Back to Village: Energising and Empowering Panchayats - Current Affair for UPSC, IAS, Civil Services and State PCS Examinations


Back to Village: Energising and Empowering Panchayats - Current Affair for UPSC, IAS, Civil Services and State PCS Examinations


Why in News?

The Jammu and Kashmir government's 'Back to Village' programme is getting a massive response, especially from people in the militancy-infested areas. The aim of the programme is to bridge the gap between the achievable and achieved goals in development, take governance to doorsteps of the rural and inaccessible areas and generate credible and empirical feedback.

Introduction

Innovation is an important aspect of democracy. The most important part in any democratic set up is that how the basic issues of the people are accessed, assessed and addressed. Jammu and Kashmir has faced this problem the most as there exists a big gap between the ruled and the rulers.

Undoubtedly, the elected representatives have a clear responsibility to do the things that their constituents want, but over the decades it has been observed that the ruling classes have ignored this vital concept of connect with the masses. It is perhaps because of this gap that the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir has arisen. This situation is quite threatening for the very democratic fabric of the state, and it impacts the overall ratings of democracy in the country as well.

The democracy means listening to the people at their doorsteps, understanding the circumstances in which they are living, feeling a pinch of the difficulties that impact their lives, and finding a way out of it. This was the essence of the initiative of “Back to village”. If continued and its feedback responded in a positive fashion, this concept can change the whole dynamic of the governance in the state.

About ‘Back to Village’ Programme

The ‘Back to Village’ programme is aimed to involve the people of the state and government officials in a joint effort to deliver the mission of equitable development. The program is primarily aimed at directing development efforts in rural areas through community participation and to create in the rural masses an earnest desire for decent standard of living.

The Four Pillars of Back to Village

The ambitious programme has four main goals havely energising panchayats, collecting feedback on delivery of government schemes and programmes, capturing specific economic potential, and undertaking assessment of needs of villages.

Energising Panchayats: Providing an energizing boost to panchayats by empowering Gram Sabha will give a much needed impetus in the direction of good governance. Gram Sabha can be an effective forum for information sharing on programmes, schemes, good practices and matters of common interest. Discussion on Gram Panchayat Development Plan during the meeting of Gram Sabha and constitution of Social Audit Committee by including members from Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) community and other weaker sections, NGOs, Social activities, ex-servicemen, prominent citizens will help in making panchayats truly energized as well as empowered.

Collecting Feedback on Delivery of Government Schemes and Programmes: The feedback obtained directly from the people will help design government schemes — Central and state based on their needs. It will also help in smooth implementation of government programs like PM-KISAN and PM Shram Yogi Mandhan schemes etc. Getting a comprehensive feedback by deploying as many as 4500 officers for duty in villages is a much needed task to be carried on. The feedback would be huge because the problems in villages exist is plenty. Bigger task is how to monitor the feedback and redress the problems of the people.

Capturing Specific Economic Potential: Back to village program will help in providing tailor-made customized solutions by taking into considerations of local area needs. There needs to be area specific economic program to reap the potential of natural resources, geography etc of the area.

For example, the Northern region, villages are endowed with an array of native flora and economically important horticultural species. If catered appropriately it can contributes in poverty alleviation, nutritional security and have ample scope for farmers to increase their income and helpful in sustaining large number of agro-based industries which generate huge employment opportunities.

Undertaking Assessment of Needs of Villages: Undertaking assessment of needs of village is much needed as there can be area and demography specific problems particularly in the case of the people living in remote areas whose connectivity problem is acute than few others, or for that matter such areas are having health and educational facilities far away from their reach. A general problem in addressing the issue of rural development is the lack of concepts and visions about the future of villages. In many parts of the world, rural areas and village life have been weakened or destroyed by badly designed policies based on misleading concepts and theories.

Importance of Back to Village Programme

Back to village programme connects government officers with the villagers directly and it gives a sense of belongingness and importance to the village people, besides helping in formulating plans for the transformation and development of the villages. It gives opportunity to the officers of the government to know the problems of the villages as they get first hand information about the village life and problems. They then try to solve the problems and also take feedback from villagers, which later on help the administration in the formulation of plans and schemes for villages.

The ‘Back to Village Programme’ is in progress in all the three division of J&K – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and it has evoked good response in all these divisions. Through this programme the government officers and functionaries go to villages and meet the people and take their suggestions about the development of their villages and about the civic amenities like drinking water, power, health, roads, schools etc. As part of the initiative, the government officers will visit over 7,000 villages spread across 4,483 panchayats in the state, with nodal officers supervising the initiative.

In simple terms, it can be said that the idea of ‘Back to village’ can drill grassroots democracy deeper into the landscape of Jammu and Kashmir – (a) this gives a sense to the people that they have a voice and that is heard out (b) panchayats elected early this year on the non-party basis would feel empowered, especially when they saw the officers rushing to their villages, sitting amidst them and recording their problems. All this gives a sense of empowerment to the people, a crucial and critical element in the grassroots democracy. Now this ‘Back to Village’programme can shift the gears and deliver governance at the doorsteps if it is followed up in letter and spirit.

Similar Initiatives taken by Government of India

Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for restructured Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA). The Scheme will be implemented during the period from 01.04.2018 to 31.03.2022 at the total cost of Rs. 7255.50 crore . This scheme will extend to all States and UTs of the Country and will also include institutions of rural local government in non-Part IX areas, where panchayats do not exist. The scheme will have both central component - national level activities including "National Plan of Technical Assistance", "Mission Mode project on e- anchayat", "Incentivization of Panchayats" and state component - capacity building of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).

The approved scheme of RGSA will help more than 2.55 lakh PRIs to develop governance capabilities to deliver on SDGs through inclusive local governance with focus on optimum utilisation of available resources. The key principles of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), i.e. leaving no one behind, reaching the farthest first and universal coverage, along with gender equality will be embedded in the design of all capacity building interventions including trainings, training modules and materials. Priority will be given to subjects of national importance that affects the excluded groups the most, e.g. poverty, primary health services, nutrition, immunization, sanitation, education, water conservation, digital transactions etc.

The scheme is designed keeping in view programmatic convergence with Mission Antyodaya Gram Panchayats and 115 Aspirational districts as identified by NITI Aayog. As panchayats have representation of SCs, STs and women, and are institutions closest to the grass¬roots, strengthening panchayats will promote equity and inclusiveness, along with social justice and economic development of the community.

Increased use of e-governance by PRIs will help achieve improved service delivery and transparency. The scheme will strengthen Gram Sabhas to function as effective institutions with social inclusion of citizens particularly the vulnerable groups.

Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana

Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana (PMAGY), a government of India initiative for the empowerment of deprived sections, aims to achieve integrated development of selected villages through convergent implementation of all relevant Central and state schemes.

The objective of PMAGY is to ensure integrated development of the selected villages into “model villages” so that, they have all requisite physical and social infrastructures for their socio-economic development, and satisfy the norms mentioned in the vision of an adarsh gram to the maximum possible extent.

Disparity between SC and non-SC population in terms of common socioeconomic indicators (e.g. literacy rate, completion rate of elementary education, Infant Mortality Rate/ Maternal Mortality Ratio (IMR/MMR), ownership of productive assets, etc.) is eliminated, the indicators are raised to at least the level of the national average.

Way Forward

The nation-building process must begin at the bottom of the pyramid; we have to transform rural India and people at the grassroots must be empowered. Even after more than two decades of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment of 1992—aimed at creation of a three-tier panchayati raj structure at district, block and village levels—most states and UTs except Kerala have not devolved all the 29 subjects listed in the 11th schedule of the Constitution along with adequate devolution of funds and functionaries to panchayats at district, block and village levels as mandated in the 73rd Amendment. The thirdtier government must be enabled to function focusing on good governance, equality, socio-economic justice and all-round welfare of the villagers.

People must be empowered to participate in decisionmaking processes, enjoying equality, liberty, fraternity, fundamental rights and basic human needs. Constitutional provisions must besupplemented by  adequate checks and balances, led by vigilant, responsible and dedicated political leadership. There should be people’s participation in designing appropriate village development plans, preparation of people’s budget, with prioritisation and allocation of resources based on their needs. There must be simple, robust and easy-to-follow bottomup development planning process by the people, supported by proper accounting and social audits at all the three levels of panchayats. Such a system can safeguard against fraud, waste, and misuse of resources and proper execution of programmes.

People’s participation in planning, budgeting, resource mobilisation and decision-making is indispensable for bringing social, political, cultural and financial inclusion. Good governance can happen only when its essential attributes like accountability, transparency, rule of law, participation of stakeholders in decision-making and development process are facilitated. The grassroots democracy must truly reflect the rule of the people. Another significant step is combining social audits with community-based monitoring, which can strengthen the state’s planning and oversight processes. As social audit is carried out by the people who must reap the planned benefits of government programmes, the implementation gap can be bridged to a great extent by eliminating leakage, diversion and misuse of funds. Social audit done at planning stages can ensure that the plan is need-based and drawn up in consultation with the people; social audit conducted during the preparation stage of a scheme can ensure that estimates are proper, taking into account the priorities and aspirations of the community; social audits carried out during implementation stage can ensure that the scheme is implemented as planned; social audits after completion of a work can ensure that quality of the work is in tune with quantity and estimated cost, the planned outputs and outcome are achieved, and benefits are reached to the targeted sections of the society.

And for achieving all this ‘Back to Village’ programme like is the step in the right direction.

General Studies Paper- II

  • Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governanceapplications, models, successes, limitations and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.


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