‘Banks need to be sensitised about loans under IAY’

Tete-a-tete with the district planning officer of West Medinipur on the state of different government projects, their implementation and the future plan

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Puja Bhattacharjee | January 30, 2013


Pranab Ghosh, district planning officer, West Medinipur: District’s infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are within the state average.
Pranab Ghosh, district planning officer, West Medinipur: District’s infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are within the state average.

A 1998 batch officer of West Bengal Civil Service executive, Pranab Ghosh has been the district planning officer (DPLO) of West Medinipur for the last two and half years. Before that, he was the executive magistrate under the personnel and administrative reforms department in Durgapur, Burdwan district.

Governance Now spoke with Ghosh on his future plans for the district, the present state of the different government projects, and their performance in the past. Excerpts from an interview:
 
What are your priorities for West Medinipur as the DPLO?
The district is divided into areas with laterite and non-laterite soil. Agriculture is a challenge in laterite areas, and my aim is to increase cropping intensity in these areas.  The district’s average cropping intensity is 56 percent, and it is 47 to 49 percent in laterite areas. The drinking water situation is another issue I am trying to address by exploring (the district’s) irrigation potential.

How is the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) faring in the district?  
The details can be provided by the NRGA cell (but) we have reached 28 man days at present. Our target is to reach 50 man days.

But people here complain about the lack of work under NREGS. What’s your take?
If that is the situation, they are entitled to an unemployment allowance. They have to ask for work under a proper system.

Let’s talk about the housing scheme for the poor — Indira Awaas Yojana. Many people have complained that Rs 48,500 is too less an amount to build a brick house. Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh recently raised the allotment amount under IAY in Maoist-affected areas to Rs 80,000. Does that mean these people will get an additional Rs 31,500 to complete construction of their houses?
It isn’t possible to do anything for those who have already received the funds. They can avail a soft loan under the Differential Rates of Interest (DRI) scheme. While banks give loan to IAY beneficiaries at an interest rate of 4 percent, the market rate of interest is 8 percent.

The government gives banks the differential rate of interest. But response from bankers’ end is very poor. Banks need to be sensitised (about availing loan under IAY scheme).

What is your take on the health situation in the district?
The district’s infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate are within the state average. (One has to also consider) West Medinipur is a malaria-prone zone and problems regarding tuberculosis persist. Otherwise, the situation is under control.

How successful is the implementation of the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) in West Medinipur?
IAP direct fund availed is Rs 30 crore per year. Our state is first in terms of expenditure. IAP was started was started in 2010-11. It is very closely monitored and its performances have been very good. The decision-making and implementation is (also) very quick.

The drinking water situation in the district is pretty bad, with most taps pumping out red iron-laden water. Besides, farmers complain that production suffers due to inadequate water supply. How are you planning to address this?
Drinking water is taken care of mostly under IAP and Paschimanchal Unnayan Parshad (state initiative to look after western region of the state). Work has also started under Rajiv Gandhi drinking water mission (as part of which) drinking water potential is being created. Spot sources like tubewell, ring-well are (also) being made.

In fact, most schemes (under implementation in the district) are for drinking water. The problem is also accentuated by some tubewells that are defunct (but) the villagers have to take some ownership. If the user-group takes charge, the operation will run much more smoothly.

For irrigation, 16 schemes under integrated watershed management project (IWMP) are going to be started. The office has already been opened and staff are being recruited. The detailed project report is being finalised. We have got the first installment from the state government. A World Bank project named ‘accelerated development for minor irrigation (ADMI)’ for irrigation is awaited and is expected this financial year.

The villagers still defecate in the open. What is the status of total sanitation campaign in your block?
We get funds from central rural sanitation fund for sanitation. But there is a unique development this year, as the NREGA and sanitation departments are being converged. We can (now) utilise NREGA funds for total sanitation campaign with a model estimate of Rs 10,000 per unit. But there will be no deviation from the 60:40 ratio of wage and no wage.

What is the overall access of ration under public distribution system (PDS) in the district? What is the coverage and distribution loss? Have you faced any com plaints from the people?
There is access, and 22 additional outlets have been opened to enable people to buy ration near their homes. At present, the total number of ration card holders is equal to the total population and we have taken people’s feedback through a consumer interaction form.

The food department is working on addressing their grievances.

How are funds being utilised under BRGF? Is there any scope for improvement?
The panchayati and rural development department releases funds to the district which then sub-allots it to the panchayati raj institutions (PRI). The annual entitlement is Rs 32 crore.

We have been sanctioned more than Rs 700 crore under special BRGF. The purpose of BRGF is to fill up the critical gap. A lot of work has been done under special BRGF fund — schools, roads and other infrastructure have been built.

The fund is sanctioned on a yearly basis and implementation takes an average of two years or so.

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