Tuesday, April 29, 2014

PRI Capacity Building & Training

The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments ushered in the Panchayati Raj in India. Panchayati Raj Institution(PRI) is a three-tier system in the state with elected bodies at the village, block and district levels. The rural mathematics of the vote in the Panchayat election has become highly political in the nature due to channeling of  government scheme fund through PRI. There are voices emerging on the corruption at this basic level. Budget expenditure for Panchayat elections runs in lakhs for no other reason. Many gram pradhans are becoming powerful by grabbing resources meant for the welfare of the people whom they represent. In my opinion, PRI has embarked one thing for sure i.e. decentralised benefits of corruption. Looking on the positive side, there is infrastructure development and money returning back to the village economy through this arrangement. PRI has brought more a sense of local governance to the rural India.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” - Lord Acton, English historian and moralist of the 19th century

“All power corrupts, but some must govern.” - John le Carre, British ex-intelligence officer and novelist of the 20th century

Gram Panchayat is getting involved in planning and execution and monitoring of the various public schemes. There is lot of fund available at level with the decentralization of the power through PRI. Barely educated Gram Pradhan is dealing with huge money under social security schemes namely MGNREGS, BRGF, TFC, SFC, Indira Awas Yojna, etc. PRI representatives are not professionals but only voice of the people. Management takes money and people. With such amount of cash flow, processes can't be left on the shoulders of either overburdened representatives or volunteer in the committees. It is more necessary in investing human resources with knowledge and raising amount of operational expenses (salary). A Nayab Sarpanch gets less than thousand rupee per month as an honorarium in Odisha. How can such person give full attention to the responsibilities ?

The idea of a managed transition of power in Panchayati raj is still a delusion unless leaders of the community don't emerge by breaking conservative, male-supporting, social structures. Most of the elected representatives of PRIs are illiterate and semi-literate. They have negligible knowledge about PRIs and no operational skills required for local governance. Capacity building and training (CB&T), particularly in an on-going process that focuses on creating new leaders especially women and knowledge transfer at the grassroot level of democracy

I have attended few training sessions in conference halls given to PRI members. Most of training focuses largely on content and has a minimal focus on the mode of delivery. Lectures/ Powerpoint Presentation mode of training is theoretically sound, but may not be absorbed well by an audience with bare minimum literacy amid rural backgrounds. Research has demonstrated that adults learn six to seven times more through practice and feedback than through lectures, yet far too many capacity building programs consist of classroom sessions or self-study modules. I don't have backing on any conclusive study but exposure visits and study tours conducted have more receiptance in rural India.

There is growing focus on the development of a two tier cadre of resource persons i.e. the master resource persons and district/ block resource persons. Most of the states do provide short duration inputs (5-15 days) with the help State Institutes of Rural Development (SIRD). Training sessions in government workshops have created a pool of trainers but the quality is lacking in the human resources. There is no long term systematic strategy employed by the government. The lack of a strong monitoring and evaluation system for training doesn't help in seeking impact of such training. The effective establishment of PRIs as a strong node for local governance remains a distant reality until these gaps are not filled properly. Organisations (NROs) such as Tripti(Odisha), SERP (AP), Jeevika (Bihar), and Kudumbashree (Kerala) are slowly grooming the leaders through Livelihood Mission who has sufficient knowledge of PRI & various other schemes.

Kaushik Basu (in October 2013): "Overall economic growth is important, but the poor should not have to wait until its benefits trickle down to them; with the right anti-poverty policies, governments can encourage trickle-up growth as well." Building public institutions is a slow process, with frequent regression, but over time PRI will become strong, inclusive and democratic institution in the spirit of the constitutional amendment. Progress is a painstaking task and we have long way to go!

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