A key initiative piloted by Home Minister PChidambaram and cleared by the Union Cabinet after most ministers had opposed it as a subversion of the Panchayati Raj system, has emerged as a major success story for the UPA government’s anti-Naxal policy. The Integrated Action Plan (IAP) — under which the Centre has directly released Rs 1,500 crore to affected districts and left it to the discretion of a district-level committee comprising the collector, SP and district forest officer to earmark the development and infrastructure projects on which they are spent – has resulted in the initiation of works worth Rs 2,732 crore in 60 Naxal-affected districts.
Of the Rs 1,500 crore released, the district administrations have spent Rs 702.60 crore so far on works ranging from setting up of drinking water facilities and sanitation, construction of school buildings, roads and health centres, and electrical lighting. Surprisingly, when the IAP – wherein Rs 25 crore and Rs 30 crore would be directly disbursed to the district-level officials for 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively – was brought before the Cabinet for discussion and clearance, virtually all ministers and even the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission raised the red flag. They argued that the IAP would threaten the autonomy and powers of the local democratic institutions like the panchayats and gram sabhas.
Amid the dissenting noises, was a lone voice – that of Union home minister P Chidambaram – rooting for the scheme, envisioning it as a much-needed step to boost development in Naxal-hit areas. The Home Minister pushed hard for approval of the scheme, insisting that it would go a long way in addressing the socio-economic deprivation that is often associated with Left-wing extremism. “The collector, SP and forest officer are seen as symbols of the state. You will have to trust them with the funds,” he had told his Cabinet colleagues. Towards the end, the Cabinet decided to go with the home minister’s faith in the scheme and gave its approval. Less than two years later, the government appears to be gloating over the results the scheme has achieved in expediting development in the hitherto most-neglected districts.
Among nine Naxalite-infested states, Uttar Pradesh – which has just Sonbhadra district covered under the IAP – has surged ahead by clocking 117% expenditure on development works against the funds released. Andhra Pradesh has come second in performance with over 77% utilisation of Central funds. Jharkhand has overtaken Chhattisgarh in initiating projects under the IAP scheme as well as in utilisation of the funds released. While Jharkhand has spent 60% of the funds, Chhattisgarh lags behind with just 51% utilisation.
Maharashtra has done well with over 65% utilisation. Though Orissa has only spent 44% of the IAP funding, its Nuapada district has done exceptionally well, having individually recorded over 105% expenditure to funds released. According to a Planning Commission official, the good show by many districts can be attributed to an enthusiastic and dedicated administration. “IAP is a success wherever the district administration has taken keen interest in development activity,” the official said. An analysis of the data on types of works and projects taken up in 60 districts under IAP scheme shows that the maximum funding went into provision of drinking water and drainage (10445 works), setting up of school buildings (10630) and anganwadi centers (9757) and electric lighting (10210). Other priority areas were construction of roads (6083 projects) and health facilities (2047). Economic Times