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Punjab does poorly on central schemes
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
Planning Commission’s Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has forwarded to the Punjab government observations of a team of the commission, which visited the state to review the implementation of central schemes in September, 2008.

The letter of Ahluwalia said although Punjab was a front-runner in development, the team’s assessment was the state’s performance regarding these programmes was poor and delivery systems were not functioning well.

Commenting on individual schemes, the Planning Commission report noted that state’s utilisation of the funds allocated under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) had depreciated from 74 per cent to about 10 per cent. Scheme’s guidelines allow 50 per cent of the funds to be used by the panchayats and the rest by the line departments.

“However, most of the line departments are reluctant to implement the scheme because of its high level of transparency, requirement and maintenance of records and the Right to Information Act,” states the report.

The team added that there was a large scope under the scheme for repair and maintenance of the canal and drainage system in the state. “However, the unwillingness of the Irrigation Department and its reliance on the traditional system of getting work done through contractors have hindered the implementation of the scheme.”

Taking an overview of the implementation of the Sarv Sikhya Abhiyaan, the team pointed out that the gross enrolment ratio at the primary level in schools was 72.1 per cent, which was much below the national average of 110 per cent. The team noted that the state was facing an acute shortage of staff. More than 12 per cent schools were single-teacher schools. From discussions with villagers, the team observed that the poorest among them were prepared to send their children to private schools despite the mid-day meal scheme because of teacher absenteeism in government schools and the poor quality of education.

The team also noted that the teachers were burdened with duties other than teaching.

“The mid-day meal is not hygienic and not served regularly. There is a lack of community participation and the role of village education committee is limited. Also there is a lack of a proper agency to monitor the scheme in the state,” states the report.

The team noted that 70 per cent of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) was running from community centres or rented buildings. “Many of these places neither have suitable environment for study nor appropriate place for sitting and reading. Many of these centres do not even have drinking water and toilet facilities.”

Health centres have insufficient staff, drugs, vaccines and other medical facilities like ambulances, needle destroyers, hub cutters, etc, were not available. “Nothing much has been done by the state in the area of health management information system and archaic systems of registers and paper reporting is being used. Capacity building of Panchayati Raj Institutions is not carried out and they are not involved in the health system according to the National Rural Health Mission guidelines”.

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