Mid-term Evaluation of Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Yojana (RGSY)
The Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) commissioned the mid-term evaluation of its scheme aimed at the Capacity Building and Training (CB&T) of elected representatives and functionaries associated with the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) called Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Yojana (RGSY) with the intention of assessing the progress of the scheme in meeting its objectives. The assessment was conducted in six states1 involving all the stakeholders. To have some comparative understanding, the field work was undertaken in two RGSY districts and one BRGF (Backward Region Grant Fund) district in each state. Different tools were used to collect information, including primary and secondary data, and analyse it objectively. The evaluation team interacted with several agencies/institutions including State Panchayati Raj Departments, State Institute for Rural Development (SIRD), Extension Training Centres (ETCs) and District Training Centres (DTCs) to understand the effectiveness of the CB&T programmes in six states. Trainees were also interviewed to assess the quality of the trainings received and their contribution to improving performance. The findings and recommendations are as follows.
Converge capacity building and training (CB&T) initiatives
The National Capability Building Framework (NCBF) has been the benchmark for designing the capacity development strategy for the elected representatives and functionaries. Both the schemes -BRGF (capacity building component) and RGSY - provide resources for capacity building of the PRIs. Though there is a difference in the overall framework of the two schemes, their CB&T objectives are common, with varying geographic focus. While the CB&T funds under BRGF are meant for the backward districts, under RGSY the funds are provided for CB&T related activities in the non-backward districts. Since the nature of CB&T needs in both cases is the same, it is recommended that the capacity building funds of BRGF and RGSY be merged under one scheme.
Develop a pool of trainers and resource persons/agencies
The current approach to capacity development emphasises quantum of achievement in terms of trainee coverage and number of trainings organised, rather than the quality of delivery and its application. Along with trainees, the faculty of SIRDs and ETCs also need to undergo training to keep them updated on the recent trends across the country. It is also important to partner with professional service providing agencies that have the expertise to develop resource materials and conduct training programmes.
Develop partnerships with the right kind of agencies in the state and upgrade regional level institutions to enhance outreach
The current availability of infrastructure and human resources may not be sufficient for conducting large scale CB&T on a sustained basis. Under the overall leadership of State PRDs and the nodal training institutions such as SIRDs, collaboration with other training institutions, academic institutions, professional service providing agencies (SPAs) – including non-government agencies – should be considered. Suitable mechanisms should be established to monitor the training programmes to ensure quality, including third party evaluation.
Develop a core curriculum for all the ERs and functionaries as well as state/context specific custom modules
States have developed training and learning materials covering a number of common subjects like 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA), guidelines of central schemes/centrally sponsored schemes, etc. However, there is no uniformity in the content. It is recommended that the training curriculum and modules/manuals/training materials be categorised under two broad headings: the main curriculum, which would consist of subjects that are common to all states (this can be developed by MoPR after due consultation with states) and the state specific curriculum, as per the identified capacity development needs of the target groups.
Improve training methodology in the context of PRIs
The training methodology being followed relies overwhelmingly on the lecture method which is not suitable for less educated and semi-literate members of the Gram Panchayats (GPs) and block level workers. Participatory and mutual learning methods would be more useful and beneficial for the ERs of GPs and Intermediary Panchayats (IPs) who comprise the majority of the elected members in the PR institutions. In addition, the curriculum should be pictorially rich, as there is considerable variation in the literacy levels of the ERs. Further, session plans and training strategies need to be targeted at specific groups like ERs and functionaries from PESA areas, EWRs etc., based on their level of understanding as reflected by training needs assessments (TNA).
Enhance capacity building and the training experience through multi-location training
States are now exploring alternate approaches to improve coverage and effectiveness by conducting training in association with various service providing agencies (SPAs). This has proved beneficial for training large groups of stakeholders, especially at district and sub-district levels. This model of conducting training at multiple locations simultaneously by having collaborations should be effectively replicated. At the same time, it is essential that the existing infrastructure at various training institutions in the states is improved with more training halls, hostels, and appropriate human resources.
Improve SATCOM based training
Satellite communication and information technology are not optimally used in states for CB&T of ERs and functionaries. In many instances, the technology is not yet sufficiently developed to be able to substitute for face-to-face training. However, SATCOM, along with allied technological solutions (for example e-learning) can be a useful resource to provide further clarity, reorientation, follow-up training inputs and review application of the inputs. A mix of both face-to-face and IT based methods would have a better impact.
Use technology to reduce costs, improve monitoring and assessment and help fund utilisation
States have devised various mechanisms to monitor and supervise the training programmes. Certain operational constraints have hindered the expected levels of improvement in the quality of inputs and their utilisation. With an increased flow of funds and the thrust on the outputs of the scheme, strengthening the physical and financial monitoring system is urgently required at all levels – from MoPR to district and block level. In addition, a central monitoring mechanism at MoPR level needs to be devised to ensure that the capacity development initiatives are carried out in a desired manner. States have also been experiencing problems in managing the information related to capacity development initiatives. A web enabled tracking system like PlanPlus can be used to monitor and track the programmes on a monthly/quarterly basis.
The Way Forward
Detailed operational guidelines with the following content need to be developed in order to improve the RGSY scheme:
- Outreach of the CB&T programmes needs improvement through collaboration with professional service providing agencies
- A pool of certified trainers needs to be developed at the State/District and Block levels
- Training should be based on TNA, with particular focus on disadvantaged groups such as elected women representatives (EWRs) and ERs from SC, ST, and minority backgrounds
- Innovative and effective use of mobile technology in training delivery
- Exposure visits of GP members to beacon Panchayats
- Training core content should be uniform across the states and should cover issues related to Gram Sabha and social audit
- ICT based knowledge management system reflecting work flow should be developed
- Details of the infrastructure needed at the district and block level needs to be specified
Capacity development is a means to achieve the goal of a decentralised governance system which is vibrant and beneficial for the people. Besides the building capacities of individuals, it is important to strengthen the PR institutions to realise this goal. At the same time, to allow elected representatives to play their role effectively, it is important that states make systematic progress in devolving funds, functions and functionaries to the PRIs as intended in the Constitutional Amendments.
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