a planning Commission expert committee recommended early in March that an autonomous body under the Union ministry of rural development (mord) be professionalised. The autonomous body--Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology (capart)-- formed in 1986, provides support to more than 12,000 ngos working in areas like promotion of rural technology, disaster mitigation and watershed development.
In September 2005, the Planning Commission formed an expert committee under Syeda Hameed, a member, to look into capart's functioning and to suggest measures to make it effective. The Syeda Hameed Committee submitted its report on March 23 and recommended sweeping changes in its structure and functioning. Currently, the report is being examined by the Planning Commission, which will forward it to mord.
The committee took strong objection to bureaucrats using capart as a 'soft-waiting option' before promotion. During the last two decades of capart's formation, most of its director generals had a stint of only around one year. The committee has thus suggested fixed tenures (minimum of three years) for all officials.
The committee suggested changes in the organisational structure too to make capart more professional. While senior posts should be filled through open competitive selection process, people joining capart should have a track record in rural development and the voluntary sector, the report noted. Besides, there should be a transparent and non-partisan process of selecting chairpersons and members of various bodies and committees. The report observed that a "high proportion of capart's staff are drivers, peons and chowkidars", thus there was a need to 'rationalise' its staff.
The committee suggested that capart limit itself to supporting voluntary organisations rather than getting involved in implementation of projects. It emphasised that capart raise its own resources instead of depending on mord funds. Ranjan Dutta, former deputy general of capart, does not agree. "The council is government-owned and receives funds for rural development after parliamentary approval. Asking it to raise funds is neither practical nor feasible," said Dutta. However, as the report says, "capart has to fulfill its mandate of independent and credible public funding of good voluntary organisations for innovative and pioneering work in rural areas." Poran C Pandey, chief executive officer of Voluntary Action Network India, a national body of ngos, agrees: "capart must reinvent itself and involve voluntary organisations in decision-making process."
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