Staff Reporter

‘Panchayati Raj system of governance should permeate the entire economy’

India is prospering, but Indians are not, says

the Minister

‘Meet aimed at facilitating dialogue within

the donor community’

Bangalore: Union Minister for Panchayat Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar on Friday blamed the bureaucracy for the ills in the social sector. It was essential that gram panchayats and local governing institutions be empowered for the uplift of the poorer sections of society, he said.

He was speaking after inaugurating the third annual conference of Arghyam, “Are we really catalysing change? Strategic grant-making in the water sector”.

Arghyam is a voluntary organisation working in the water sector with a mission to ensure “safe and sustainable water for all”.

“Panchayati Raj system of governance should permeate the entire economy and reach that part of the country where a majority of the poor live. The administrative system is top heavy, expensive to maintain and needs to be dismantled if some sort of impact is to be achieved,” he said.

The Minister spoke about the rise of the Indian billionaire. “But that speaks nothing for the rest of the country,” he said.

Pointing out that there were inequities in wealth distribution in the country, the Minister said: “Although social spending has increased from Rs. 7,600 crore in 1993 to more than Rs. 1,20,000 crore in 2008, there are no corresponding benefits for those who are just above the poverty line. India is prospering, but Indians are not,” he said

“Middle-class people were empowered through decades of State support, which led to a sense of entitlement, and finally their enrichment. However, this process has not reached the people who are still deprived of their entitlement,” he said.

“Spending of social grants could be better if they were given to gram panchayats, with donors partnering with them. Gram panchayats should achieve financial sustainability and help the poor make their own decisions,” the Minister said.

Arghyam chairperson Rohini Nilekani said the conference aimed at facilitating a dialogue within the donor community and increasing cooperation between philanthropic foundations and the corporate sector, government departments and civil society organisations.