Rural development schemes up for overhaul

Ministry of panchayati raj plans to develop model panchayats in different states through integrated development

By Jitendra
Published: Wednesday 11 June 2014

Model panchayats will have improved sanitation, accessibility to health services and better implementation of rights-based programmes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and Food Security Act (photo by Meeta Ahlawat)

President Pranab Mukherjee's address to parliamentarians on Monday and the brain-storming sessions carried out by the new prime minister, Narendra Modi, with officials of different ministries indicate changes in the way rural development schemes will be implemented in the country.

Each department in the rural development ministry has organised workshops with states to evolve the future road map. The possible changes to rural development schemes are as follows:

Sanitation on mission mode

The flagship programme for total sanitation, Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, may now be put in mission mode with a new name—Swachh Bharat Mission. The target of achieving universal sanitation has now been pre-poned from 2022 to 2019.

Citing difficulties in the earlier approach, a senior official, on the condition of anonymity, said: “earlier it was merely a scheme like any other, but mission mode is a target- and result-oriented approach. The mission would be an independent authority and rope in private players through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) to achieve targets as well as plan and integrate the best practices adopted in different parts of the country.”   

Another senior official who worked closely with the late rural development minister, Gopinath Munde, claimed the intent appeared more political and the deadline of 2019 seems to have been set in view of next parliamentary elections.

Panchayati raj

The rural development ministry which now includes panchayati raj ministry  is planning to develop model panchayats in every state and then in every district. The model panchayats will have improved sanitation facilities, accessibility to different health services through participatory approach, which would help reduce diseases as well as malnutrition, and successful implementation of other rights-based programmes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and Food Security Act.

“A clear road-map is being prepared with other departments of the ministry,” said C Murleedhar, joint secretary for panchayati raj, who is preparing plan for model panchayats. This programme would be executed under panchayati raj ministry’s flagship programme of empowerment of local governance, Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Shashaktikaran Yojana.

Convergence mantra

The focus of rural job scheme will be asset creation, said a senior official of rural development ministry. When asked how it is different from earlier asset creation, the official said focus will be given to concrete durable assets like construction of village markets, water tanks, community facilities and all other works which can help in development of a village.

The ministry's focus will now be on integration of different schemes like sanitation, panchayati raj, forest departments, minor irrigation department, water resource department and agriculture.

“This was tried earlier but did not produce the desirable results. Now during workshops in different states, the line department officials suggested number of measures for result-oriented integration of schemes. This time we adopted bottom to top approach in integration,” said the official.

What about empowering panchayats?
The presidential address was silent on food security as well as empowerment of panchayati raj.

N C Saxena, former rural development secretary, says the silence on food security gives message that there is no further change in food security programme and that it is also acceptable to the present government. But the President's silence silent on empowering panchayati raj institutions was not well received. “Those states which have better panchayati raj are efficient in expenditure. Poor states like Bihar are fine examples. Here, only Rs 300 is spent per person under different rural development scheme in a year, whereas Himachal Pradesh spends Rs 10,000 per person, Tamil Nadu Rs 9,000 and Kerala Rs, 8000 per person,” said Saxena.

Saxena said now almost every scheme is designed to involve panchayats. “If the capacity of panchayats would not be built, then poor states will continue to lag behind. The present approach is mere tokenism,” he added.

Report: Greening rural development in India

Report: India rural development report 2012-13 

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