New Delhi: The rural development ministry has proposed a livelihoods foundation that will allow the government to partner with voluntary organizations in insurgency-hit central India during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17).
The creation of a “flexible” central fund for states to use according to their priorities and the doubling of the allocation for drinking water and sanitation are two other “big new proposals” that rural development minister Jairam Ramesh unveiled at a briefing on the 12th Plan initiatives of his department.
“We need to do something dramatically different in these areas,” Ramesh said, referring to the 170 mineral-rich tribal districts of central India.
“We hope the Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation, which will support organizations working there and help them scale up projects in areas like rural livelihoods and skill training, will lead to some fundamental change in their governance,” he said.
This idea wasn’t particularly new, said N.C. Saxena, member of the National Advisory Council.
“Capart, the rural development ministry’s older scheme, which had a similar mandate, is now languishing and, worse, it mainly helped paper organizations,” Saxena said. “If a foundation in Delhi funds and supports non-governmental organizations in these districts, monitoring will be a big problem and this scheme, too, will go the Capart way.” Capart is the Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology.
Such a scheme might work if the district collector was involved in identification of local organizations, Saxena said.
The Rs.40,000 crore rural development flexi fund, with 70% of the money coming from the centre, will make it possible for states to spend additional amounts on central schemes related to rural development or the drinking water and sanitation ministries besides projects that meet states’ specific priorities.
Mint reported in June that to use the flexi fund, state governments must devolve funds to panchayats or village councils and promote innovation and sustainability in the state-specific rural development programmes. Ramesh said the fund was expected to be operational from the next fiscal.
Ramesh wants the allocation for rural drinking water and sanitation doubled to more than Rs.1 trillion over that in the 11th Plan.
“This is very important because the primary determinant of malnutrition in India is poor sanitation,” he said.
Separately, Ramesh said that a task force had been constituted to look into land reform and redistribution issues.
The creation of the task force was promised in an agreement signed last week between the government and the Ekta Parishad, a group of some 50,000 landless farmers who had been marching to New Delhi to seek land reforms. The march was called off after the accord was signed in Agra.
“Yes, we have constituted a task force. The first meeting was held yesterday (Wednesday),” Ramesh said.
Planning Commission member Mihir Shah, activist Aruna Roy and Pravin Jha, Jawaharlal Nehru University professor and land reform expert, are among the members of the task force co-chaired by Ramesh and panchayati raj and tribal affairs minister, Kishore Chandra Deo.
“We will prepare an agenda for action for a national land reforms policy, as we had promised in the agreement, within the next three months and present that to the state governments,” Ramesh said.
This was one of the five decisions taken at Wednesday’s meeting.
In the next two months, a framework will be set up for fast-tracking land tribunals in consultation with the law ministry in accordance with the Agra agreement, Ramesh said.
The next meeting of the task force will take place on 16 November.
Meanwhile, Ekta Parishad’s P.V. Rajagopal said, “I think we will keep our army ready. When there is a battle, we will be there. I will continue to mobilize farmers.”
He was speaking at a press briefing on Thursday.
PTI contributed to this story.