Ongole: Future of DRDAs uncertain as Centre to discontinue scheme from 2022

A view of Pragathi Bhavan in Ongole
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A view of Pragathi Bhavan in Ongole

Highlights

  • Following the recommendation of a Ramachandran committee, the Union Ministry announced that it is discontinuing the scheme and advised the state governments to take necessary action
  • The committee suggests to merge DRDAs into Zilla Parishads or District Panchayat departments

Ongole: The District Rural Development Agencies, the principal mechanism to oversee the implementation of the Ministry of Rural Development at the district level, are facing an axe once again. Following the recommendation of a committee, the Union Ministry announced that it is discontinuing the scheme and advised the state governments to take necessary action.

The Central government has constituted the DRDAs in 1980 as societies to implement the Integrated Rural Development Programme and then ordered to supervise the implementation of poverty alienation programmes in villages by the Ministry of Rural Development. Following the introduction of the DRDA Administration Scheme, the salary and expenses of the staff are borne by the Centre and state in the ratio of 75:25 from April 1999. After the recommendation of abolishing DRDAs by three earlier committees, the Union Ministry set up another high-level committee headed by V Ramachandran, the then Chairman-Emeritus of Centre for Management Development at Thiruvananthapuram for the recommendations to restructure the DRDAs.

The committee submitted its report in 2012, saying that the DRDA system failed to live up to its original objective of giving expert support to state departments implementing rural development programmes and is also in direct conflict with the constitutional mandate for panchayats. The committee recommended the government abolish DRDAs and merge them into Zilla Parishads to work as District Rural Development Units or District Rural Development Planning Units. The then Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh announced the decision of the government to disband DRDAs from April 2014 and ordered the states to make arrangements for the transition, but it was not completed due to elections and other reasons.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Rural Development sent a circular to the secretaries of the Rural Development Departments in the states and Union governments that the DRDA Administration Scheme will be discontinued from April 1, 2022, and suggested that they may merge them into Zilla Parishads or District Panchayat departments, following the recommendations of the Ramachandran committee. The Union ministry advised the states to take a decision after discussing with the public representatives and suggested to absorb back the staff working in DRDAs on deputation from other departments, and place the others on rolls into line departments as per their qualification.

Responding to The Hans India on the developments, the Project Director of DRDA Prakasam B Baburao said they are also uncertain about the happenings. He said the state government will take the decision on the suggestions of the Union government. However, the outsourcing staff working in the DRDA, on programmes like MGNREGS are worrying that the government will remove them from the jobs. An APO said that the government is not paying the regular employees in time due to financial problems. When the Union government discontinue its funds for DRDA, the state will also disown the outsourcing staff to save the money, he exclaimed.

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