Debating India

States oppose direct funding of panchayats

Gargi Parsai

Thursday 1 July 2004, by PARSAI*Gargi

NEW DELHI, JUNE 30. Several States, including Bihar, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, today opposed the idea of direct funding of the Panchayati Raj institutions by the Centre for rural development schemes, prompting the Minister for Panchayati Raj, Mani Shanker Aiyar, to say that the States should not fear any transgression of the federal system. Instead, they should work in tandem with the Centre to strengthen the panchayats.

On the second day of the Chief Ministers’ Conference on Rural Development through the Panchayati Raj today, most States expressed their reservations about the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s proposal mooted on Tuesday for block funding of districts by the Centre on the incidence of poverty. Although the Prime Minister did not clarify whether the funds would be routed through the District Rural Development Agencies (DRDAs) or through the panchayats, the States wanted the funds to be routed through them.

Opposing the idea of direct funding, the Tamil Nadu Finance Minister, C. Ponnaiyan, said that if there were apprehensions about some States diverting rural funds, the Centre had the power to take "due action," but it could not take away the constitutional federal powers of the States. Mr. Ponnaiyan also sought a two-tier system of the Panchayati Raj saying the district panchayat level could be eliminated as it was "redundant" involving extra manpower.

The West Bengal Minister-in-Charge of Panchayat and Rural Development, Surjya Kanta Mishra, said the proposal to directly channel funds to the panchayats was "unacceptable." The State Government should be allowed to play their role. At the same time, the States should not hold on to the funds but release them to panchayats which could be monitored by the Centre.

The Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, also expressed reservations over "block funds to the districts" on the ground that putting all funds in one basket would be problematic. "Let there be a holistic evaluation on the basis of specific needs," he suggested.

Andhra Pradesh sought a "substantial allocation at the discretion of the State Government for utilisation depending upon the specific need of an area."

Later addressing a joint press conference with the Union Rural Development Minister, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Mr. Aiyar allayed the fears expressed by some States covered under Schedule VI Areas about disturbing the local bodies arrangement. He said the Centre would not disturb the existing arrangement in such areas.

See online : The Hindu


in The Hindu, Thursday, July 01, 2004.

SPIP | template | | Site Map | Follow-up of the site's activity RSS 2.0