Buoyed by the experience of the central monitoring committee to oversee the development of Bundelkhand region, the planning commission is actively considering the idea of replicating the model in other backward regions of the country. The decision to form the monitoring committee for Bundelkhand came last year in November following opposition from the Uttar Pradesh and the Madhya Pradesh governments to the centre’s plan of setting up Bundelkhand Development Authority (BDA).
Planning Commission member and former cabinet secretary B.K. Chaturvedi, who heads the monitoring committee for Bundelkhand, spoke to Shivani Chaturvedi. Excerpts from the interview:
What was the need for the central monitoring committee?
Bundelkhand region comprises parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Setting up the BDA was not feasible under the present constitutional structure. Therefore, the central government approved a special package worth Rs 7,266 crore for this backward region last November. Part of it is being met from the existing centrally-sponsored schemes and the rest will be allocated afresh by the Planning Commission. Percentage of this amount varies from scheme to scheme; for some projects it might be 75% from the centre and 25% from the state, while in other cases it might be 65% from the centre and 35% from the state. The idea is to develop the region taking into account all the needs of the locals such as water harvesting, irrigation and other necessary requirements. The monitoring committee was thus set up to monitor use of developmental funds sanctioned by the centre for the region. Besides, the committee will give suggestions on how schemes should be implemented and whether any changes are required at the policy level.
How does the committee function?
Each district in Bundelkhand region is required to prepare its own development plan. The National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) has been chosen to examine the schemes and give recommendations to the Planning Commission. NRAA Chairman J S Samra visited the region and had discussions with the state government officials. He also extended help in preparing the schemes. UP has sent the proposal and MP will submit it by February 15. However, the estimate of the proposal submitted by UP was about Rs 5,000 crore while the sanctioned amount is between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000 crore. So changes were required in the proposal. UP state government officials and NRAA chairman will sit together and modify the proposal. Then it will come to us and we will make recommendations to the finance ministry. The ministry will then release additional central assistance (ACA) to the states.
What specific roles have been assigned to the different members of the committee?
The committee comprises members of the Planning Commission in-charge of UP and MP as chairperson and co-chairperson and the chief secretaries of UP and MP as members. The members are from state governments. They give feedback and suggestions about the particular state they deal with. Chairperson and co-chairperson are responsible for both the states. The committee is required to evaluate how far schemes are effective, whether funds have reached at the ground level and other such crucial issues. The first review meeting was held on February 3, the subsequent day we received the proposal. Chief secretaries of both the states, Planning secretaries and the officers concerned participated in the meeting.
Is the involvement of two state governments a boon or a bane in integrated development?
Ideally, there should be one authority. With inter-state authorities, difficulties do arise. However, we hope to achieve integrated development. Ken-Betwa link is an example of integrated development, where the same scheme is developed in different regions so that synergy is also developing.
Is there any involvement of locals for this particular project?
We have suggested to the state governments that they should form district and state level committees for monitoring of the scheme. The state governments have to decide whom to include in the committees. They may be officials or even locals.
There are other backward areas as well, so what was the need for a separate monitoring committee for Bundelkhand alone?
Planning Commission is concerned about other underdeveloped areas also. But this area was taken up as it was drought hit and needed special attention.
Are there any specific plans for development of other underdeveloped areas?
Schemes have already been implemented in Orissa, Kalahandi and Bolangir. We are thinking of replicating the concept introduced for Bundelkhand region in areas like Vidharba, naxalite areas of Jharkhand, some pockets of Maharashtra and some of Orissa. Under this concept, by putting in small amount larger results can be expected. Plus, there is synergy which otherwise is lacking.