To alleviate the sufferings of the people in rural areas, and to secure their lives and livelihood in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Punjab Government has decided to converge funds under its various flagship programmes to pursue its 2020-2022 Strategy for Rural Transformation.The state cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, on Wednesday okayed the Rural Transformation Strategy at a cost of Rs.5655 crore, to ensure adequate availability of funds for development of rural infrastructure and individual beneficiaries through convergence of funds under its various schemes and programmes, such as such as MGNREGS, Smart Village Campaign (SVC), PMAY-G, as also the funds such as Finance commission (FC) grants, RDF and panchayats’ own funds.The Strategy, launched by the state government in FY 2019-20 to enable the Department of Rural Development and Panchayats to maximise availability of funds, will boost employment and push development in villages in the stressed post-Covid environment through active involvement of Village, Block and Zila Panchayats.According to a spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s Office, the envisioned size of the interventions under the Strategy include Rs.1088 crore (14th FC), Rs.1388 crore (15th FC), Rs.1200 crore (MGNREGS), Rs. 1879 crore (RDF) and Rs. 100 crore (others).A total amount of Rs. 2476 crore has been arranged from the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India, the latest installment of which is expected by June 2020 after the submission of Utilization Certificate (UC) of 14th Finance Commission. The 14th FC instalments received by the state included: Rs.353 crore (already disbursed online to all the 13,324 Gram Panchayats in March 2020), another of Rs 353 crore (in Treasury) and Rs 382 crore (in Treasury). The first 15th FC instalment of Rs. 694 crore of the total Rs 1388 crore is expected next month.For the first time, the FC funds are being made available to all three levels of PRIs, said the spokesperson, adding that disbursal of this amount would be a major step to revive rural economy in the coming months.
There is a provision for Zila Parishads (10%) and Block Samitis (15%). The balance 75% is the share of Gram Panchayats, which has two components- Basic (Untied) and Tied Funds - 50% each.The 14th FC funds are being spent by the Panchayats through a consultative process of Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDP) approved by the Gram Sabha. The GPDP exercise is being carried out in May-June 2020. It is planned that 75% of the FC amount shall be converged with the Smart Village Campaign (SVC), and the remaining 25% shall be used by the panchayats for their committed liabilities. The FC guidelines provide for delivery of basic services such as water supply, sanitation, sewerage and solid waste management, storm water drainage, maintenance of community assets, maintenance of roads, footpaths and street lighting, and burial and cremation grounds. These activities are also a valid charge under the SVC, therefore a Convergence Model has been designed. Under phase-2 of Smart Village Campaign, the total size of scheme would be Rs.3040 crore, while in Phase-1, out of total 19,132 works worth Rs.835 crore were taken up and are now near completion. As part of MGNREGS, after achieving the highest ever expenditure of Rs. 765 crore in FY 2019-20, the state government is now set to increase the target for FY 2020-21 from the already approved Rs 800 crore to Rs 1200 (in view of the additional budget allocated by the Centre in view of Covid). In addition, the state has made policy changes to benefit individual beneficiaries, with each village given a target of 5 beneficiaries to be allotted to all the Gram Rozgar Sewaks for the next three months, thus covering 13,000 x 5 = 65000 beneficiaries (10 times more than the previous year). This number will in due course be increased to 10 per village. In financial terms, a gross benefit of Rs. 325 crore will be delivered to the beneficiaries. In view of increased demand in villages due to COVID-19 pandemic, the Department will target two such tranches of 1,30,000 works in FY 2020-21 with an expenditure of Rs 650 crores.The Department has also appointed 2 Van Mitras in each village (about 24,000 workers), at an expenditure of around Rs. 98 crore per annum, for nurturing and maintenance of 550 plants planted by the Forest Department in each village, on the occasion of 550th Prakash Purb of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji.A special drive for re-modeling of village ponds has been launched by the Department for Rural Development and Panchayats. A total of 12,394 ponds have been identified for the purpose. The target expenditure on Ponds under MGNREGS is Rs. 225 crore as compared to Rs. 118 crore in FY 2019.