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Are States making best use of funds for rural schemes: Manmohan

Gargi Parsai

Wednesday 30 June 2004

NEW DELHI, JUNE 29. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today asked the States to do an ``honest appraisal’’ of their efforts to develop the rural areas and transform rural governance through Panchayati Raj.

Inaugurating a two-day Chief Ministers conference on `Poverty Alleviation and Rural Prosperity through Panchayati Raj,’ Dr. Singh asked the States to introspect whether they were making the best use of the Rs. 17,000 crores spent annually on various schemes under the rural development programme funded by the Centre. The conference should consider whether the compartmentalisation of efforts at the Centre and the States, without a core vision, made this investment sub-optimal and suggested that a uniform vision be evolved.

He said the variety of rural development programmes needed to be examined afresh and asked the conference to consider the adoption of a system of providing block grants to districts based on their incidence of poverty to do their own planning and implementation.

The Prime Minister asked the Chief Ministers to become champions of decentralisation in their States. They should review the areas where panchayats were bypassed and take corrective measures. ``Panchayati Raj is the medium to transform rural India into 700 million opportunities - the key instrument for integrating economic reforms with institutional reforms in villages and achieving Gandhiji’s goal of purna swaraj through gram swaraj.’’

``An agreed vision’’ would enable the polity to address several pressing challenges such as that of rural employment. ``We would then be able to combine the short-term needs of people for employment with a medium-term objective of improving their land and water resources to make agriculture productive. Targeted employment programmes that address the geography of poverty of environmentally degraded land can quickly restore their productive capacity, even as immediate livelihood security through wage employment happens. They provide food security in the short term.’’

The strategy for rural development must unleash the productive potential of agriculture. New ground must be broken to increase the productive capacity of the small farms and businesses. ``This can happen only if planning from below becomes a reality and developmental activities are based on local resource availability, potential and felt needs of people.’’

The conference was attended by several Chief Ministers including Dharam Singh (Karnataka), Rajasekhara Reddy (Andhra Pradesh), Narendra Modi (Gujarat), Uma Bharti (Madhya Pradesh), Amarinder Singh (Punjab), Om Prakash Chautala (Haryana), Naveen Patnaik (Orissa), Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh), Pawan Chamling (Sikkim), D.D. Lapand (Meghalaya), Tarun Gogoi (Assam), O. Ibobi Singh (Manipur) and N. Rangaswamy (Pondicherry). The Tamil Nadu Finance Minister, C. Ponnaiyan, represented his State and others by their Rural Development Ministers.

See online : The Hindu

P.S.

in The Hindu, Wednesday, June 30, 2004.

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