Parched Panchayati Raj Ministry on verge of closure [Polity]
- After facing a massive budget cut last year, the future of the Panchayati Raj Ministry continues to look bleak as the government shuttered two of its key programmes — the Backward Regions Grants Fund (BRGF) and the Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan (RGPSA).
- RGPSA will be renamed as Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA). This year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allotted Rs. 655 crores to RGSA.
- In view of the budget cuts, the Ministry recently “realigned” its mandate from financing panchayats to capacity-building and training.
- In the UPA-I and UPA-II regimes, since the Ministry was well-funded with BRGF and Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan schemes, it was able to address district-wise inequality, pumping money into the panchayats of the backward ones, helping them build panchayat ghars (offices) and training the functionaries in drafting annual plans to increase their upward mobility.
- The government refuses to acknowledge that there are 58,000 gram panchayats across the country without permanent office facilities.