New Delhi: Aiming to strengthen the functioning of Panchayati Raj institutions, Centre has advised state governments to videograph gram sabha proceedings, besides introducing a slew of schemes for improving their set up.
"The scheme will start from 2012-13, that is the first year of 12th Five Year Plan. It will require the states to undertake reforms, devolve funds, strengthen state election commissions and finance commission and set up Mahila Sabhas," Union Minister for Panchayati Raj and Tribal Affairs V Kishore Chandra Deo told reporters here.
Under the new scheme, special attention will be paid to meet the nutrition requirements of people in villages and to provide basic aminities such as health, sanitation and drinking water.
For ensuring transparency and accountability, Deo said,"We have advised all states to videograph proceedings of Gram Sabha and I hope they will comply with this as it will ensure transparency in their functioning."
He said that all states have been advised to hold Gram Sabha meetings on nutrition in August as this is period where food is scarce in various parts of the country.
On meeting their infrastructure needs, he said out of the 2.40 lakh panchayats in the country, only 60,000 have the facility of a Panchayat Ghar and provision has been made for the states to meet this requirement.
Replying to a question on empowering panchayats in the Naxal-affected states, he said, "Elaborate guidelines have been made for this purpose. We will take all measures to ensure that these guidelines are implemented. We have to be little more vigilant."
Underlining that Panchayats Raj is a concurrent issue, he said states also must take initiative for empowering the villagers and gram sabhas.
On strengthening electoral mechanism in states, Deo said,
"The Task Force for State Election Commission (SECs) and election issues relating to Panchayats and Municipalities has submitted its report. I have accepted the report after taking views of the SECs."
The recommendations have been taken up with the states to strengthen the SECs and improve their electoral practices, he added.
For capacity building of elected representatives at the Gram Panchayat-level, the Ministry has also introduced changes in their curriculum and training programs.
"Another shift in the training has been sensitivity about the problems faced by women and children and various social programs to address these problems. More focus is intended to be given to capacity building of elected women representatives and SC/ST," Deo said.
As a measure to recognise the good work done by them, 170 Panchayats were awarded for their best practices in areas of livelihood and revenue generation.
The Ministry has also decided to initiate a programme to address the issue of female foeticide through the Gram Panchayats.
For strengthening Gram Sabhas with the help of IT-enabled measures, four softwares including a web portal have been launched by the Ministry and states are being encouraged to adopt it.