Saturday, May 28, 2011

Trifurcation of Local Administration Department may derail Central schemes

by N.J. Nair

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The division of the Local Administration Department into three separate arms for governing urban rural civic bodies, and rural development is likely to derail the implementation of the flagship Central government schemes in the State.

The grama panchayat is the implementing agency of all major Centrally-sponsored schemes like the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), and the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY).

Official sources told The Hindu here that following the merger of the Rural Development Department with the Local Administration Department and the abolition of District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), the implementing wing of such schemes comprising village extension officers, engineers, overseers, and ministerial staff had all become part of the grama panchayat.

The Central government funds transferred to the Rural Development Department will hence go unutilised for want of executing officers and a clear action plan. The role of elected members and grama sabhas will be reduced to that of agents for identifying beneficiaries for such schemes. The panchayats will be completely excluded from the execution of schemes.

On devolving powers and funds to civic bodies, it was specified that grama sabhas should not be construed as a forum for identification of beneficiaries and doling out Plan funds to individual beneficiaries. Grama sabhas should have a constructive role in the implementation and monitoring of all projects under their ambit. The new system will lead to a reversal of its role and defeat the concept of decentralisation of powers.

The Rural Development Department will be forced to rope in non-governmental agencies for executing the schemes as in many North Indian States. Neighbourhood groups of Kudumbasree now play a significant role in executing the poverty eradication schemes. The Department will either have to constitute its own neighbourhood groups or develop a unique implementing mechanism and that will be a duplication of the neighbourhood groups of Kudumbashree.

Local self-government institutions have crucial role in coordinating the housing schemes of the Central and State governments for the marginalised sections in the urban and rural areas. Since the Rs.48,000 provided under IAY is too inadequate for constructing a house, civic bodies identify the beneficiaries in their locale, prepare an integrated list and contribute their mite for constructing houses. The division of responsibilities will have a direct bearing on the conduct of the housing and other welfare schemes too. Than splitting the departments, it should be vested with the Minister in charge of urban civic bodies, sources said.

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