Locals to be involved in Rs.7,000 crore Bundelkhand package

July 8th, 2012 - 3:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi New Delhi, July 8 (IANS) Elected village representatives and social activists will play the lead role in the new-look Rs.7,000 crore Bundelkhand package meant to improve the lives of over 21 million people spread across a neglected swathe of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh that became a metaphor for rural poverty in this country.

The package is essential as the region has been suffering for the past eight years due to drought that has claimed nearly 3,000 farmers’ lives, the NGO Action Aid claims.

“The gram panchayat and the social activists will now play a central role in the implementation of the package…the whole effort is to decentralise and involve the locals,” Planning Commission member Mihir Shah, responsible for monitoring the package, told IANS.

He also said the National Rainfed Area Authority, which has been the nodal agency for implementing the package - an initiative of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi -would provide only technical support.

“The rainfed area authority will no longer be the implementing agency…it will only provide technical support,” said Shah.

According to plan panel sources, the new implementation architecture of the Bundelkhand package would be part of the 12th Five Year Plan. It would come into effect from April 1, 2013.

The 12th Five Year Plan (2012-13 to 2016-17) is likely to be approved next month, said sources.

Following Rahul Gandhi’s intervention, the central government had sanctioned a Rs.7,000 crore package two years ago for the development of the Bundelkhand area, which ranks among the least developed regions in India and has been hit by repeated droughts that have resulted in starvation and farrming deaths.

Gandhi had accused then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati for the “mess” in the implementation of the package.

The Congress’ performance in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in March this year was abysmal despite a high-profile campaign by Gandhi. Perhaps this is reason why the government is hoping for better connect and is involving locals in a bigger way.

Sources said the changes were necessitated following major criticism in the way the package had been implemented.

Drought mitigation programmes in the region like cattle induction and digging wells has been faulty, leading to wastage of money.

“The situation is serious there,” said a plan panel official in the wake of a 31 percent deficient monsoon June this year.

According to Action Aid, fund utilisation under the scheme was a poor 11 percent last year.

Of the Rs.3,506 crore sanctioned for Uttar Pradesh, only 26 percent had been released till June 2011. Of this, just 42 percent was utilised till June 2011. This was 11 percent of the sanctioned budget, said the NGO.

Similarly, of the Rs.3,760 crore sanctioned for Madhya Pradesh, the percentage of funds utilised was 11.22 percent, the NGO added.

(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at amit.a@ians.in)

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