The States through which the Red Corridor runs must bridge the “trust and governance deficit” in Left-wing extremism-affected districts to qualify for more developmental funds under the Centre's proposed Rs. 13,000-crore draft Integrated Action Plan (IAP). The Planning Commission's draft IAP has recommended a “backloaded plan,” Commission sources told The Hindu, meaning that the bulk of the allocated money would be released in the third and fourth years of the plan — 2012-2014. But this, these sources stressed, would be contingent on the State governments providing evidence of improved governance.
The State governments would have to demonstrate effective implementation of key laws such as the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), as well as the government's flagship programmes in the designated districts to qualify for continued handouts, these sources stressed.
The draft IAP will now have to be cleared by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and then by the Ministries of Tribal Affairs, Panchayati Raj and Rural Development, among others, before it is brought to the Cabinet for final approval, government sources said.
As things stand, the Commission, which had been mandated to draw up a plan for LWE districts, felt it needed to go beyond that and address backward tribal-dominated forested areas “with the incipient problem of Maoism,” contiguous to the Red Corridor, as well. It is for this reason that in place of the Union Home Ministry's suggestion that the plan address the 35 LWE-affected districts, the Commission has now drawn up a list of 60 districts.
The districts that have been chosen, the Commission sources said, fulfilled four of the five following criteria — more than 50 per cent of the population there lives below the poverty line, more than 30 per cent of the population is tribal, more than 25 per cent of the area is forested, it is one of the Home Ministry's designated Maoist-affected districts and, finally, it is a district covered by the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF), administered by the Panchayati Raj Ministry.
The plan envisages that in its first two years, the State governments will work to “strengthen the systems to enable them to meet certain conditionalities.” These are not just ensuring strict implementation of the PESA, the FRA and the government's flagship schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS).
The State governments will also have to consolidate panchayati raj institutions and ban liquor contractors, coming in from outside. The last code will not affect the production and consumption of local brews by the tribals.
To monitor and oversee the State governments engaged in strengthening governance systems and, if need be, change guidelines, an empowered group of officers, located in the Home Ministry, is envisaged. It will be headed by Sudha Pillai, Member-Secretary, Planning Commission. Its other members will include the Secretaries to the Ministries of Rural Development, Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj, while an Additional Secretary in the Home Ministry will be a Member-Secretary.
The committee will also have two senior civil society representatives, who will be “free to invite other civil society representatives to increase the network.” The civil society representatives are being added deliberately, the sources said, in the hope that the “creative tension” it generates would “open up more space.”
There will also be a differential system of allocations for the chosen districts, each receiving a base amount of Rs. 25 crore each year. The additional amounts will depend on other criteria, where the strength of the population, the strength of the tribal population within that, and the area covered by the district will get equal play. This last formula was added at the instance of Home Minister P. Chidambaram, the sources said, at the meeting Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia had with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the Home Minister on September 3.