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Rural Decentralization for Poverty Reduction

Panchayati Raj Institution is the constitutionally mandated grassroots body for community development through decentralization of governance. NIPDIT has strived to strengthen the PRIs and create convergence among the PRIs & people’s organizations.

UNDP implemented the project “Rural Decentralization and Participatory Planning for Poverty Reduction”; in four states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa in partnership with Planning Commission at the national level with the broad objective of making the project block the model for decentralization processes in the respective states. A total of eight districts (two in each state) were covered under this project. In Orissa, two blocks, Phiringia of Kandhamal and Bangiriposi of Mayurbhanj were the project areas. NIPDIT, a voluntary organization with more than two decade of experience in tribal development executed the project in Phiringia block of Kandhamal district, Orissa.

NIPDIT is one of the prominent CSOs to advocate for PESA Act, a progressive Act for empowerment of the scheduled tribes living in scheduled areas. NIPDIT has intensified its activities in local self-governance during the past few years. The project, “Rural Decentralisation and Participatory Planning for Poverty Reduction”, in Phiringia block of Kandhamal district of the state. The project started in February 2005 and came to a close in December 2008. As one of the UNDP’s implementing partners, NIPDIT has executed this multi-stakeholder project quite successfully.

The overall objective of this document is to highlight the learnings and innovations during project execution to be shared with other stakeholders working in strengthening Panchayats for effective decentralization. In pursuance to the objectives, it includes documentation of different processes, outputs & outcomes. It is hoped that delineation of the challenges faced during implementation of the project and different strategies adopted for overcoming such challenges would be of particular interest to the readers.

Area Coverage & Demographic Profile
The project is implemented in Phiringia block of Kandhamal district of orissa through which 413 villages with a Population of 77,259 ,Households is 17150 covered. The gender ratio is in favour of women (Total male population is 38458 & female population is 38801). Tribals are numerically dominant with 67 percent of the total population followed by 29 percent SCs and 4 percent belonging to other social categories.
Overall Objectives
The project had the following specific objectives under the broad objective of “making Phiringia (the project block) the model block for decentralization processes in the state (Orissa)”
Strengthening decentralization of decision-making & Pro-poor development planning
Improving the fiscal domain of the PRIs for local level development through resource convergence and local resource mobilization.
Enhancing the oversight function of the PRIs (especially Gram Sabhas) to strengthen transparency & accountability in local governance.
Supporting enhanced devolution & autonomy of PRIs through facilitating Policy-making for decentralization.
Execution Strategy
In sync with the objectives outlined above, NIPDIT formulated its own strategy to execute the project in the target area. They are the followings:
Mass motivation and awareness building
Capacity building of different stakeholders of the project
Strengthening people’s engagement with Panchayati Raj Institutions
Participatory development planning based on local diversity & learning process
Engendering governance leadership
Strengthening stakeholder’s associations
Formation of NGO Consortium in the Block
Convergence & collaboration
Networking and Alliance building
Decentralization Tools used During Implementation
NIPDIT used the following decentralization tools during implementation of the project:
Preparation of participatory Micro Level Plans
Capacity building of the Community
Community managed institutions (Social Audit Committees, Social Audit Teams, Issue-based Committees)
Community based monitoring & Vigilance Systems
Facilitation for community devised Monitoring Tools
Strengthening the systems, procedures & institutional structures of PR System
Development of analytical skill among the members of the community through action research
Partners and their roles
At the State level, UNDP partnered with Department of Panchayati Raj. Cendret, XIM Bhubaneshwar was the State level Resource Institution to provide technical inputs to the district level implementing partners. At the district level, District Administration, Kandhamal and NIPDIT (as NGO implementing partner) were responsible for execution of the project.
NIPDIT( NGO Partner)
Preparation of participatory Micro Level Plans
Mobilisation and working with the GPs and other stakeholders for undertaking assessment of local endowment problems, identification of community needs and preferences through participatory appraisal exercises.
Facilitation of gender differentiated consultation and participation in the planning, implementation and monitoring process.
Systematic consultation between a multiplicity of local development actors for participation in identification,selection, prioritization and implementation of development rojects/initiatives/activities and drawing up micro plans.
Documentation/facilitating updation of record keeping at panchayat level.
Ensuring proper utilization of the untied funds by the GPs and the implementation of the micro-plans.
Supporting capacity building of PRIs to raise resources of their own.
Ensuring active role of the GS in community audit of accounts, selection of beneficiaries, functioning of the grassroots functionaries and holding elected officials accountable.
Organization of public hearings and posting of budgets at public places for public access.
Preparation of annual work plan and submission of financial and progress reports.
District Administration, Kandhamal
Facilitation of coordination among stakeholders in implementation of the project and setting up a district level committee.
Ensuring synergy & convergence with district programmes and RSVY (now BRGF)
Facilitating the process of formulation of selected projects/actions with Panchayat Standing Committees and submission to block panchayats by the NGOs.
Supporting the planning process at block and district level for sectoral and spatial integration of plans.
Constituting technical support groups and hiring local resource persons for vetting and sanction of identified projects/initiatives.
Developing local development financing plan including multi-year development budgets from different sources.
Coordinating selection of Gram Panchayats (based on certain criteria) to develop a mechanism/framework to provide untied funds to pilot panchayats with other stakeholders
Holding discussions to set up mechanisms for PRIs to raise resources of their own.
Provisioning of guidelines to support GPs for presenting accounts and statements to the GS.
Review of problems in linkages, administrative problems and facilitating coordination with various stakeholders including concerned line departments.
Preparation of annual work plan and submission of financial and progress reports to the state government.
Lessons Learnt
The experience of development of micro plan based on local diversity and learning process shows the way for participatory development where articulation of people’s need and its incorporation in the plan creates ownership among the people. This is evident in adequate factorization of the needs of the weaker section especially that of the women. Preparation of micro plan helps in creation of a sense of ownership among the people and leads to demand generation.

Preparation of micro plan makes the community aware of their entitlement relation with the institutions of governance. Development demand generated within the community gets the expression & vigour of demand for entitlements when people are involved in the planning process.

Most often the stereotypes like gender stereotypes lie buried in the collective psyche. Collective analysis leads to its extirpation where the community willingly does away with the practice as has been observed during project implementation where women have been made VLLs.

Common action to articulate development needs is more often a successor to participatory planning. A community can’t be goaded into common action unless & until there is a collective thinking on community development.

Instruments of transparency & accountability can be prudently used by the community to demand entitlements. We have observed that some of the community members have used Right To Information demanding their entitlements.

In making the PRI the institutions of community development and community empowerment it is important that capacity building initiatives are undertaken for different stakeholders. Equally important is the strengthening the systems, procedures & institutional structures. There are evidences where the trained PRI representatives have become the rallying point of community initiative to demand its entitlements.

Conflicting situation emerged between EO and Sarpanch regarding maintaining T & A. In few cases, it emerged that PRI was interested to share the information but the EO seemed reluctant and projected him/herself as the head of the institution.

At the same time it was observed that the PRI representatives are ignorant of most of the circulars and orders of the government bearing directives on devolution of power (fund, functions & functionaries). Such ignorance makes the PRI representatives play second fiddle to the GP functionaries.

Project Completion Report 2
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