Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, engaged in a tug of war over how to spend funds in 82 naxal-affected districts across nine states, have shot off letters to the Planning Commission in this regard. Shinde, in fact, escalated the fight by writing to the finance minister and the PM.
But the plan panel has decided to maintain status quo.
While Shinde wants bureaucrats to channel the funds for development, Ramesh is in favour of including locally elected panchayat representatives in the decision-making process. The differences pertain to the Integrated Action Plan (IAP), approved in November 2010, under which a committee headed by the district collector signs off on development schemes.
Under the IAP, aimed at combating naxalism and enhancing the administration's credibility through development activities, the Planning Commission has sanctioned R80 crore per district over the last three years.
In his letter to Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Ramesh said, "I suggest greater political participation in the selection of the gram panchayats as well as projects to be carried out." He then suggested that the panchayati raj ministry be given the responsibility.
Shinde, in turn, questioned Ramesh's contention that non-involvement of panchayati raj institutions has alienated the public from the development process, and the IAP does not cover the worst affected parts of the district.
In his letter to the PM on August 28, he wrote, "The CPI (Maoist) actively destroys infrastructure. In such a situation, even if the IAP is being implemented in peripheral areas, it has 'demonstration effect' on the people living in naxal areas. In severely affected areas, security forces have to first clear the area before we take up development activity…"
Home secretary RK Singh, in a letter to planning commission secretary Sindhushree Khullar, urged that the scheme continue in its present form.
Khullar, meanwhile, said that no change may happen just yet. For the time being, however, "advisories have been sent to district collectors to consult gram sabhas on development projects under the IAP," she said.