What makes government schemes and missions work - Hindustan Times
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What makes government schemes and missions work

Feb 08, 2024 10:06 PM IST

Community connect, respect for the federal principle, civil society partnerships and women-led development are necessary conditions for a more inclusive India.

The interim budget gave a thumbs up to the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana Gramin (PMAY Gramin), announcing an additional 20 million houses over the next three years. The success of the lakhpati didis of the National Rural Livelihood Mission has given the confidence to raise the target of creating 30 million lakhpati didis. I was associated with the team that worked on both schemes. What was different? Are there any public policy lessons?

Rural women busy making jewellery and other items using Moonj grass in Mahewa area of Prayagraj. (HT File) PREMIUM
Rural women busy making jewellery and other items using Moonj grass in Mahewa area of Prayagraj. (HT File)

Democracy is about people and the effectiveness of community connect. It is about reaching out to deprived households on the basis of evidence and providing tangible support to such households. Technology as a means (and not as an end in itself) allows an opportunity to achieve high-quality outcomes in large numbers in a short period. Engagement with gram sabhas ensured accountability with full public disclosure. The success of these two initiatives is an acknowledgement of the last mile as the most critical challenge.

There have been housing programmes in the past. The Performance Audit Report of the Indira Awaas Yojana 2013-14 brought out the challenges in a large housing programme for the poor. From housing design, identification of the needy, good governance for transfer of funds, financial management, quality and its monitoring, and timeliness of completion, all were flagged as challenges that compromised the quality of delivery. Convergence to ensure a home of dignity was indeed a challenge with a paltry unit cost.

The PMAY Gramin journey began by resolving each of the challenges flagged in the Performance Audit. The Socio-Economic Census (2011), though dated, provided an objective basis to identify those living in two or fewer kachcha rooms with kachcha roofs and walls. After drawing out panchayat-wise details of such households, a total of 40.3 million households’ data was sent to gram sabhas for validation. The gram sabhas validated 25.4 million proposals as the rest had been constructed during the period, or the person had migrated out permanently, or the wrong inclusion of someone had been made. The gram sabha also provided details of new names of persons whose families had come up during the period, or those that had been left out.

Simultaneously, top-class architects were sent out to different states and regions to study local housing typologies and suggest innovations to make homes that could withstand earthquakes, wind, flood and heat. They also provided the costing of such models. A special rural mason certificate course gave us masons as per need, including rani mistris.

Based on this detailed consultation with the states, the proposal for the PMAY Gramin was placed before the Union Cabinet. It was calculated that 1.5-1.6 lakh was needed to provide a home with a cooking area and toilet for a life of dignity to the deprived; 90/95 days of labour under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), a toilet under Swachh Bharat Mission, Ujjwala gas, electricity connection, and drinking water provision, were all expected through convergence.

Technology provided an opportunity to ensure all money was transferred directly into the account of the beneficiary. Technology for geotagging the old hut and stage-wise tracking of the construction of the PMAY Gramin home was also used. A real-time public monitoring system was developed. Names of beneficiaries and the order in which their turn would come up for construction were worked out. Payments were released based on geocoded physical progress. Secretaries from well-performing states were asked to prepare the framework for the implementation of the PMAY Gramin. The ownership of the states was total.

It was through this meticulous last mile planning and design that the construction of 29.5 million PMAY Gramin homes was taken up in two phases, starting in October 2016. That most units are completed or nearing completion is a tribute to the financial management as well. The single nodal account at the state level ensured that the central and state share was all credited to the same account and governance was meticulous.

The National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM) had 25 million women as members of its self-help groups in 2014, primarily in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and South Indian states. Today, there are 96 million women in the National Rural Livelihood Mission, across the country. They have leveraged over 8 trillion as credit from banks and their non-performing assets are less than 1.6% nationally. National resource organisations like PRADAN have joined hands to promote the diversification of livelihoods. Through the MGNREGS convergence, the income security of women has improved. States have followed their own distinctive models.

The success of the National Rural Livelihood Mission comes from over 500,000 community resource persons (CRPs) who travel to different corners of the country to set up women’s collectives and who provide hand-holding support. Krishi sakhis, pashu sakhis, bank sakhis, banking correspondent sakhis, CRP for enterprises. are all different facets of a community cadre of women at the last mile, providing professional support for outcomes. Lakhpati didis are a product of this handholding by professionals of the DAY-NRLM, right down to the cluster level. Community connect, professionals, civil society organisations who work for livelihoods, availability of credit for economic activity, and community investment funds are important in delivering quality outcomes.

The two programmes discussed here have multiplier employment and enterprise potential. Taking it to scale is the challenge. It is the meticulous last mile that determines success or failure. Community connect, respect for the federal principle, professionals in remote regions, civil society partnerships, technology as a means, and women-led development are all necessary conditions for the transformation of lives and livelihoods for a more inclusive India. Human capital thrust will raise the level of enterprise and productivity.

Amarjeet Sinha is a retired civil servant. The views expressed are personal

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