Funds are being utilised in a big way for benefit of rural populace

With members of the village health, sanitation and nutrition committees showing interest in rural hygiene, the village panchayats in Rajasthan have started utilising in a big way the untied funds of Rs.10,000 each sanctioned to them every year for routine and unscheduled works for the benefit of the rural populace.

Committees functioning in the small and remote villages in the State have joined the mainstream of development as a result of a comprehensive project for strengthening of gender response of panchayats implemented with the support of the United Nations Population Fund. The three-year project, executed by the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), also carried out orientation of the committee members.

Referring to the positive results visible during the project's last phase, PRIA State coordinator Santosh Kumar Kaushal said here on Saturday that community participation and better sensitivity were two major outcomes when the work was towards closure. Since January 2009, as many as 1,070 panchayats covering 4,290 villages in 21 districts have been approached under the project.

Following sustained efforts during the campaign, awareness levels of women's reproductive health and gender equality have increased. Untied funds were utilised in Udaipuria village panchayat of Chomu tehsil in Jaipur district for purchasing four weighing machines, blood pressure measurement equipment, chairs and tables, fan and durries and for getting electricity connection.

A toilet was constructed in a locality inhabited by Dalits at a cost of Rs. 8,000 after collecting Rs.8,000 through community mobilisation. This initiative has benefited about 100 Scheduled Caste families living in the village.

According to Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) Rekha Sharma in Nangal Govind village panchayat of Dausa district, all pregnant women in the village have been registered for institutional delivery and the percentage of immunisation among children has depicted a significant increase.

A training programme organised for committee members in Malikpur village panchayat of Chomu tehsil led to awareness about the untied funds, which had remained unutilised for the past two years. Dr. Kaushal said the equipment related to primary health care were purchased during the project when the PRIA activists approached the panchayat functionaries.

The village with a population of 2,148 has registered 152 institutional deliveries among a total of 153 deliveries during the past year, said Dr. Kaushal.

The untied funds were similarly utilised for ensuring better health care services in Bhuteda village panchayat of Govindgarh tehsil in Jaipur district. It has since led to improved figures of immunisation, family planning and institutional deliveries.

The PRIA coordinator pointed out that the health indicators in all 21 districts where the project was implemented had shown a marked improvement. Some auxiliary nurse midwives and ASHAs were also honoured for their achievements through gainful utilisation of untied funds.