Friday, June 28, 2013

Rural scheme uncertainty - Cloud on pension and new projects

Rural scheme uncertainty

- Cloud on pension and new projects

Calcutta, June 27: Senior government officials today said schemes affecting the lives of rural people would suffer in the absence of elected members, the fears expressed on a day the government initiated the process of engaging administrative staff to run development schemes of panchayats.

The government has empowered the district administrations to run "for the time being" development schemes after the expiry of the terms of gram panchayats.

The terms of elected gram panchayat representatives began expiring on Tuesday.

An official said: "Each extension officer (government employees posted in blocks) will be in charge of development schemes of a panchayat. Extension officers will report to the BDOs. On an average, a BDO has 10 gram panchayats under his or her jurisdiction. The BDOs will oversee development schemes of the panchayat samitis."

The officials feel that under the new arrangement, the state can continue for the time being regular activities such as payment of salaries of panchayat employees and clearing funds for ongoing schemes.

"But in the absence of elected members of the rural bodies, no new beneficiary can be included in many pension schemes as the lists are updated based on the recommendations of the elected members," an official said.

There are more than 19 lakh beneficiaries in various schemes such as old-age pension, widow pension and disabled pension. The lists are updated every quarter.

Rural people could also face problems getting dwelling units under the Indira Awas Yojana. "Beneficiaries of this project are selected by the elected members. In the long run, the project will come to a halt if there is no elected body," another official said.

The district administrations don't have the power to utilise untied funds, which are not specific to any project.

"Funds allotted under the Finance Commission are not tied to any project and can be used by elected members only. The state usually gets around Rs 1,000 crore under this head every year. This fund is used during emergency situations such as installing drinking water sources, repairing village roads and setting up relief centres," a BDO said.

The senior officials said the district administrations also did not have the power to initiate new projects. A new project has to be vetted by district planning committees headed by zilla parishad sabhadhipatis. Eighty per cent of the representatives of the committees are elected representatives.

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