Panchayats adopt Decentralized Planning Approach
As a local, grassroots organization working closely with Gram Panchayats and village citizens for the past 7 years, we have realized that while government schemes are intended to have a wide-reach, the most effective development approach is one that encourages Gram Panchayats to work collectively for the development of a “cluster area.”
The cluster development approach, in which a cluster of villages become a planning unit, is an approach that has proven to be successful over the years. Through this approach, Gram Panchayats have gradually started to create decentralized group plans which have led to increased access of available services at the village level. Local experts, who make regular visits to the field through Setu’s coordination efforts, have played an important role in making these plans effective.
Decentralized Planning for Education
The Panchayats of Banni Pacham have taken the initiative to improve the quality of education, which has been very weak in this region. The Panchayats have come together to form creative education centres to increase children’s interest in learning. Other initiatives that have been planned are: trainings in Kutchi dialect to improve dialogue between teachers and students, residential quarters for teachers, coordination with Government department, ensuring the regular class attendance of students, and awareness programmes. Such efforts have led to the filling of teacher vacancies, improved school facilities such as water, health, electricity, toys and playgrounds, which all ultimately make the schools fun and exciting learning centres.
Natural Resource Management Planning
Natural resources, such as water and land do not always fall under the purview of one village. Rather these natural resources link one village to another, which means that planning for such resources must be a collective effort.
Under Natural Resource Management ACT 2004, decentralised studies in various blocks of Kutch – including Bhuj, Rapar, Anjar and Bachau blocks – were undertaken to understand ground water and farm planning, water quality and soil conservation. Block-level Setu coodinators, along with Gram Panchayat leaders, received support from local experts on Panchayats, para-water engineers, and Arid Community and Technologies, an NGO based in Bhuj in carrying out the scientific study.
Some villages have been successfully implementing the study recommended strategies. In Lodai village the source of Dhatura River has been reversed to Kasmati river which has resulted in a recharging of water in the villages in the river bed. In Kodki cluster, the implementation of the government sponsored Hariyali watershed scheme has increased the number of drinking water and agriculture wells and has led to a decrease in soil salinity.
Development planning of village by Panchayats
With an aim to promote the local governance of Panchayats, which have the strength and local know-how to bring about social, economic, and environmental change- SETU has established the Village Governance Fund (VGF). The Fund is a collaborative effort of Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan, individual donors, and Paul Hamlyn Foundation to build the capacities of villages for development planning and monitoring by providing small un-tied loans for initiatives that will improve the overall state of the village. These funds have strengthened Panchayats in managing necessary improvements that must be made in their village, and have funded both social justice initiatives and infrastructure development that has led to equal benefits for all. SETUs take on the role of facilitating Panchayats in creating plans, budgets, and proposals and ensure the availing of funds, as well as proper implementation and monitoring.
The fund has proven to be an important opportunity, and even turning point for Panchayats that wish to enhance their capacities and establish themselves as units of effective and accountable local governance units.