‘Centre, not states, responsible for PRIs’

New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) The main responsibility for effective devolution of functions, finances and functionaries to Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) rests with the central government and not with the states, an expert committee has said.

According to the Expert Committee on Leveraging Panchayat Raj Institutions for the effective delivery of public goods and services, headed by former union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, the centre provides bulk of the funding – over Rs.2.5 lakh crore a year – for the social sector and poverty alleviation programmes, that the constitution indicates as the domain of the PRIs.

However, instead of ensuring the centrality of panchayats in centrally-sponsored schemes, almost all the plans are designed to be delivered through the bureaucracy or through registered societies that, unlike panchayats, are not accountable to local communities, said the expert panel.

Consequently, while the central government’s budgetary outlays have increased around 25 times over the past 20 years, India continued to stagnate on rank 136th out of 186 in 2011 on the human development index — as it did 20 years ago, the report notes.

Inclusive development, says the report, requires the beneficiary communities to have a sense of ‘ownership’ of these schemes.

According to the report, not only have PRIs been relegated to the margins in almost all centrally-sponsored schemes, these schemes have promoted the proliferation of registered societies and village-level parallel bodies that are responsible to their respective line departments and not answerable to local communities.

The resultant wastage, leakage and high administrative overheads not only leads to gross inefficiencies in delivery but it also alienates village communities and the local people from these schemes, says the report.

The report is to be released April 24, the National Panchayat Raj Day.

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