The MoRD constituted the present Committee with a mandate to study the structure of the DRDA and suggest measures to strengthen their professional character so that they could be useful to the Zila Parishads and the district administration in planning for removal of rural poverty. After discussions and analyses made by the Committee, it was felt that most of the original objectives of setting up of DRDA have not been achieved. The Committee realized that there are serious concerns regarding effective convergent planning and implementation of large number of schemes for poverty reduction, for which appropriate institutional arrangements are required.
The District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) was constituted in 1980 as the principal organ at the district level to oversee the implementation of different anti-poverty programmes of the MoRD. Over the years, the institution of DRDA has fallen short in realizing its objective due to enormous increase in the number of schemes, quantum of funds placed at its disposal and challenges in operationalizing different new generation programmes which required a high order of professional competence. In the context of emergence of PRIs, a need for integration of DRDA with Zilla Panchayat has also been felt.
The report has identified the institutional weaknesses of DRDAs: i) Lack of professional and multi-disciplinary staff; ii) Preponderance of generalist staff; iii) Absence of career prospects for own staff of DRDAs; iv) Large number of vacancies, especially of professionals; and v) Limited IT support. The functional shortcomings of DRDA include – i) Poor capacity building of DRDA staff; ii) Limited involvement in planning and coordination; iii) Monitoring limited only to financial expenditures; iv) Absence of evaluation of programmes; v) Limited engagement with PRIs and peoples organizations; vi) Carrying out too much of unrelated ad hoc work; vii) Insufficient funding of DRDAs and viii) Absence of non-financial monitoring of DRDAs by MoRD.
The report suggests that most of the original objectives of setting up of DRDA have not been realised. Now that large schemes for poverty reduction are in place and there are serious concerns regarding their effective convergent planning and implementation, there is a need for new institutional arrangements. The existence of constitutionally mandated PRIs and the emergence of community based organisations of the poor in the context of rights based development further justify the need for new institutional arrangements. The report suggests the key principles which should govern the design of the new institutional arrangements:
The report recommends the followings:
District Plan Support Unit (DPSU): This is envisaged as a lean and coherent professional team driven by a shared vision to eliminate poverty. Ideally, in keeping with the constitutional scheme of things, this group should be located within the District Planning Committee as a distinct part of its technical secretariat. The mission of the DPSU would be “to prepare a district level holistic anti-poverty sub plan converging all the centrally sponsored schemes directly related to the poverty reduction along with similar schemes of the state and local governments and oversee and guide convergent implementation”. The DPSU also needs to coordinate with State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD) and drive different capacity building initiatives relevant for poverty reduction.
State Level Set Up: The key responsibility of this set up would be to guide and assist the DPSUs to achieve their tasks. It would ensure the coordination of line departments and agencies and also liaise with nodal departments like statistics, planning, finance etc., it would consolidate at the state level all the data and outputs of DPSUs.
National Level Coordination Arrangements: Since schemes of several Ministries are to be included in the antipoverty sub plan, it is suggested that an Empowered Committee be set up at the national level consisting of the Secretaries of the Ministries concerned with authorised representatives from the Planning Commission and Ministry of Finance.
Suggested Planning Process: The planning methodology suggested by the report of the Expert Group on Planning at the Grassroots Level (2006) may be followed mutatis and mutandis for preparation of the anti-poverty sub plan. Of course, the process has to be iterative.
The report also recommends arrangements for managing the transition to the new scheme of things.
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