Panchayati Raj of India: Backward Regions Grant Fund

English: Training of Panchayati Raj Institutio...

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New Delhi, Jan 2, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) The Backward Regions Grant Fund Programme (BRGF), launched by the Prime Minister at Barpeta in Assam on 19th February 2007, signifies a new approach to addressing persistent regional imbalances in development. The programme subsumed the Rashtriya Sama Vikas Yojana (RSVY), a scheme earlier being administered by the Planning Commission. The BRGF Programme covers 250 districts in 27 States, of which 232 districts fall under the purview of Parts IX and IX-A of the Constitution dealing with the Panchayats and the Municipalities, respectively. The remaining 18 districts are covered by other local government structures, such as Autonomous District and Regional Councils under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and state specific arrangements as in the case of Nagaland and the hill areas of Manipur.

Objectives

The Backward Regions Grant Fund is designed to redress regional imbalances in development by way of providing financial resources for supplementing and converging existing developmental inflows into the identified backward districts, so as to:

·            Bridge critical gaps in local infrastructure and other development requirements that are not being adequately met through existing inflows,

·            Strengthen, to this end, Panchayat and Municipality level governance with more appropriate capacity building, to facilitate participatory planning, decision making, implementation and monitoring, to reflect local felt needs,

·            Provide professional support to local bodies for planning, implementation and monitoring their plans,·            Improve the performance and delivery of critical functions assigned to Panchayats, and counter possible efficiency and equity losses on account of inadequate local capacity.

The BRGF programme represents a major shift in approach from top-down plans to participative plans prepared from the grassroots level upwards. The guidelines of the Programme entrust the central role in planning and implementation of the programme to Panchayats in rural  areas, municipalities in urban areas and District Planning Committees at the district level constituted in accordance with Article 243 ZD of the Constitution to consolidate the plans of the Panchayats and Municipalities into the draft district plan. Special provisions have been made in the guidelines for those districts in J&K, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura which do not have Panchayats, where village level bodies and institutions mandated under other frameworks such as the Sixth Schedule are to plan and implement the programme. The conviction that drives this new locally driven approach is that grassroots level democratic institutions know best the dimensions of poverty in their areas and are, therefore, best placed to undertake individually small, but overall, significant local interventions to sustainably tackle local poverty alleviation.

There are three features of BRGF that make it truly unique among central initiatives to combat backwardness. First, the approach of putting the Panchayats and the Municipalities at the centre stage of planning and implementation. Second, no Central funding stream is as ‘untied’ as the BRGF – the funds can be applied to any preference of the Panchayat/ Municipality, so long as it fills a development gap and the identification of the work is decided with people’s participation. Third, no other programme spends as much funds, nearly 11 percent of the total allocation, for capacity building and staff provisioning.

District planning, which commences from the level of each local body and is finally concluded at the district level through the consolidation of these local Panchayat and Municipality based plans by the District Planning Committee into the draft district plan, is expected to better strategise both local and more wide ranging interventions into a composite strategy document.

Creation of capacity for effective planning at district and lower level is a key-pre-requisite to participative planning. Hence the BRGF contains a specific component for the capacity building of Panchayati Raj Institutions of Rs. 250 crore per year. A framework that looks upon capacity building in a very comprehensive fashion, encompassing training, handholding and providing ongoing support to Panchayat elected representatives has been developed for States to follow, while undertaking capacity building.

The planning process under BRGF is based on the guidelines for district planning issued by the Planning Commission in August 2006 and January, 2009. The process of integrated development commences with each district undertaking a diagnostic study of its backwardness and a baseline survey by enlisting professional planning support, to be followed by a well-conceived participatory district development perspective plan to address this backwardness during the period of the Eleventh Five Year Plan.  Such plans would integrate multiple programmes that are in operation in the district concerned and, therefore, address backwardness through a combination of resources that flow to the district.

BRGF Development Grants

District Plans received from the various States indicate that the untied fund allocated to the districts are generally being used for filling infrastructural gaps in drinking water, connectivity, health, education, social sectors, electrification, etc.  The basket of works taken up includes construction of school buildings /class rooms, health sub-centres, drinking water facility, sanitation facilities, anganwadi buildings, Panchayat buildings, irrigation tanks/channels, street lights, link roads, culverts, soil and water conservation measures, etc.

BRGF Capacity Building Grants

The BRGF has adopted the National Capability Building Framework (the NCBF) which envisages strengthening of institutional arrangements, including the infrastructure as well as software support for capacity building of elected representatives, the functionaries and other stakeholders of PRIs and thereby improving the vigour of grassroots level democracy.

During the current financial year, district plans have been received from 223 districts.  Except for Jharkhand, where DPCs have been constituted only in the month of December, 2011, all States having BRGF districts have forwarded plans duly approved by the DPC or a body at the district level mandated under the BRGF guidelines to approve the plans.  BRGF funds are being used for critical gap filling in respect of infrastructure and human development indices.  As on date, Rs.1830.13 crores for both Development Grant and Capacity Building have been released for 2011-12, another Rs.110.25 crores has been sanctioned while an amount of Rs.428.5 crores is under process.

In 2009, the World Bank conducted an independent evaluation of the BRGF programme in 16 districts in 8 States.  The key findings of the evaluation were that though the funds allocated under BRGF are small, meaningful investments are made by the communities in projects that are chosen in a decentralised participatory manner.  The evaluation report pointed out that the BRGF funds are the single most important source of discretionary funds available to the Panchayats. The study also suggested that outlays should be enhanced in order to be more effective.

- PIB Features, with inputs from Ministry of Panchayati  Raj, Govt. of India


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