The government plans to use the power of Indian youth to enhance implementation of its social sector programmes in the rural sector.
Taking a cue from the Prime Minister Rural Development Fellowship (PMRDF), which will post 158 youths in 78 naxal-affected districts, the Planning Commission is contemplating expansion of its scope to other social sector schemes such as the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), Bharat Nirman and the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
A senior plan panel functionary told HT that it wants ministries to utilise the administrative cost available in each scheme to employ highly qualified fellows for coming up with out-of-the-box ideas for implementation of the schemes. However, caution must be exercised to ensure that they do not become piggy banks for district collectors, he added.
The rural development ministry will pay R75,000 per month to each of the fellows being deployed in the 78 naxal-affected districts.
“Good financial incentives will attract the best talent,” said a rural development ministry official, rebutting claims that their salaries could equal that of senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officials.
The fellowship encourages young professionals such as doctors, investment bankers and computer engineers to work in the poorest and most remote naxal-affected districts. “Their average age is 25 to 26 years, and they are full of new ideas for planning at the village-level,” a ministry official said.
To make the optimum use of young talent, Andhra Pradesh has decided to allocate R1 crore for utilisation in innovative projects suggested by the fellows. Other states have made suggestions of fellows a mandatory part of district planning.
The fellows will be required to produce monthly progress reports and an annual report on the progress of projects undertaken under the Integrated Action Plan in naxal-affected districts. After two years, they would be awarded a degree or diploma by the Mumbai-based Tata Institute for Social Sciences.
Flexibility to the state government, which is a paradigm shift that the Planning Commission suggests for
the 12th Plan, is key to the success of the fellowship programme. “They will be accountable to the district magistrate and not to us (the Centre),” the official said.
Stating that around 80 of the 156 fellows have already joined, a Planning Commission member said, “Villages in India don’t have planning skills. These young professionals can help bridge this deficit.”
The plan, which will be sent for the PM’s approval soon, will recommend expansion of the PMDRF to other schemes and utilisation of young educated Indians in rural sector reforms.