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New schemes soon for panchayats: Montek

Special Correspondent

Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana to be expanded



Montek Singh Ahluwalia

NEW DELHI: The Central Government is now devising schemes that can be implemented at the panchayat levels to empower the Panchayati Raj institutions, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said here on Saturday.

Addressing a conference on "The State of the Panchayats and the Way Forward'' organised by the Union Panchayati Raj Ministry and the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), Dr. Ahluwalia said the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was one such scheme that would be implemented at the village and district levels. The present Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana would be expanded and re-christened for the development of the backward regions of the country and their funding would depend on the district plans submitted to the Government.

"Even ambitious schemes like the National Rural Health Mission, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Midday Meal Scheme were primarily meant to be implemented at the village levels,'' he said. These schemes are to be designed, implemented and monitored at the local level, he added.

He said the Planning Commission had issued guidelines to the States to ensure that more functions and at least 30 per cent of the annual funds were devolved to the Panchayati Raj institutions, but he admitted that this was not happening.

According to Dr. Ahluwalia, the liberalised industrial policy also "re-defined'' the role of the State, particularly in the public service delivery system, as these services will now gradually come under the domain of the panchayats instead of the State.

Calling upon the elected representatives to get over the feeling of being "subservient'' to the Government officials and their political mentors, Union Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said once elected they had enough power to rise on their own. He said there was a need to define the roles of those elected at the various levels of the Panchayati Raj system, which could be partly done by identifying the activities to be taken up at these levels.

The former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Digvijay Singh, said there was a need to amend the Constitution to give more powers to the Panchayati Raj institutions. He was also critical of the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill and said it would only empower the Forest Department officials to encroach upon forest land.

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