M A I N   N E W S

PM for uniform focus on rural development
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today urged state governments to draw from the Chinese model of rural development with focus on value addition and business hubs.

Underlining the need for a uniform vision for rural development that can respond differently and purposefully to situations in different states, the Prime Minister said that the strategy for rural development must be fashioned to unleash the productive potential of agriculture and allied activities.

"We need to learn from the Chinese model of rural business hubs that add value to the agricultural produce within the rural areas. There is a new big opportunity in terms of the herbal wealth in tribal areas, which can greatly benefit from the attention now given by the business to non-timber wood products", Dr Singh said at the Chief Ministers' on Panchayati Raj and Rural Development here.

The Prime Minister regretted that the annual plan allocation of about Rs 17,000 crore on rural development and poverty alleviation schemes were not properly utilised.

"It is for us to honestly ask the question of whether we are making the best use of the nearly Rs 17,000 crore that we spend annually on the schemes being currently implemented. Does the compartmentalisation of our effort in multiple schemes in a ministry or ministries --both at the centre and the states -- without a core vision make this investment sub-optimal?. Before we set things right at the Centre we cannot be asking the states to do so", he said.

The Prime Minister said that there was need for a "uniform vision" for rural development that can respond "differentially and purposefully to development situations in different states and different regions".

"The situation in Assam is different from Bihar, or that of Kerala from Uttar Pradesh. If one message comes clearly from a survey of development indicators of Indian states, or from the last round of census, it is that many development challenges are not uniform national problems any more, but problems of selected states, in fact in some cases even selected districts in states", Dr Singh said.

He said that decentralised power in terms of local electricity generation and use can make the “Gandhian vision of decentralised production not only an ethical idea, but also a viable economic option”.

“The key instrument for integrating economic reforms with institutional reforms in the countryside is Gandhiji’s farsighted goal of Purna Swaraj through Gram Swaraj... our challenge today is to institutionalise this system of local self-governance”, he said.

He said that there were reports that sometimes state finance corporations (SFCs) are not even constituted, or they don’t give awards in time “or these awards are not honoured, when given, all of which erode Panchayati Raj”.

“It is in this context we have called for non-diversion of funds for panchayats and for their timely transfers. In the best traditions of fiscal federalism, the Centre and state governments need to cooperate in strengthening local government finances”, the Prime Minister said.

Dr Singh said that the agenda for rural development includes strategies for rural employment and ensuring access to basic services.

“This is a task that can best be done by local governments supported with funds from the central and state governments”, he said adding that panchayat supervision through gram sabhas also offers governance transparent and accountable to the citizen”, he said.

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