Tackling delay in clearing projects by DPCs

Emulation of the State government's planning and project execution methodology has been mooted in civic bodies to overcome the District Planning Committees' delay in clearing their Plan projects.

A workshop on evolving an alternative methodology for toning up the People's Plan Campaign movement held at the Centre for Development Studies here on Monday suggested that the DPC-level whetting of Plan projects be confined to a broad review of procedures and guidelines issued by the State government. This will help the local self-government institutions save nearly two to three months in their annual Plan formulation and end bunching of implementation in the last quarter of the year.

On getting the DPC nod, local self-government institutions should instantly start implementing the simple projects and the complex ones may be put off till getting the technical sanction. An alternative mechanism, assigning officers for the purpose, should be evolved to grant technical sanction. Since the last quarter of the year is less crowded, local bodies can try and complete Plan formulation stages for the forthcoming year by March 31 itself. This can be done before the DPC approval, if it is delayed.

The Technical Advisory Groups can play a lead role in formulating the district Plan. The Technical Advisory Groups are a participatory space for experts who volunteer to offer their services.

Funds utilisation

The proportion of Special Component Plan and Tribal Sub-Plan funds devolved to the local bodies appeared to be on the higher side. Government departments cannot shirk the responsibility of making effective use of the funds. Structural barriers exist in making viable projects. The funds should not be allowed to lapse. It should be taken back for spending under the same heads in the departments concerned. The practice of penalising and effecting compensatory cuts for the shortfall in expending the funds from the general funds should be stopped.

A surfeit of government orders, infringing on the functioning of the civic bodies was found to be a major hassle. Government orders are not the best of vehicles of capacity development. Capacity building and pedagogy should be separated. Long-term perspectives and five-year Plans have been mooted for civic bodies. The approach should not be too ambitious.

‘Janakeeya durbars'

Public participation in grama sabhas should be enhanced. In order to augment the participatory space, local bodies may be encouraged to convene monthly ‘Janakeeya durbars' on a fixed date when the members and officials will be present to hear public suggestions and redress complaints. There should be an urgent overhauling of the process of data collection and storage on local-level planning. Forms should be made more simpler, it was felt.

Associate Professor K.N. Harilial presented the suggestions. Planning Board member C.P. John, economist M.A. Oommen, Prof. K.P. Kannan, and former Planning Board member Mridul Eapen were among those who spoke.

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