Programmes for rural development are in place. Ensure they reach each of the intended beneficiaries
Now is the time to take up a community
driven plan to use village assets like ponds to regenerate rural ecology and
THE NEW GOVERNMENT has two tough challenges in the rural development sector.The first challenge is to match the United Progressive Alliance’s (upa’s) rural development budget of more than one lakh crore rupees a year.The second is to fix the shortcomings in the delivery of development benefits to the right people. Deficiencies in delivery in many ways spelt the doom for upa despite its unequivocal focus on rural budget. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, feted for his impeccable delivery skill, will be closely monitored on this agenda. The three steps he must take:
1.Retain the rural development budget. All recent government surveys point at the revival of rural consumption as well as overall economy. This is because of the enormous sums of money pumped into rural development in the last one decade. Rural growth is also helping national economy to grow at whatever slow pace it is growing.The new government should not downsize flagship programmes like the national rural employment scheme and the rural health mission that are directly linked to the well-being of the rural work force.
2.Reform the job programme.The new government should take up the muchneeded reform in design and delivery of rural development programmes. It should start with mgnrega that is on decline. It should be revived as a core programme that provides a major source of funding for village development schemes. Villages already have millions of productive assets like ponds and tanks.Now is the time to take up a community-driven plan to use these assets to regenerate the village ecology and economy. Instead of the non-negotiable list of works under the Act, the government should mandatorily fund a village’s plan to sustain the assets already built.
3.Decide on the direct benefit transfer. The buzz about sending the monetary value of development benefits directly to the accounts of the beneficiaries is fizzling out. This has more to do with the way India rolled out the ambitious programme. The government should first prepare a must-do list to make this programme successful. It needs a verifiable long-term commitment to expand the formal banking system to rural areas. Secondly, the system of identifying the beneficiary has to be clear and objective.To start with, the government must end the confusion over who is poor in India by quickly taking into account the findings of the recently finished caste and economic census.The purpose of the census was to gauge who is backward.