With the objective of promoting local self-governance, the Central Government has decided to release Rs. 2.2 lakh crore directly to the panchayats across the country in the next five years. Each panchayat identified under Rurban (rural-urban) Mission would get Rs. 1.6 crore in five years, according to Union Rural Development Minister Chowdary Birendra Singh.
Addressing a day-long national meeting of tribal women gram panchayat presidents here on Tuesday, the Minister said that the panchayat presidents can change the fate and face of their territory if they understood their powers and responsibilities well.
The PESA Act came into force two decades ago. But it was hardly implemented. The Centre was committed to strengthening it, he said.
The Centre would develop 300 clusters connecting selected villages in the country in the next three years. Funds for development of these clusters would come from the Centre, the State, or under the Public-Private Partnership mode.
“In needy cases, there is scope for critical gap funding of up to 30 per cent,” he said.
Each cluster can have three to 30 villages, depending on their size, and a population between 25,000 and 50,000. As many as 10 lakh “barefoot engineers and technicians” were being trained across the country to help gram panchayats prepare estimates for development works.
The panchayats would be at liberty to decide on the projects to be taken up. Funds from the Centre would henceforth be released directly into the gram panchayat’s account and not through the State government.
Based on the population, each village would get at least Rs.80 lakh to create basic infrastructure. An equal amount would be released under the MGNREGA taking the total releases to each panchayat to Rs. 1.6 crore, he said.
Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram said that tribal panchayat presidents need to understand their powers and responsibilities.
The nation would not progress unless the rural areas witnessed development, he said.
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu explained the government’s initiatives in developing the rural areas, digital classrooms, convergence of MGNREGS funds with other programmes.
Referring to Araku coffee, he said the government plans to encourage coffee cultivation in another one lakh acres.
Minister of State for Rural Development Sudarshan Bhagat and Minister of State for Drinking Water & Sanitation Ram Kripal Yadav were present.
In all, 850 sarpanches from 10 States attended the meeting. An exhibition of tribal products and cultural activities was showcased at the venue.