Giving itself discretionary powers on release funds to States under various Central schemes, the Planning Commission has decided to restructure 16 Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) into Additional Central Assistance (ACA) Schemes. The new funding pattern will be effective from 2013-14.
While restructuring the CSSs will give more flexibility to the States to utilise the funds, it will also give the Planning Commission absolute control over the quantity of money to be released. CSS funds are routed through the Ministries, but once the new system is in place as many as 11 ministries will lose monetary control over their ambitious schemes.
Experts fear the new funding pattern could be used as a political tool by the Centre to discriminate between States on the basis of the party in power. More so, since the parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2014.
The schemes to be restructured include flagship programmes such as the Integrated Child Development Scheme, the Mid Day Meal Scheme, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Indira Awas Yojana, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, and the yet-to-be launched National Health Mission.
Some other important schemes to be restructured are the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, the Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission and Sanitation Mission, the Backward Regions Grant Fund, and the National Rural Livelihood Mission.
It is the Ministries concerned that release funds for the CSS. But, under the new set up the Planning Commission will release the funds directly to the States on the recommendation of the Finance Ministry. The ministries concerned will only monitor the implementation of the schemes, which would be evaluated by an external agency.
The Union Cabinet approved the proposal at its meeting when the draft document for the 12th Plan was cleared. According to the Cabinet note, the Plan proposed rationalisation and restructuring of the CSS for improving efficiency. Details of the other schemes will be worked out in consultation Ministries concerned, it said.
CPI (M) opposes move
Opposing the conversion of these schemes, the former MP and CPI (M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat said: “We have been demanding ICDS and Mid Day Meal to be made statutory rights. Instead the government has further diluted the schemes,’’ she said, adding that the Centre could deny funds under the scheme on any pretext.
Though States would welcome the flexibility in using the funds if based on a normative formula, experts point out that the Planning Commission would have total discretion over funding to the States and each could be treated differently. The present funding structure of ACA varies from one scheme to another.