India's "single biggest" programme to take participatory governance and big money to the most backward districts is finally set to take off next week.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will formally launch the Rs 3,750 crore Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) on Monday. The fund seeks to pump in a minimum of Rs 10 crore into each of the 250 identified districts to bridge critical gaps in district planning, implementation and development.
Singh will launch the fund at Barpeta in Assam.
Bihar accounts for the maximum number of districts to be covered under the fund with 36 districts, Uttar Pradesh comes next with 34, Madhya Pradesh 24, Jharkhand has 21, Maharashtra 12 and West Bengal 11.
The programme is part of the "new deal" for rural India that the government has said is high on its agenda. At the Nainital conclave last September, Singh had called the Panchayati Raj Ministry driven BGRF the "single biggest instrument for effecting participatory planning at the local level."
Ensuring that panchayats and municipalities are taken on board right at the planning stage is an important objective of the programme; it will be participatory plans drafted by these two institutions that will be consolidated into the district plan by the district planning committee.
"This would reflect all the financial resources available in the district, and ensure their optimal use, without delay, diversion, duplication and leakage," guidelines finalised to implement the programme said.
It is expected the initiative would mitigate regional imbalances - a key area of concern cited by the Planning Commission in its mid-term appraisal of the Tenth Plan - and contribute towards poverty alleviation in backward districts. Addressing regional imbalances by accelerating socio-economic development of backward regions is also in line with promises made in the UPA government's common minimum programme.