Article 243 G of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act reflects that Panchayats have a mandate for social and economic development and social justice around subjects devolved in Schedule 11 of the Constitution. When it comes to execution, largely the interventions focus on infrastructure development. But this may or may not lead to outcomes related to social/economic development.
There are many existing Central and State sponsored schemes, mission programs, and policy-level government resolutions. These are focused on social and economic development and are run by Line departments. Though the line departments have village-level functionaries, their reach to the citizens is poor.
Additionally, the information available and responsiveness, and facilitation to the citizens to access these schemes seems inadequate. In Gujarat, at the District level, there are Jan Seva Kendras (Citizen Service Centres). However, most of these centres are inadequately equipped.
Implementing the system
Bearing this in mind, SETU Abhiyan enabled a single window known as the Panchayat Resource Centre (PRC) in two blocks of the Kutch district. One center was started in February 2020 in Rapar and the other in January 2021 in Lakhpat block. These were started for providing information on basic service delivery of entitlement schemes to the Panchayats and citizens. This will further improve the governance by maximizing the reach to citizens and improving the implementation at the local level.
SETU has ensured the facilitation of the Panchayat associations of these 2 blocks to initiate PRCs. The resource centres also link with the line departments to streamline the services to the Gram panchayats and citizens.
In Rapar Block, the PRC has been functioning very effectively and has provided information to more than 80 Panchayats. The Sarpanchs of the Panchayats as well as the citizens have been very proactive in approaching the PRC for information and other services like utilization of welfare schemes, working and updates of social media, and creating links between Panchayats and departments.
Services provided at the Panchayat Resource Centre (PRC)
Meetings of the Panchayat Associations are held regularly to discuss the workings of the Panchayat Resource Centres (PRC). There have been 12 meetings conducted which were attended by 160 Sarpanchs. When talking about providing services for welfare schemes and helping citizens to fill out their forms and doing other formalities. In the last year, the PRC in Rapar has aided 1330 beneficiaries receiving a total amount of Rs. 84,82,000.
The PRC in Lakhpat has made efforts in increasing its coverage and creating awareness about the PRC overall. The committee created a WhatsApp group for the promotion. The PRC also presented the importance of the work and its need at the Good Governance Practices event so as to spread the word even more. In the past year, a total of 739 beneficiaries have approached the PRC, while receiving benefits of Rs. 41,44,600.
Also read: Good Governance Practices – An Initiative To Encourage Gram Panchayats
PRCs have become a medium for the Panchayat Association to discuss and bring forward different issues. The Panchayats are served at the Block level as well through the PRC and the network that is created. A platform has risen for Sarpanchs and Secretaries and they are now beginning to form their new identity as a group but also as individual Panchayat.
Apart from information and knowledge, the PRCs have begun to take further action in coordinating with government departments. They arranged for medical camps for differently abled people. In Rapar, official certificates for the people and equipment were provided to almost 126 citizens. The members of Divyang Adhikar Manch, Lakhpat were a part of the organized camp. A total of 24 tricycles and 10 wheelchairs were distributed in the camp. Certificates were provided to 85 people.
Impact of PRCs
- Gram Panchayats are more informed about various government schemes, government regulations, block-level targets, and relevant policies of which the GPs had little knowledge.
- Citizens and Panchayats have improved access to information on Government schemes and policy-level resolutions.
- Block-level planning integrates the developmental plans of individual Gram Panchayats and clusters along with the developmental needs of the block on the whole. This has ensured consolidated spatial and developmental planning for the Block, leading to coordinated implementation of the plan thereafter.
- GPs use information, support, and other timely inputs from the PRCs to their benefit. They perform better vis-à-vis their roles and functions. They are encouraged to make a contribution towards the PRCs better functioning.
- Panchayat Associations monitor/advocate the implementation of schemes and address challenges for the smooth functioning of these schemes.
- Citizens and Panchayats now trust the PRC to provide them with authentic and accurate information. The PRC operators also undertake the responsibility of following up with citizens and Panchayats who have filled out particular forms or applications.