Governance

Gram panchayats get more funds for Swachh Bharat activities

Mandatory for lowest tier elected bodies to use half the funds allocated under 15th Finance Commission

 
By Shagun Kapil
Last Updated: Tuesday 17 March 2020
Activities under ODF plus were already being conducted in states that achieved ODF status Photo: Flickr

Gram panchayats across the country will have access to more funds and guidelines to use these funds more efficiently for activities under the second phase of the union government’s flagship Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).

It will be mandatory for gram panchayats to use half the funds allocated to them under the 15th Finance Commission.

The objective of the second phase of SBM — approved by the government in February 2020 — is to focus on two core projects.

They include Open Defecation Free Plus (ODF Plus) — which includes sustaining Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ODF project — and solid and liquid waste management.

Activities under ODF plus were already being conducted in states that achieved ODF status.

Every gram panchayat currently receives Rs 7-20 lakh — depending on the number of households — under a development fund set up by the government.

An additional Rs 5 lakh is allocated to each gram panchayat for solid and liquid waste management under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

Activities like construction of soak pits for grey water management, compost pits for solid waste management, however, suffer from a lack of funds despite ODF campaigns.

In states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, work under ODF plus initially carried out at the household level suffered because of fund crunches.

Block officials were thus asked by state governments to carry out work only on a community level.

The government is hopeful that with the allocation of 50 per cent funds under phase two of SBM, states would be in a better position to effectively carry out work under ODF plus.

“It was decided that gram panchayats will have to mandatorily spend 50 per cent of the money they receive under the 15th Finance Commission on sanitation and water activities. This will be over and above funds under SBM,” a highly placed official in the Jal Shakti Ministry told Down To Earth.

“The government roughly allocated Rs 1.4 lakh crore under the five-year phase,” the official added.

The second phase of the SBM is set to be implemented from 2020-2021 to 2024-2025.

The government also plans to monitor the progress of ODF on a real-time basis, according to the official.

A set of guidelines with a clear framework on how how much money would be spent on which activities will also be drawn up by the government, said Sanju Yadav, Assistant Director for Information, Education, Communication at SBM.

“The guidelines will be meticulously arranged. The kinds of activities, the number of activities, funds for such activities, the kind of technology to be used for solid and liquid waste management, how community and administration would be involved, will all be mentioned in the guidelines,” she said. 

More than 10 crore individual toilets were constructed since the launch of SBM and, as a result, rural areas in all states declared themselves as having achieved ODF status as on October 2, 2019.

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