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Funds for local bodies made virtually free: Kerala Planning Board chief

Vinson Kurian
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K.M. Chandrasekhar, Vice-Chairman, Kerala State Planning Board.
K.M. Chandrasekhar, Vice-Chairman, Kerala State Planning Board.

The State Government has stipulated an upper cap of 45 per cent in the size of funds that local bodies can commit to infrastructure.

In fact, this is about the only condition that local bodies need to remind themselves of as a freshly minted and ‘suitably liberal’ scheme of fund allocation takes effect.

“Local bodies need to be given a certain degree of independence,” K.M. Chandrasekhar, Vice-Chairman, Planning Board, told Business Line here.

“Whatever finances that the Government is going to provide them are now being made virtually free,” he said. The only stipulation is about the 45 per cent upper cap on spending on infrastructure, especially on roads.

Five per cent should go for women development and 10 per cent for the weaker sections.

“Beyond that, there are no stipulations; each local body can decide for itself what its priorities are,” Chandrasekhar said.

EASIER APPROVALS

It should be left to the local body to decide these things without our stipulating caps. It is unlike the past in which local bodies were constrained by stipulations.

“The second thing is that we’ve tried to make the system of approvals easier,” the Planning Board Vice-Chairman, also a former Cabinet Secretary, said.

Schemes had to go to grama sabhas before being escalated to standing committee, working group, and the technical advisory group.

“Many panchayat presidents have complained to me that this exercise is proving a point of delay and that they had run into bureaucratic constraints. So we’ve removed that and said that the file may be reviewed by the next higher technical officer,” he said.

TEETHING TROUBLES

“This is the first year of implementation of the new system and there have been some teething troubles which we are trying to resolve. These are basically twofold; one is the process of formulating the guidelines itself took some time. Then these changes had to be notified. We also had to contend with some software glitches on the way, which had to be corrected,” Chandrasekhar said.

“These things should not affected implementation of schemes because we’re thinking in terms of a rollover plan,” he added.

“If you’re not able to do it this year, you can stretch it into the next year even as you can plan for the next year. “So by early March next year, we’re hoping that the 2013-14 plan will be completely ready for the local bodies,” he said.

vinson.kurian@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 9, 2012)
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