Rohanpara is a small village in Ambedkar Nagar district, tucked away on the eastern fringes of Uttar Pradesh. For the record, the village has 101 welfare and development schemes running to uplift its population of a little over 3,000, consisting of marginal farmers and daily wage labourers. But most of the villagers are blissfully unaware of these schemes, and continue to languish in penury. The village appears frozen in the pre-Independence era, with few obvious signs of development.
Rohanpara represents the state of affairs in at least a part of rural India, despite the substantial scaling-up of budgetary outlays for social sector schemes — the centrally sponsored ones in particular — in recent years, enabled by high growth for several years and the policy of “inclusive growth” adopted by the UPA government.
Why this dichotomy between what the government avowedly wants to achieve and the ground reality? Bureaucratic lethargy in ensuring that the doles reach the intended beneficiaries and the complex administrative structure implementing several schemes are obviously the culprits. The multitude of schemes reducing allocation at the village level to a pittance in many cases, without being able to make any meaningful differences to the lives of the people, is another problem. Hopefully for Rohanpara and such villages in the country, non-government organisations have taken upon themselves the task of helping people avail of the sops, while the officialdom is in a slumber.
People in Rohanpara still live in mud houses, without even proper toilets. This is despite the fact that the UPA government’s popular welfare programmes such as the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) and Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) have been “under implementation” at the block level here for over a decade.
An NGO called People’s Action for National Integration (PANI) run by Shashi Bhushan, an activist, has attempted to change the situation. “It is the responsibility of gram secretary or the block development officer to make us aware about such schemes but nobody bothers to do so,” said Badama, a housewife, who regularly interacts with the local administration on these matters, on behalf of fellow villagers. With the help of the NGO, villagers have approached the block development officer and urged him to implement some of the centrally sponsored schemes (CSS) and other state-level schemes that suit the village.
“There are hundreds of schemes on paper but nobody bothers to take them to the bottom of the pyramid. All plans remain in files at the district headquarters. Even those responsible for their implementation don’t know exactly how many schemes are there,” said Shashi Bhushan.
For the country’s 6,38,365 villages, as many as 147 centrally sponsored schemes are being implemented at R1.80 lakh crore in the present fiscal. But people in Rohanpara allege that even the much-hyped rural employment guarantee scheme has failed to help. “Even under NREGA, we weren’t given any work, but now, we make our own work proposal and the BDO approves it. But even after all this, we get to work hardy 38 days a year. It’s too little to run a family of four,” said Nand Lal, who picks up odd jobs for daily wages.
However, Ajay Shukla, district magistrate of Faizabad, who also holds additional charge of the Faizabad division as commissioner, says: “The schemes are working well. There’s nothing wrong with them.” Shukla could not recall the exact number of schemes operational in his division which includes Faizabad and Ambedkar Nagar districts, but cited NREGA and NRHM among those most in currency.
During the 11th Five-Year Plan, the government spent Rs 6,60,506 crore on 147 central sponsored schemes, which by the Planning Commission’s own admission, needs an overhaul, with sufficient flexibility for states to design schemes that suit different localities. About 80% of the outlay for CSS (Rs 5,24,466 crore) was spent on just nine flagship schemes in the 11th Plan.
The government is planning to restructure centrally-sponsored schemes next fiscal, reducing their number to a mere 49 from 147 this financial year. While the exercise is in line with the strategy to cut the CSS share to 35% in the 12th Five Year Plan from a peak of 42% in the previous Plan, the weeding-out or merger of a large number of schemes will also allow the government to spend more on select flagship schemes ahead of the 2014 general elections. This seems to be in order given that some of the smaller schemes have virtually been a drain on the exchequer without any apparent benefit to the people they are meant for.
Tomorrow: District administration wants flexibility in the designing of schemes