Plan panel to move fast on reducing central schemes

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 01, 2013 19:35 hrs

The Planning Commission is likely to soon move a Cabinet note to restructure the centrally sponsored schemes (CSS) and cut their number from 147 to 59, to better target the delivery and save the exchequer’s money. The note might also propose more flexibility to states for utilising the funds.

This follows a near-unanimous agreement on swift implementation of the B K Chaturvedi panel’s report on rationalising CSS. Once the Cabinet approves the recommendations, the plan would be put in operation from April 1, officials said

The panel, constituted by the government under the chairmanship of Planning Commission member Chaturvedi, had suggested bringing down the number of CSS to 59, by either clubbing smaller programmes into larger ones or abolishing these. Schemes, with an annual allocation of less than Rs 100 crore, may either be clubbed or abolished, leading to substantial savings for the government.

The panel also proposed to have a system of flexi-funds, in which 20 per cent of the Budget allocated for a CSS could be used by state governments according to their own needs, albeit within the broader framework of the programme. This flexibility would, however, be cut to 10 per cent in case of flagship programmes like the rural job scheme.

“The initiative taken by the Planning Commission to consult states in restructuring CSS needs to be commended… However, it is hoped the recommendations are urgently acted upon and not diluted,” Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had said in his address during the National Development Council (NDC) meeting last week.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had said the recommendations of the committee should be accepted and arrangements made for immediate implementation. Similarly, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh had said the recommendations were “welcome”.

However, there were dissenting voices as well, like Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who, commended the panel for some good recommendations on clubbing small programmes, wanted a complete elimination of CSS and allocation to states as untied grants.

Officials say if the government accepts the panel’s report fully, 11 CSS under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare could come down to just five. The government spent Rs 18,000 crore in 2011-12 on the 11 programmes.

Big programmes like the national mental health programme, the national programme for prevention and control of diabetes, cancer control programmes and programmes for health care for the elderly, will all form part of the broad national programme on non-communicable disease.

In the Department of Rural Development, the National Rural Livelihood Mission could subsume schemes like the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) and the programme for development of district-level rural development agencies, called the DRDA Administration. The DRDA programme was meant to develop agencies and institutions which could effectively monitor the central government’s anti-poverty programmes.

In the Ministry of Environment and Forests, popular programmes such as Project Tiger could form part a larger scheme called Conservation of Natural Resources and Environment Protection. Project Elephant will become part of a bigger programme called the Integrated Development of Wildlife. Another big change can come in programmes run by the department of school education and literacy and the Ministry of Labour and Employment and Social Justice and Empowerment.

In the School Education Department, a broader scheme for supporting educational development will encompass as many as six small schemes like the programme for adult education and skill development and programme for appointment of language teachers.

In the Ministry of Labour and Employment, of the 13 centrally sponsored programmes, barring the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, the remaining 12 programmes will form part of the broader scheme for skill development. Similarly, for the 13 CSS run by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the panel has recommended bringing them down to five and making these more targeted.

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