making. Secondly, citizens’ participation has also increased over the years. While in 2012-13 Pune witnessed only 600 suggestions from citizens, the number increased to 3,300 in 2013-14 and 6,000 in 2014-15 (Keruwala, 2013). Thirdly, a survey done in the summer of 2010 shows that 68.18% rate of project was completed, with 18.18% incomplete projects and 14% projects not done. This is good evidence of the fact that the work is being done (Menon, 2013).
On the other hand, there are some negative outcomes or effects of PB in Pune. Firstly, the fact that one of the main purposes of PB was to create inclusivity and transparency in the budget allocation process has not shown any significant improvement. Slum development shares the lowest share of total budget allocation in 2013-2014 with only 13% of the total PB budget. Even the initial citizens’ engagement that took for slum inhabitants in the year 2007 and 2008 has been suspended long ago (Keruwala, 2013). Secondly, the issue of transparency and accountability has also not gone any further as the initial ‘Prioritization meeting at ward level’ has not taken place since 2008 and thus citizens do not have a direct say in the budget allocation. Secondly, while the total budget of PMC has increased from INR 17.1308 billion in 2007-2008 to INR 41.8002 billion in 2014-2015, the percentage of PB has fallen from 1.02% in 2007-2008 to only 0.85% in 2014-2015 (Menon, 2013). Thirdly, the process of PB has lead to a growing mistrust between the citizens and their representatives. Representatives are seen as hijackers in the decision-making process. In fact, it is an undeniable fact that representatives have subverted the whole process of PB by putting their own projects in disguise of citizens’ suggestions. PB in effect gives representatives a chance to have an additional INR 2 million in their own pocket for their own good. Thus, the problem of nepotism and ad hoc decision making has rather increased.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Participatory budgeting as a democratic innovation for greater citizens’ engagement in civic decision making doesn’t have a set definition or a fixed model. However, the question is ‘how can different models aim to achieve an overall common goal of democratic legitimacy and social justice and how successful are they in their different ways of doing the same thing?' In this regard analysis of the Pune case study could be based Wampler’s idea of voice, vote, social justice and oversight which are strong pillars to assess cases of PB (Wampler, 2012). Firstly, in the case of Pune, there is no platform for deliberation and active citizen participation. The idea of budget prioritization meeting has also been suspended since 2008 and thus the participation of citizens in the budget allocation procedure has been limited by just submitting the suggestion forms. Secondly, while the citizens in each Prabhag elect their representatives, they have no power to vote for any policy decision or budget prioritization. What is very ambiguous is the fact that not even the elected representatives have any formal role in the budget creation. Thus, the authority to make decisions remains in the hands of politicians and government officials. Thirdly, in the case of Pune, social justice has not really been achieved. There is neither any formal way of incorporating the poorer section nor any specific policy to provide greater attention to their needs. Even the initial idea of a separate procedure to involve the slum inhabitants has now been suspended. Lastly, there has been no improvement in oversight. Citizens never know the basis on which suggestions are accepted or rejected. Thus, while there is no transparency in decision making, there is also no accountability as citizens do not have any channels through which they can demand accountability (Wampler, 2012; Menon, 2013).
These attributes of PB in Pune stand in complete opposition to the most successful cases of PB such as the one in Porto Alegre . In Porto Alegre, citizens not only presented their voice through regular deliberative forums but also voted for important policy decisions, reviewed the past year's budget, took part in the prioritization of the budget for their district and elected representatives who were formally responsible to represent their voice in the higher platforms of deliberation and budget allocation. Moreover, it has also been the best example for social justice where budget allocation was done on the basis of ‘quality of life index’ and the policy ensured a higher sum of money for poorer locality (Touchton & Wampler, 2014; Baiocchi, 2003).
The question that now arises is ‘Is the case of Pune a ‘PB’?’ and if not then what is it? PB in Pune not only lacks but simply does not accommodate voice, vote, social justice and oversight. The structure and process of PB in Pune is organized in such a way that there is no significant social change. Thus, it is said that PB while travelling the world has turned into a mere consultative process where citizens are consulted but not allowed to directly influence decision making (Ganuza & Baiocchi, 2012). This is similar to PB cases in China where the process has not resulted in any long term citizens’ empowerment (He, 2011). Moreover even in Europe, while a few cases in Spain and Italy present a strong structure to deliver social change, the rest are either simply a deliberative process without voting or thematic or issue based budgeting with a narrow scope (Sintomer et al, 2008). Thus, there is a need to re- consider and critically evaluate the PB process in Pune in order to transform the case from mere consulting to direct participation.
Baiocchi, G. (2003). Participation, Activism, and Politics: The Porto Alegre Experiment. Deepening Democracy. 4 (2), p45-76.
Ganuza, E & Baiocchi, G. (2012). The Power of Ambiguity: How Participatory Budgeting Travels the Globe. Journal of Public Deliberation. 8 (2), p1-12.
He, B. (2011). CIVIC ENGAGEMENT THROUGH PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING IN CHINA: THREE DIFFERENT LOGICS AT WORK. PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION AND DEVELOPMENT. 31 (1), p122-133.
Keruwala, N. (2013 ). Participatory Budgeting in India -The Pune Experiment. Available: https://developmentcentral.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/participatory-budget... india-the-pune-experiment/. Last accessed 20th April 2015 .
Menon et al. (2013). 1 Participatory Budgeting in Pune: A critical review. Available: Participatory_Budgeting_in_Pune_A_critical_review. Last accessed 20th April 2015
Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation. (2015). PCMC’s Experience.Available: http://participatorybudgeting.in/participatory-budgeting-process-in-pimpri- chinchwad-city/. Last accessed 20th April 2015.
Sintomer et al. (2008). Participatory Budgeting in Europe: Potentials and
Challenges. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 32 (1), p164-178.
Touchton, M & Wampler, B. (2014). Improving Social Well- Being Through New Democratic Institutions. Comparative Political Studies. 47 (10), p1442-1469.
Wampler, B. (2012). Participatory Budgeting: Core principles and Key Impacts. Journal of Public Deliberation. 8 (2), p1-13.
National Foundation for India - Participatory Budgeting in India, the Pune Experiment
Article - Participatory in Pune: A Critical Review
Lead Image: Participatory Budgeting in Pune https://goo.gl/uBYSwW
Comment by original submitter on challenge with data collection: Writing the Participatory Budgeting case study on Pune has been a very unique learning experience for me. This is mainly because up until now I had never involved myself in writing for something that has been rarely written before. Though in the beginning I couldn’t find much information about the case except a few paragraphs on some random websites later on I managed to find some credible and substantial information. As these articles were not published through a peer-reviews journal, it was difficult to search for them. However, my decision to contact the Pune Municipal Corporation through phone call helped a lot. They not only provided me with some sources but also sent a few articles which were really helpful.