Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Integrated Action Plan: An overarching development initiative

Photo Source: kracktivist
The Integrated Action Plan is entering the fourth year of its existence this year. It is a plan which has caused a lot of infighting; however, it was seen as a hopeful start to a new strategy to counter Left Wing Extremism in the country. Has it achieved what it set out to? What are the points of divergence? Where lies the problem and what can be the solutions to make it a more judicious and effective plan by the Central government? These are some questions that this article seeks to answer.
Since it was first presented in 2010, the IAP has been extended to 88 districts. The initial 33 districts were part of the 83 Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected districts identified under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The LWE districts coming under the IAP were those wherein more than 20 per cent of the total number police stations in the district saw incidents of naxal violence.
To begin with, IAP for 60 identified tribal and backward districts was implemented with a block grant of Rs.25 crore and Rs.30 crore per district during 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively, for which the funds were to be placed at the disposal of the Committee headed by the District Collector (DC) assisted by the Superintendent of Police (SP) of the district and the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO).
Its basic fallacy is that it follows a top-down approach, which, in a democratic set-up is rather unsustainable. The voice of the people for which the IAP is intended is not heard while the onus of making the policy rests with the bureaucracy. Neither the people at ground level, nor their representatives, are a part of the consultations on the implementation of policies under the plan. Therefore, the vision with which the policy was initiated is more or less defeated.
This allows for pilferages in the system which, as was observed during a field trip to some of the states with districts falling under the IAP, increases the gap between allocation of funds and implementation thereof. Moreover, because the IAP was primarily initiated to address the governance deficit in LWE states, putting other districts in states like Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, where the problem is not acute, takes away from the purpose of the plan. A better way of guaranteeing that the most needy districts get the benefit of this policy would be to establish a graded system of aid ie: Grade A districts which need the most attention can be granted more funds while Grade B districts which are relatively free from violence can be granted a lesser amount of aid under this plan.

Another recommendation for addressing the trust deficit that the government faces is allowing greater role for Gram Sabha in consultations. As is the case now, the bureaucracy is seen as the enemy by the locals in these areas. The Gram Sabha comprises each member of the village and involving them in the decision making process would ensure a more democratic system of aid dispensation.
For greater accountability, a proper grievance redressal mechanism needs to be put in place. This can only happen with greater transparency in the form of plan outlay and implementation record. A model that can be replicated for this is how the transparency in the Right to Information Act was followed in Rajasthan where the law and guidelines were put up on the walls of the villages so that everyone can be made aware of their rights.

Development can only happen when the government’s agenda matches with that of the people. It is not difficult if the right intent exists. All it needs is a more democratic process of decision making and transparent means of accountable implementation. 

Medha Chaturvedi


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