Planning Commission member secretary Sudha Pillai spoke to Prasad Nichenametla on how the government's socio-economic outreach programme to the people in the Maoist affected districts is making good progress. Excerpts:
How has been the performance of the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) — the developmental approach in the 60 Left Wing Extremism affected districts?
It has been nine months since money started reaching the districts (after Cabinet approval last November) and the progress on works is quite impressive — completion of about 20,000 out of 72,000 works taken up. The works include construction of schools, hospitals to generation of livelihood activities — the lack of which conspicuously demarcated the tribals and other communities in these areas from the mainstream.
How is IAP different from regular development activities the governments usually implement?
Though central sector programmes largely achieve the intended results, there might be some gaps left out like the scheme guidelines not fitting in to provide a drinking water facility or a streetlight in a village. The IAP allows the local people prioritise or point a serious lack of some facility which can be addressed though IAP.
The young collectors understand the local problems but face constrains — lack of funds at their disposal. With a block grant of R25 crore for 2010-11 and R30 crore this financial year, the IAP allows all 60 collectors to sanction the needy a road or a village market shed etc — in consultation with the community. The IAP also empowered the collectors, who are also expressing their satisfaction.
Apart from monitoring IAP, you are also heading the Empower-ed Group of Officers (EGO) on development activities in LWE districts. What needs to be done to make these areas conflict free and growth oriented?
We need to tune various programme guidelines to local needs. If schemes are intended to benefit the poor they should connect, not complicate. The EGO took several decisions like allowing use of up to five hectares for a development project in forest areas without need of environmental clearance, allowing bridges of up to 75 m in place of 50 m under PMGSY, increasing Indira Awas Yojana grant from R45,000 to R48,500 — modifications according to local needs in order to benefit them.
Delegation of powers to Panchayats, Gram Sabhas role in consultation and policy would take us a long way in bringing the communities out of real or perceived alienation. We should evolve a paradigm that actually works for various sections of the country.
We are in last year of the 11th plan and also preparing the 12th plan. What will be the approach for the next five years?
We made good progress in several sectors. For example, rural development received good attention but we need sharper focus on health and education fronts. We also have to evolve a way forward for optimum utilisation of our resources like land, minerals without putting pressure. We also have to see how some programmes like rural electrification and Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme could be modified to make them attractive for the states to take up works. All these are challenges before us, which we are trying to address in the approach paper now.