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Tamil Nadu - Madurai Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Proposal to form bioregional community clusters

By Our Special Correspondent

MADURAI, MARCH 23. The Gandhigram Rural Institute has chalked out a four-pronged strategy to make panchayats vibrant and relevant in an era of globalisation. As part of the strategy, it proposes to form bioregional community clusters, consisting of five to 10 panchayats, to make them viable economic units.

Addressing newspersons here on Tuesday, the GRI Vice-Chancellor, T. Karunakaran, was confident that a viable panchayat governance could be evolved in the next five years with the formation of clusters of "cycle commute" regions.

Already two blocks in Dindigul district had been identified for implementing the concept under a new Ford Foundation programme.

The project would deal with issues of globalisation and decentralisation in the panchayat raj context. Dr. Karunakaran felt that real panchayat raj system was yet to emerge in letter and spirit in Tamil Nadu.

However, the existing "guarded panchayat" in the State, which did not have control over all the subjects allocated to it under the 73rd amendment to the Constitution, had proved to be successful.

All the 29 subjects had not been devolved to the panchayats as they had not reached the viability level. Formation of clusters would provide a viable geographical size.

The project would also target the self-help groups which were economic, social and de facto political units. The panchayat clusters and SHGs together would be pushed towards achieving good governance with e-help. This would also help in realising the objective of providing urban services in rural areas. A mega plan for educating the SHGs to prepare them to take care of their habitat and livelihood would soon be launched, the Vice-Chancellor said.

The coordinator of Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj Studies, G. Palanithurai, said panchayat leaders could be tapped from SHGs and the project would aim at grooming leaders at the grass root level.

Though devolution of power was antithetical to globalisation, the Ford Foundation project would explore whether panchayats had a role to play in warding off threats of globalisation.

It would find out how panchayats could plan their development and also effectively mitigate the evil effects of globalisation.

The project would sensitise the local government leaders about the threats of globalisation and equip them with strategies to protect village resources.

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