Major highlights of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj during the year 2020 are
1. SVAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas)
a. Towards the objectives of socio-economic empowerment of the rural mass and making them self-reliant, a Central Sector Scheme, “Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas’ was launched by the Prime Minister on 24th April 2020.
b. The scheme aims to provide the ‘record of rights’ to village household owners possessing houses in inhabited rural areas in villages and issuance of property cards to the property owners.
c. Pilot phase of the Scheme is being implemented during the financial year 2020-21 covering about 1 lakh villages in few States, along with establishment of 101 Continuous Operating System (CORS) stations across Punjab and Rajasthan.
d. The scheme will cover all remaining States/UTs by 2023-24.
e. As on November 2020, drone flying has been completed in 8,837 villages; out of which data processing of survey data is completed for 6,438 villages and feature extraction for 5,342 villages.
f. Physical distribution of property cards has been done to about one lakh household owners in 763 villages across 6 pilot States
2. e-Gram Swaraj e-Financial Management System
a. In order to strengthen e-Governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), eGramSwaraj, a Simplified Work Based Accounting Application for Panchayati Raj, was launched on the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day on April 24, 2020.
b. It has been developed amalgamating the functionalities of all the applications under e-panchayat Mission Mode Project (MMP).
c. e-GramSwaraj assists in enhancing the credibility of Panchayat through inducing greater devolution of funds to PRI.
d. It brings better transparency through decentralized planning, progress reporting and work-based accounting. Furthermore, the application provides a platform for effective monitoring by higher authorities.
e. In this endeavour, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj has put in place an e-Financial Management System (e-FMS) comprising of Panchayat Planning, Physical Progress, Financial Progress, and Asset Management with Local Government Directory (LGD).
3. Training & Capacity Building
a. Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) complements the efforts of State Government towards training and capacity building of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRls) through Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA).
b. The Ministry has approved the Annual Action Plans (AAPs) of 34 States/UTs and released Rs.324.42 crore to 17 States/UTs and implementing agencies till 08.12.2020.
4. People’s Plan Campaign (PPC)- Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas
a. The status of PPC as on December 08/12/2020 is as under:
i. 162155 numbers (59.7%) of Gram Sabhas held
ii. 195168 numbers (78%) of Gram Sabhas Scheduled
iii. 53901 numbers (19.9%) of facilitator’s feedback received.
iv. 49114 numbers (18.1%) of GPDP Approved as per facilitator’s feedback.
v. 39 numbers of GPDPs uploaded on eGramswaraj portal
vi. 98 numbers of GPDPs in pipeline
5. AuditOnline: Online Audit of Panchayat accounts
a. As a critical Institutional reform, Ministry has launched the AuditOnline application on 15th April, 2020 for carrying out online Audits of Panchayat accounts.
b. AuditOnline not only facilitates the auditing of accounts but also provisions for maintaining audit records that have been carried out.
c. This application also seeks to streamline the process for audit inquiries, draft local audit reports, draft audit Paras etc.
d. One of the main unique aspect of AuditOnline; is that it is a completely configurable application i.e. the application can be modified/configured as per States ‘Audit process flow, so that the State Auditors using the application can easily carry out the audit exercise using AuditOnline.
e. The accounts of Panchayats are being maintained on eGramSwaraj (erstwhile PRIASoft – accounting MIS), a work based accounting software developed under e-Panchayat Mission Mode Project.
f. Almost, all States are on-board AuditOnline to carry out audit of 20% of the GPs.
g. All States are required to complete the audit process by 31st December 2020. However, from next year i.e. 2021-22; 100% GPs have to be audited using AuditOnline.
6. Geo-tagging of assets
a. As a part of effective monitoring, it is imperative to have field-level monitoring of physical progress of the works. Further, supplementing to strengthening the system; geo-tagging of assets (on completion of work) is of utmost importance.
b. Ministry has developed mActionSoft – a mobile based solution to help in capturing photos with Geo-Tags (i.e. GPS Coordinates) for the works which have asset as an output.
c. Geo-tagging of the assets is done in at least three stages viz. (i) before start of the work, (ii) during the work and (iii) on completion of work. This would provide a repository of information on all works and assets related to natural resource management, water harvesting, drought proofing, sanitation, agriculture, check dams and irrigation channels etc.
d. As on November 2020 around 13,49,396 photographs (cumulative count) of the assets have been created through Fourteenth Finance Commission Grants.
7. Initiative for the Gram Panchayat Spatial Development Planning
a. Ministry of Panchayati Raj has taken up the initiative for the Gram Panchayat Spatial Development Planning on the pilot basis for two Gram Panchayats per institute in few States.
8. Role of Panchayats in combating COVID-19 Pandemic
a. With active assistance of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, the Panchayats in the country have taken various mitigation / preventive measures against the COVID-19 Pandemic.
b. The various initiatives employed by the Panchayats in setting up isolation centres in rural areas include
i. development of IEC materials towards awareness creation, - intensive sanitization/disinfection measures
ii. deployment of village volunteers for COVID-19 management
iii. enforcement of social distancing
iv. organization of medical camps
v. tracking and isolating new entrants to the villages
vi. door to door campaigns for awareness generation
vii. hand washing campaigns
viii. mass production of masks through SHG involvement
ix. provision of gainful employment to returning migrant workers through involving them in Finance Commission
x. MGNREGS works etc.
c. Since Panchayati Raj Institutions are more closely connected to the local public, they were in the forefront to convince the local residents to follow the guideline of health authorities and cooperate with the frontline health workers / Corona warriors.
9. Dissemination of vital information of other Ministries/ Departments to the last mile recipients at Gram Panchayats and role of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj
10. Finance Commission Grants to Rural Local Bodies
a. The Fifteenth Finance Commission (XV FC) in its interim report for the period of FY 2020-21 has recommended grants of Rs. 60,750 crore for Rural Local Bodies (RLBs), a record in itself.
b. Now, the XV FC Grant-in-aid will be devolved to all tiers of Panchayats including the Traditional Bodies of Non Part IX States and Fifth and Sixth Schedule areas, in 28 States.
c. The Grants are provided in two parts, namely, (i) a Basic (Untied) Grant (50%) and (ii) a Tied Grant (50 %) While the basic grants are untied and can be used by RLBs for location-specific felt needs, except for salary or other establishment expenditure, the Tied Grants are earmarked for the national priority focus areas of Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation.
11. Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyan (GKRA)
a. Government of India had launched GKRA in six States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to provide gainful employment to the migrant labourers who had returned to their native villages due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
b. As a part of the Abhiyan, Ministry of Panchayati Raj undertook facilitation of two activities namely, (i) ‘Construction of Gram Panchayat Bhawans’ and (ii) ‘Works under Central Finance Commission Grants.
c. The Panchayats in the 116 GKRA Districts were provisioned with the funds to the tune of Rs.9554.97 crore (unspent balance of XIV FC Grants and XV FC Untied and Tied Grants) for undertaking ‘Works under Finance Commission Grants’ in the rural areas, out of which an expenditure to the tune of Rs.5810.95 crore (60.82%) was made and 2,82,45,660 person days generated during the Abhiyan period which ended on 22.10.2020.
12. National Panchayat Awards 2020
a. Ministry of Panchayati Raj has been incentivizing best performing Panchayats/States/UTs through awards and financial incentives since the year 2011 under its Incentivization of Panchayats Scheme in recognition of their good work for improving delivery of services and public goods.
b. The awards are given on the National Panchayati Raj Day celebrated on 24th April annually.
(The author is a trainer for Civil Services aspirants. The views expressed here are personal.)