Trained staff shortage hits rural Karnataka's development

"Though funds and functions have been devolved at the taluk (sub-district) and zilla (district) panchayats (local bodies), development plans have not been effectively implemented due to shortage of trained and deputed staff," revealed the research study conducted by V. Anil Kumar and S.N. Sangita of ISEC.

Elections to local bodies, comprising 30 zilla panchayats and 176 taluk panchayats, in the state are scheduled in two phases Dec 26 and Dec 31. At stake are 1,013 zilla panchayat seats and 3,659 taluk panchayat seats. Counting is due Jan 4.

The study found that district-level planning committees were not constituted in many districts though Karnataka was the first state to usher in the Panchayati Raj during the 1980s to decentralise administration up to the grassroot level.

"In districts like Tumkur (70 km from Bangalore) where such a committee was set up in fiscal 2007-08, not a single meeting was held till date," noted the study, sponsored by the Commission on Centre-State Relations.

The staff for most of the functions is working on deputation from other departments, which have little to do with budgeting or planning.

"As majority of the staff is from animal husbandry, horticulture, sericulture or rural development departments, their knowledge on planning is limited," the 147-page study on 'Independent budgeting and planning at district level' observed.

Similarly, other functionaries for planning do not have sufficient capacities and numbers to utilise funds. "This is leading to pilferage and corruption," Kumar told IANS, citing the findings.

The study also found that in Tumkur district, there was no sectoral integration of plans at the taluk panchayat to zilla panchayat level.

The rural plans and budgets are prepared by different tiers of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), while urban plans and budgets are prepared by a section on urban planning at the deputy commissioner's office.

"Integration of plans will help mobilise resources at taluk and district levels. Integration of rural-urban plans also helps addressing the problem of migration from rural to urban areas," the study opined.

Interestingly, the study found that the planning process at the village level was better than at the higher tiers of the system.

Many women ward members from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities claimed that dominant caste male elite take all decisions regarding planning and budgeting.

The study recommended technical assistance at all levels of PRIs by augmenting the staff or creating separate cadre for planning and budgeting at the district and sub-district levels.

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