Incomplete success

Second roundtable of state ministers on panchayati raj

By Deepa Kozhisseri
Published: Thursday 30 September 2004

the problem of parallel bodies interfering with the work of panchayats may end soon if the consensus reached at the second roundtable of state ministers on panchayati raj is followed. A resolution passed at the meet, held at Mysore on August 28-29, 2004, said bodies such as community-based organisations, forest development agencies and societies for health programmes must report to panchayati raj institutions (pris). This resolution has to be approved by chief ministers before an action plan is adopted.

"We have come much further than I expected. The consensual decision reached will have to be translated into a roadmap," Union minister for panchayati raj affairs, Mani Shankar Aiyar, told Down To Earth. A major problem highlighted during the discussions was mistrust of panchayats by community-based organisations established by external donor agencies. Various measures were suggested to overcome this. S M Vijayanand, secretary, planning and economic affairs, Kerala, and T R Raghunanandan, secretary, rural development and panchayati raj, Karnataka, suggested total merger of such bodies with pris. But the participants agreed that though community-based organisations should be made accountable to pris, their autonomy must be protected. They recommended issuing policy directives along these lines, especially to donor agencies.

A resolution on parallel bodies suggested that they should report to the gram sabha by law. A resolution on planning and implementation said a district planning committee should be constituted at the district level in every state and the planning must take into account local resources and needs. But the meeting faltered on two counts. While ministers waxed eloquent on the need of gram swaraj and people's participation, they did not suggest any concrete steps. The issue of direct central funding for pris was also skirted. " pris are not just about funds. Speaking about direct funding is trivialising the issue. There are at least 16 dimensions to it, including developing business hubs through pris. We have to put a system of governance in place," Aiyar said.

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