The World Bank has approved a credit of Rs. 445 crore to strengthen Bihar panchayats and support the Bihar government's efforts at creating better local governance at the village level.
The project will support the state governmentfs gradual decentralisation agenda and improve capacities of gram panchayats to plan and implement development schemes.
It will build panchayats' administrative, planning and financial management capacity and mobilise communities to increase people's knowledge of their rights and responsibilities in relation to panchayati raj institutions.
The state government has institutionalised the strategy of political inclusion for women, SC, ST and extremely backward castes at the panchayat level. Because of these provisions, the elections in 2006 and 2011 ensured a much larger role for marginalised sections of the population in local governance.
Today, 55% of the elected panchayat members in Bihar are women, 14% belong to scheduled castes and 0.66% to scheduled tribes. This reservation policy has created an unprecedented opportunity for poor people to express their views.
The Bihar Panchayat Strengthening Project, approved recently, will focus on bringing about visible changes in the project villages of Bihar, particularly in the areas of village sanitation, quality of drinking water, nutrition and management of natural resources.
The project will cover six districts across 1,300 gram panchayats. The project will also strengthen the public financial management systems at the panchayat level and introduce computerised panchayat accounting system - PRIASOFT - in all project districts beginning with Patna and Nalanda.
The project will be financed by a credit from the International Development Association - the World Bankfs concessionary lending arm - which provides interest-free loans with 25-year maturity and a grace period of five years.