Trifurcation of the Local Administration Department by the UDF government, it seems, has taken a toll on the coordinated functioning of the rural and urban local governments and defeated the concept of evolving integrated district Plans for the overall development of the State.
The State being an urban-rural continuum, both the urban and rural local governments are facing similar challenges on a variety of issues such as refuse management and sanitation.
A coordinated functioning could have helped to work out easy and viable options to such serious issues. Execution of welfare schemes as well as the flagship Centrally sponsored schemes could have been more effective under a single entity. Grama panchayats are the implementing agency of all major Centrally sponsored schemes such as the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), and the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY).
Under the present dispensation, Panchayats and Rural Development have been placed under two Ministers and this division is said to have a debilitating impact on the execution of such schemes.
The fund absorption rate of the MGNREGS during the previous financial year has been pegged at 44 per cent.
Official sources toldThe Hinduhere that the Central government funds transferred to the Rural Development Department had not been effectively utilised for want of executing officers and a clear action plan. The role of elected members and grama sabhas had been reduced to that of agents for identifying beneficiaries for such schemes. On devolving powers and funds to the civic bodies, it was specified that grama sabhas should not be made a forum for identifying beneficiaries and doling out Plan funds to individual beneficiaries.
Grama sabhas should have a constructive role in the implementation and monitoring of all projects. The new system has in effect led to a reversal of its role and defeated the concept of decentralisation of powers. At most of the places, the grama sabhas had not been convened at all.
Local governments had a crucial role in coordinating the housing schemes of the Central and State governments for the marginalised sections in urban and rural areas. Since the IAY component was found to be inadequate for constructing a house, civic bodies had identified the beneficiaries in their locale, prepared an integrated list and contributed their mite for constructing houses. Such initiatives had virtually become a thing of the past, the sources said.
The trifurcation exercise had gone against the Union government's initiative to amend the Constitution for heralding a series of reforms, including formation of district councils, for strengthening the decentralisation process.
The sixth report of the second Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily had pointed out that “considering the rapid urbanisation and the increasing need for peri-urban areas to be taken into account in city planning and development, there must be greater convergence between rural and urban governments”.
The report says that the institutional arrangement under which panchayats cater to the rural areas and the municipalities to the urban areas will work only at the micro level and when it comes to the district level, the distinction disappears.