Sharpening the government's focus on governance and development in India's poorest districts - to counter expansion of Maoist activities - finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has proposed increasing allocation for backward regions by one-third and giving Parliamentarians a role in identifying projects to be taken under the Integrated Action Plan (IAP).
Mukherjee said the Backward Regions Grant Fund allocation - that provides special funding to 250 selected districts - had been increased from Rs 7,300 crore to Rs 9,890 crore, an increase of over 35%, to give a boost to development of backward regions.
Under the IAP launched in December last, 60 districts - affected by naxalism or adjoining affected districts - are being given Rs 55 crore to spend, by March 2012, on small projects that would touch the lives of poor villagers and tribals.
Mukherjee's proposal to involve local Members of Parliament in identifying projects is aimed at blunting criticism that the IAP was driven by a panel of district officials led by the collector, rather than a mix of civil society and panchayati institutions.
The initiative, however, is far from the version pushed by the Planning Commission, that called IAP "deeply retrogressive" and feared the panel of officers would reinforce feelings of a deep sense of exclusion and alienation by the tribals.
A home ministry official said public support for Malkangiri collector Vineel Krishna during his abduction, however, proved that this fear was without basis.
"Many field officers, particularly where young IAS, IPS and forest service officers are posted, are very good and alive to the local pulse," the official said.
Collector of Dantewada - a key naxal-affected district - R Prasanna welcomed the formal inclusion of the local public representative in the consultative process.
Already, he added, projects under IAP did reflect the views of the panchayati institutions since they had been asked for their wish-list which was put before the district planning committee.
Mukherjee's efforts to strengthen the internal security establishment went beyond the development front, allocating Rs 39,659 crore for the home ministry against last year's allocation of Rs 29,940 crore.
The home ministry, however, was one of the few ministries to exceed its budgeted expenditure and out of Rs 34,000 crore, spent about Rs 23,000 crore on central police and security agencies alone.