The model village panchayat is receiving admiration for its various initiatives in the field of effective public administration through e-governance and planning
Nupur Tiwari | October 23, 2015
The ‘E’ in Eraviperoor has a different meaning in this a small village in Kerala. Winner of the prime minister’s award for excellence in public administration (2013-2014), the Eraviperoor gram panchayat has won accolades for its citizen-centric services.
“This panchayat has given priority to e-governance at the grassroots level, making local self-governance citizen-centric, efficient, responsive, cost-effective, and result-oriented, thus giving a fillip to rural development,” says N Rajeev, president, Eraviperoor panchayat.
Located in Thiruvalla taluk, Pathanamthitta district, the panchayat with its praiseworthy initiatives has set an example for other local bodies.
Online certificates and office records, information through voice message, salary through bank and a plastic recycling unit are some of the novel activities undertaken.
The front and main offices of the panchayat are fully computerised with over 20 computers. The panchayat also has a touch-screen and two server computers. The services delivered are regulated by the front office, so that people need not approach any other authority or section of the office. A receipt is provided on submission of an application and the service is delivered through the same counter. An SMS alert facility conveys important messages and services to the citizens.
Numerous initiatives in the area of waste management include a plastic recycling unit, plastic road, distribution of bio gas plant-pipe-vermi-ring compost, and construction of modern slaughter house. Its initiative of road tarring with shredded plastic waste is receiving praise from many quarters. Around 50 dustbins are placed at anganwadis, schools, and public institutions. People dump the plastic in these dustbins, which is then collected by the recycling unit and shredded.
The shredded plastic is used for road tarring process. Plastic-mixed roads have a longer life as compared to the bitumen-mixed roads. This was also tested by some centres in the state. Therefore, the system can be used for all rural areas, especially hill stations. 54 kilograms of plastic was used for the first stage of the project.
In Eraviperoor gram panchayat there are 154 Kudumbashree units with more than 2,500 women as their members. Kudumbashree is a female-oriented, community-based, poverty reduction project of Kerala. The Kudumbashree group started a project to prepare cooked food which instilled a sense of entrepreneurship among women. A group of 20 women from Kudumbashree were employed by the panchayat to sell nutrition supplementary food to 139 anganwadis. The products were made from wheat, groundnut, cholam, etc. Now the unit functions as a private firm. The initiative has helped people earn livelihood. In 2013-14, an investment of '18,50,000 was made for a new building for Nutrimix project.
It is another social welfare scheme, under Kudumbashree, managed by the panchayat. Three years ago, only 36 members under this project received benefits, but now about 170 beneficiaries receive food kits for their sustenance. Besides medical help, they also get facilities like housing, land, latrines, electrification, pension, etc. The panchayat has also started Stree Suraksha Beema Yojana for Kudumbashree members with a premium amount of '150 per head for one year. 484 members are insured under this scheme. Another scheme is credit link insurance. Under this scheme is that if an insured person dies a natural death or due to an accident the nominee would receive the sum assured, its premium '60 per head per year. The total number of members insured is 250.
Primary health centre
The primary health centre (PHC) project was introduced to develop infrastructural facilities of a very old PHC, which was frequently visited by people and needed improvement. Around 5,850 out-patients received medicines and medical services through this PHC. Most of the patients came from below poverty line families. The PHC also provides immunity drives for pregnant women and children to control communicable diseases. The PHC has ensured quality rural healthcare.
A local ‘court’, Jagratha Samithi, resolves complaints raised by women and children. Under this initiative, complainants need not go to the police to solve their problems. Complaints and petitions are received through anganwadis and ward members in the panchayat office. These complaints are taken by the Jagratha Samithi on the first Friday of every month. The gram panchayat president is the chairman of the Jagratha Samithi, and the ICDS supervisor is the convenor. Two women members of the panchayat, committee chairperson of CDS (Kudumbasree), circle inspector of police, one female advocate, and a female counsellor are the members of the Samithi. The Samithi came into existence in 2010 and in four years around 182 petitions were received and 173 were settled amicably.
In 2013-14, 73 cases were registered. Women, children, senior citizens, and those belonging to SC/ST community, are the main beneficiaries. Even men have registered complaints. It has emerged as one of the best institutions to solve problems of women and children in a short span of time.
Rain water harvesting
Another task undertaken by the local body is harvesting of rain water. 42,000 rain water harvesting pits were dug in the panchayat area under MGNREGS in 2013-14. All the land holders of the panchayat are beneficiaries of this project. The destruction of forests, construction of concrete buildings, etc. had resulted in a decline in ground water levels. The project helped in recharging ground water.
Nine water sources were cleaned and maintained by this project. The expenditure needed for the work was funded by MGNREGS.
The panchayat has also implemented various asset creating projects under MGNREGS during 2013-14. Varatar Punarjeevanam – Rejuvenation of a river, formation and metalling of roads, renovation of water bodies, water harvesting pits and banana cultivation are the major projects.
The Varatar river, which had almost dried up, was rejuvenated to solve many ecological concerns of people. The first phase of the rejuvenation of the river even helped in the breeding of fishes naturally.
The local body also helped in improving banana cultivation in the area, thereby strengthening the village women economically and making them self sufficient. 13,860 banana seedlings were planted for this purpose and 7,991 plantations were cultivated. The total cost of the project was '11,28,650, which was shared by the panchayat plan fund, MGNREGS fund, and the beneficiaries fund. An agriculture officer with the help of accredited engineers of MGNREGS implemented the project.
The task of empowering local governments and getting them to function well is constantly in transition. There are several aspects on which reforms have been slow and intermittent, or have hit serious road blocks, primarily because of reluctance of various stakeholders to push them through. Periodic introspection is necessary and strategies need to be evaluated, reviewed and renewed. New ideas need to be debated; old ones might have to be refreshed and relaunched. The Eraviperoor gram panchayat, certainly, shows the way.
Dr Tiwari is faculty, rural administration and panchayati raj coordinator, Centre for Public Policy, Planning and Development Studies, Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), New Delhi.
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