ceo, dharwad zilla panchayat c shikha
‘This model draws maximum benefit from the welfare schemes’
AS Chief Executive Officer of the Dharwad Zilla Panchayat, C Shikha utilized MGNREGA as a tool for social transformation and economic upliftment of the villagers by connecting other government welfare schemes with it. The 2004-batch IAS officer, who was earlier AC, Gadag, and, MD, NWKRTC, Hubli, received the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in MGNREGA Administration this year.
interviewed by Venugopalan
C Shikha: While receiving it, I was thinking about my team members. It was basically because of their sincerity and dedication as well as the input from our higher authorities that we could bag this award. I am proud of the hard work that my colleagues have done.
gfiles: After assuming charge as CEO, Dharwad Zilla Panchayat, what challenges did you face?
CS: When I took over in 2008, NREGA had just been introduced in the district. Since Hubli and Dharwad are urbanized districts, the villagers did not show much interest in NREGA schemes. Generating awareness among such people was a tough job. We initiated awareness activities in all the Gram Sabhas. In addition, we adopted other means like street plays, kala jathas, paintings, and so on. The impact of all those initiatives was witnessed in a short span. People realized the benefits of the scheme and started joining it in good numbers.
We have received the award for convergence of social welfare schemes for 2009-2010. The three parameters involved in the calculation of HDI were per capita income, literacy rate and longevity. All these were directly or indirectly influenced by NREGA. In Dharwad district, out of 1 lakh registered households, 66,000 joined MGNREGA (renamed NREGA). Out of the 2.6 lakh labour registered under MGNREGA in Dharwad, about 45% are women. With this workforce we generated about 12 lakh man-days in 2009-10. This shows the high turnout of women in MGNREGA, the highest amongst all government schemes. The huge turnout of rural labour at MGNREGA sites provided an excellent opportunity for implementing various other welfare schemes also. This model
aims at drawing maximum benefit from the welfare schemes.
gfiles: Rajiv Gandhi had said that only 15% of the funds sanctioned for rural areas reaches the intended beneficiaries in villages. How did you ensure that the maximum benefit reaches the villagers?
CS: It could become possible only due to the enthusiasm that we had to serve the aam aadmi. We launched village level awareness activities. We started literacy camps, health programmes and insurance programmes at MGNREGA sites. We involved the villagers and our staff in these activities. We clubbed MGNREGA with other schemes like Adult Literacy, Community Learning and Vocational Training. A total of 121 additional literacy centres were started at MGNREGA sites. We utilized the human resources and infrastructure of the government’s adult literacy programme. An honorarium of Rs 750 is given to those who impart literacy at the work sites. In the remaining two taluks, which are not under the CLVT programme, the literacy campaign is being conducted on a voluntary basis by the people who earlier worked as preraks (motivators) and sah preraks (co-motivators) under the Continuing Education Programme. This intervention led to 3,742 labourers becoming neo-literates at MGNREGA sites in 2009-10.
We disseminated health information on a particular day of the week at the worksites. On that day, all the MGNREGA labourers were told about the need for sanitation and hygiene, nutrition, potable drinking water, various government health schemes like Family Planning, Jananni Suraksha Yojana, hospital deliveries, immunization programmes, and so on. Folic acid tablets were distributed by the ASHA workers to anaemic women at worksites. This intervention, along with NRHM, increased hospital deliveries from 88% to 95% and a reduction in infant mortality rate from 45 to 28 per thousand births in 2009-10.
Out of the 2.6 lakh labour registered under MGNREGA in Dharwad, about 45% are women. With this workforce we generated about 12
lakh man-days in 2009-10.
gfiles: What other initiatives have you taken up for labourers and their families?
CS: At the MGNREGA worksites, we provided insurance benefits to the workers and their families. LIC Aam Aadmi and Janshree Bima Yojana are basically scholarship schemes launched to provide benefits to the children of these people. Each child of the
policyholder studying in Class IX up to Class XII is paid a scholarship of Rs 1,200 per year. These schemes also include insurance cover in case of death and accidents. The landless MGNREGA job card holders were enrolled under the Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana. Other MGNREGA job card holders were enrolled under Janshree Bima Yojana where 50% of the annual premium is borne by the Government of India. In Dharwad district, 13,869 labourers were given insurance cover in 2009-10.
gfiles: Only 10 of the 641 districts of the country have been selected for this prestigious award. One of them is Dharwad. How did success knock on the door?
CS: All the labour welfare measures have been taken up in Dharwad through training mates. The convergence process in the district has just begun. But our team is making efforts to ensure that implementation of MGNREGA not only leads to economic upliftment of the deprived but also reflects in their improved social status. Dharwad was covered under MGNREGA in the third phase, ie 2008-09.
Convergence of the welfare activities at MGNREGA worksites was started in all the Gram Panchayats in 2009-10. The outcome was seen in terms of increase in households registered under MGNREGA, increase in labourers reporting for work, increase in women and SC/ST labourers turning up, increase in literacy rate in rural areas from 60.4% in 2001 to 68% in 2010, and better awareness amongst labourers about their rights and entitlements. In Halligeri Gram Panchayat, a very good impact of the convergence was seen over the years.
gfiles: What about self-employment schemes for villagers?
CS: Migration of youth to cities is a crucial challenge. The small farmers do not have sufficient money to invest in cashcrop cultivation. We plan to solve this problem with the help of the horticulture department. We found that the cash crops of rose and mango greatly benefited the small SC/ST farmers.
With the help of the horticulture department, we did additional plantation of mango over 11,700 acres in 2009-10. Now it has increased to 13,000 acres. A mango pulp processing unit was envisaged in Kalghatgi taluk under the special SGSY. The Janotthan Special SGSY being implemented there by Baif, an NGO, has led to sustainable income. In addition, we established marketing infrastructure for roses under the National Horticulture Mission (NHM).
A total of 60 farmers took up rose cultivation. Now their income has crossed more than Rs 1,000 per day. We provided a special grant of Rs 40 lakh to them. Each family now earns Rs 400 per day throughout the year.
In the beginning, when the horticulture department identified some villagers for rose cultivation, they did not show much interest due to the high cost. We decided to tackle this problem under MGNREGA. Now, in the rose season, the farmers earn more than Rs 2,000 per day. The saplings are provided under the MGNREGA scheme. We have solved the marketing problem also. We provide transport from the field to the market. Water conservation, horticulture crops, bore well recharge structures and forestation work are the main features of the self-employment projects.
gfiles: During implementation of the schemes, did you face any opposition from politicians or villagers?
CS: No. The politicians are aware of the political benefits of such schemes. There was no question of opposition from the villagers as it was for their welfare.
We clubbed MGNREGA with other schemes like Adult Literacy,
Community Learning and Vocational Training. A total of 121 additional
literacy centres were started.
gfiles: What about the implementation of e-governance in villages?
CS: We have done it for transparency. We have provided computers and UPS to every Gram Panchayat. Computer operators were outsourced. There is a MIS co-coordinator for each taluk and Zilla Panchayat. MIS-generated NMRs are used for payment to labour. Social audit wings have been established at taluk and district level. District and taluk social audit coordinators are outsourced and trained in the State Institute of Rural Development. We have constituted vigilance and monitoring committees in all the Gram Panchayats. We have also established call centres for emergency queries. It is basically a toll-free helpline number.
gfiles: Payment by government is made only through cheques, which require bank accounts. How did you solve this problem?
CS: We asked all the leading schedule banks to open such accounts with zero balance. More than 1 lakh bank accounts were opened. The “one bank, one district” model was implemented. Axis Bank and its technical service providers, FINO, were entrusted with making MGNREGA payment through IT-enabled biometric cards. Through such biometric cards, each labourer can get his/her payment at his doorstep. The business correspondents take their thumb impressions on the machines and make the payment.
gfiles: What was done to tackle drinking water scarcity?
CS: Providing drinking water is really a tough job in drought-affected areas. We have taken up the work of desilting of ponds, tanks, and so on. In the rainy season, water can be harvested. We implemented this scheme in collaboration with the World Bank.
gfiles: Toilets were built in the villages but their maintenance was a major problem. How did you solve it?
CS: First, we launched massive awareness drives for sanitation. Subsidy was provided to BPL families for constructing toilets. We have given tips on a hygienic and healthy environment. People have cooperated. g