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Capacity-building programme for panchayat members

By Sharath S. Srivatsa

A play depicting social issues that was staged recently as part of the satellite training programme by the Abdul Nazir Sab State Institute for Rural Development.

MYSORE, FEB. 26. Even as the process of electing members for more than 5,600 gram panchayats in the State is underway, the Abdul Nazir Sab State Institute for Rural Development here is readying itself to train around 80,000 elected representatives of the gram panchayats through satellite communication on sectoral issues, a move that is expected to strengthen panchayat raj institutions through capacity-building.

While the presidents and vice-presidents for these gram panchayats will be elected by the end of March, the institute has already prepared training modules and schedules that will tentatively commence from April 15. The preparatory exercise involving resource persons and experts to chalk out details of training will begin in the first week of March. The training is being provided with an objective to reduce the gap between the elected representatives and officials and institutionalise the decentralisation process.

Satellite communication

Over the next two years and a half years, the institute, using audio and visual mode, will train over 95,000 elected representatives and well over a lakh panchayat raj functionaries. The training involves around 80,000 elected members of gram panchayats and nearly 15,000 members of taluk and zilla panchayats. This satellite-based training programme, which costs around Rs. 30 crores, is the biggest ever exercise conducted through satellite communication in the country.

The satellite-based communication and training programme is expected to cover elected representatives of various panchayat raj institutions from 176 taluks of the State. In the first stage, the programme involves presidents, vice-presidents, and secretaries of gram panchayats, and chairpersons of the Standing Committees on Social Justice.

According to a consultant (training and material production), Wilfred D'Souza, the training will commence soon after the elections this year, as the feedback received from the trained representatives last year pointed at the delayed start of the programme. An early start would enable the elected members to participate in the processes of panchayat raj system with adequate preparation, he added.

A unique feature of the programme is the involvement of the other stake holders of the panchayat raj institutions, including self-help groups, Auxiliary Nurse Midwives, anganwadi workers, watermen, agriculture assistants, engineers, and the secretaries of gram panchayats, who are often referred to as the functionaries of the panchayat raj system.

The Additional Director of the institute, H.S. Ashokanand, said, "Ideally, the institute wants to complete the training programme within the next two and a half years that will enable the elected members to understand their duties and discharge their responsibilities in a better fashion. Demand-driven training addressing specific issues will be taken up later."

Mr. Ashokanand said that the three-tier training programme will look into sectoral issues, such as education, health, water, and sanitation, besides specific issues, such as HIV/AIDS, childcare, environment, and problems of the deprived classes.

With the satellite-based training programme having stabilised, Orissa, Gujarat, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Sikkim had evinced interest in setting up a similar programme for capacity building among the elected representatives of the panchayat raj institutions.

The Union Government has also encouraged other States to follow the module. The National Institute for Rural Development had organised a national colloquium at the institute to enable secretaries of State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department study the system.

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