Good step

The government’s move to cut down the number of centrally sponsored schemes is a good step which might help to streamline them and make them more useful. A Group of Ministers headed by Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has cleared the proposal to restructure the entire gamut of the schemes and reduce their number from the present 173, which also includes schemes that qualify for central assistance, to 79.

No schemes will be dropped but some of them will be merged with others, some others redesigned and all of them given a shake-up. The proposal is not new and similar exercises have been attempted before. But the numbers have gone up later.  In the last five years they increased from 99 to 173. A committee appointed by the Planning commission had  recommended pruning the number to 59 but this has not been accepted.

These schemes are drawn up by the central government for focussed action in priority areas like health, education, agriculture and employment.  The special purpose grants are extended to the states and the programmes are to be implemented mainly by the concerned departments at the state level. The design and implementation of these schemes have been subjects of major disputes between the Centre and states, and have sometimes involved issues of federal finance. The states have felt that the funds used for some of these schemes should actually have devolved to them. In some cases the states have no role in implementation. They have asked for greater flexibility in  the implementation of  the schemes. The GoM has made some suggestions with respect to transfer of funds and their use by the states which should address some of these complaints. 

It is well known that many schemes were created for political purposes. The names attached to some of them are proof of this. Every budget makes announcements about new schemes. Many of them overlap each other. There are also different implementing agencies for similar schemes. A careful restructuring and streamlining effort can make them more effective vehicles of purposeful development. The huge funds which are involved in these schemes can be better deployed to meet their stated objectives. There is much misuse and leakage of funds. When the schemes are fewer and better organised, it should be possible to monitor their implementation better. In spite of all their faults,  many schemes have done much good for the people and they deserve better management.

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