State officials to reach out to gram sabhas, panchayats over budget
The Narendra Modi government wants officials in states to meet representatives of all gram sabhas and panchayats over three months to tell them what they should expect in the budget for the financial year 2020-21, according to people aware of the development. This is being done to disaggregate the Centre’s annual expenses to the grassroots level and mark a major shift in the planning process, the people added.
According to the plan, officials of state departments handling matters related to XI Schedule (subjects falling under the Panchayati Raj) will meet representatives of all gram sabhas and panchayats, identify the works that need to be taken up and inform them in advance what funds they can expect under different heads.
“This is advance planning for the 2020-2021 budget. Based on the allotments for this year, the ministries can calculate roughly what to expect in the next year. Generally, we assume a 5-10% hike in resource allocations for welfare schemes and so, if we talk to panchayats in advance and tell them what they can expect to get in the next year, the entire planning the process can be robust and help more effectively in eradicating poverty,” said rural development secretary Amarjeet Sinha.
Sinha has written a letter to all state chief secretaries asking them to expedite the planning, which the government has dubbed as “People’s Plan Campaign”.
In his letter, Sinha said, “Kindly direct secretaries of all departments with subjects in the XI Schedule to undertake a disaggregation of budgets so that a gram panchayat knows what to expect from which department and programme in a given financial year.”
The Centre has asked the states to start the exercise from October 2 (150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi) and complete it by December 31, a month before the annual general budget would be tabled in Parliament.
“Kindly direct every department to ensure the participation of their front line workers in the pre-planned Gram Sabha for each Gram Panchayat. It is for this reason that the Gram Sabha meetings have been spaced between October 2-December 31, 2019 to enable active participation of all front line workers,” Sinha wrote, asking the states to make it a robust campaign.
For years, the Centre’s funds were divided at the district or block levels and the downward distribution was left to the states alone. The new exercise aims a greater involvement of panchayats and planning at the micro-level on how the government’s money should be spent on welfare works.
Another government official said, “Not only this can encapsulate Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of swaraj, but also help us understand where and how the money should be used.”
Sinha explained, “Suppose a gram panchayat has constructed a certain length of rural roads but now needs a new Anganwadi centre. If the state officials hold a meeting with the GPs [gram panchayatss], we will be able to divert the money for roads to another place which needs it more.”
Already, the Centre has prepared a web-based database to rank the panchayats in terms of progress and physical and economic infrastructures. The new planning exercise will also integrate the available data with the ground situation and fresh demands.