The Article 243G of the Indian Constitution intends to empower the Gram Panchayats (GPs) by enabling the state governments to devolve powers and authority in respect of all 29 subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule for local planning and implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice. The local bodies (GPs) play a significant role in the effective implementation of flagship schemes on subjects of national importance, for transformation of rural India. In 2015, the Fourteenth Finance Commission grants were devolved to GPs that provided them with an enormous opportunity to plan for their development themselves. Since then, local bodies, across the country are expected to prepare context specific, need based Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDP).
GPDP brings together both the citizens and their elected representatives in the decentralised planning processes. GPDP is expected to reflect the development issues, perceived needs and priorities of the community, including that of the marginalised sections. Apart from the demand related to basic infrastructure and services, resource development and convergence of departmental schemes, GPDP has potential to address the social issues. GPDP is conducted from 2nd October to 31st December, every year across the country, under the People’s Plan Campaign (PPC).
Since last two years, the PPC guidelines and the joint advisory issued by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and Ministry of Rural Development, has mandated self-help-groups (SHGs) and their federations under Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) to participate in the annual GPDP planning process and prepare the Village Poverty Reduction Plan (VPRP). VPRP is a comprehensive demand plan prepared by the SHG network and their federations for projecting their demands and local area development which needs to be integrated with the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP). The VPRP is presented in the Gram Sabha meetings from October to December every year.
This planning exercise is an integral component of the convergence effort between the DAY-NRLM and the Local Self-Government Institutions (Panchayati Raj Institutions). Circulars and advisories have been issued by MoPR and MoRD in 2018-19 and 2019-20 on the preparation of VPRP and its integration into GPGP. The process allows poor families, who are members of SHGs to raise their demands in a participatory method and submit the final plan to the Gram Panchayats for consideration. It starts with plans prepared by the SHGs, consolidated by the VOs and finally a comprehensive plan prepared at the level of the Gram Panchayats. The final VPRP would be submitted in the Gram Sabhas held for GPDP.
Objectives of VPRP are three-fold
- Preparing a comprehensive and an inclusive demand plan of the community for local development
- Facilitate an interface between the SHG federation and Panchayati Raj institutions for development of demand plan
- Strengthen the community based organisations and their leadership for active participation in poverty reduction activities
Components of VPRP
Demands under VPRP are categorised into six major components:
- Social inclusion – plan for inclusion of vulnerable people and household into SHGs under NRLM
- Entitlement – demand for various schemes such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), Ujjwala, Ration Card among others.
- Livelihoods – specific demand for enhancing livelihood through developing agriculture, animal husbandry, production and service enterprises and skilled training for placement among others.
- Public Goods and Services – demand for necessary basic infrastructure, for renovation of the existing infrastructure and for better service delivery
- Resource Development – demand for protection and development of natural resources like land, water, forest and other locally available resources
- Social Development – plans prepared for addressing specific social development issues of a village under the low cost no cost component of GPDP
Training on VPRP for State Missions
With the COVID-19 situation, DAY-NRLM designed an online training programme to train all state missions across the country on VPRP, in partnership with Kudumbashree (National Resource Organisation), National Institute of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR), Hyderabad and Ministry of Panchayati Raj.
A set of ready to use tools, training modules, audio-video and experience sharing videos were developed as resource materials for the online VPRP training, based on the Kudumbashree NRO’s experience in preparation of village poverty reduction plans in five states namely – Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh where pilot projects on PRI-CBO convergence have been implemented with their support. Resource material were shared with the states, which were amended as per the states need and translate in the local language. A web-based application to monitor the progress of trainings by state missions has also been developed.
The trainings were conducted in two phases for the staff and other resource persons from 34 states and UTs. State Institutes of Rural Development (SIRD) and other partner agencies had also participated in the virtual training. The first phase of training was conducted from 13th to 25th August 2020, where 11,687 participants were trained. The first phase of the training focused on building understanding on VPRP and GPDP concepts as well as the process for preparation each component, final plan consolidation and submission in Gram Sabha and role of state missions. Despite the inherent limitations of virtual trainings, the overall response from participants was positive and encouraging. After completion of the Phase 1, the participants had conducted a small pilot exercise on the process, with a small sample of SHGs and one Village Organisation (VO) to learn the process.