The idea of integrating all rural schemes into one comprehensive district plan will be a reality on October 2. On that day, the government will roll out its first convergence model in 10 districts.
The ministry has had a series of discussions with the National Institute of Rural Development, which is to be the nodal body for overseeing the convergence of all rural schemes.
The plan would bring together rural programmes of various ministries into an integrated cocktail, with the intention of avoiding duplication of expenditure and effort, as well as to maximise the benefits to the targeted population, government sources said.
Centrally sponsored rural schemes of all the ministries are being pooled with those of the rural development ministry, which has the largest portfolio of such schemes, anchoring the convergence.
NIRD comes under the ministry and is preparing guidelines for the integration, as well as helping the ministry identify districts for the first pilot studies. The government has already identified 150 districts for convergence of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme with various other schemes from the ministries of environment, water resources and rural development.
The ministry is expected to start the convergence with some of these 150 districts. On the basis of the experience in the first 10 districts, NIRD will prepare detailed guidelines for convergence in other districts, sources there said. It is also entrusted with creating awareness in all districts about the exercise.
The pilot projects in the 10 districts would see the implementation of the comprehensive district plans which had been in the making for the past one year. The panchayati raj ministry had sought the help of various agencies like NIRD and Nabard, and NGOs like Pradan, Care and Pria to prepare the integrated plans for each district last year.
Manoj Rai of Pria said the convergence will see the implementation of these plans, which were ready two months earlier.
The process of convergence was set in motion in 2005, when the panchayati raj ministry under Mani Shankar Aiyer set up an expert group chaired by V Ramachandran to study and make recommendations on formulation of district and sub district plans at all levels of panchayats.
The Planning Commission issued its detailed guidelines for district plans in the XI Plan and stressed that each district must prepare an integrated one.
The Commission, in its manual for integrated district planning, gives detailed guidelines for the cocktailing of sector-wise schemes. It says the Centre spent Rs 2,40,000 crore (Rs 2,400 billion) on these schemes in 2008-09 and convergence is the way forward to achieve maximum results for the funds spent.
The schemes which are now being woven together are coming under different ministries. Prominent among these being the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, National Rural Health Mission, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, Indira Awas Yojana, National Social Assistance Programme, Integrated Child Development Services, Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme , Mid-Day Meals Programme, Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme.
Officials cite the example of a programme like Indira Awaas Yojana and say convergence would mean integrating electirification, drinking water and drainage with housing. Further linkage with NREGP would ensure a lot of work is done by job card holders, thus making IAY houses less expensive for the beneficiaries.
Similarly in PMGSY, the job card holders can do 30 per cent of the work of road building by laying the basic structure. This would make the programme achieve more and reach more people, NIRD officials said.
Similarly every scheme has a component for IEC or awareness building. The integration would ensure a permanent institution is set up through the self-help groups of SGSY in every village, which would do all the IEC activity for any programme, say the officials.