Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Special Flavour of the Sikkim Model

The old system of planning and sharing economic resources for the states is on way out. But the role of government apparatus would continue in future also. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government will do well to realize that the solution to various developmental issues in the country ought to be sought in the village itself and perhaps there are certain merits in the Sikkim Model.

At a time when ‘Good Governance’ is seemingly the trump card of the Modi regime, there is no denying the fact that the northeast of India including the state of Sikkim has had its experience of disparities and glaring inequalities.

This sensitive region inhabited mostly by non-Aryan groups without strong historical connections with the rest of the country cannot be linked up with the system if the system cannot offer a positive and better model.

There is thus a need of critical study of the colossal gap between supply steered policies of the central government and demands of the people in this region. But what about performance in implementing governmental policies and schemes?

 A performance evaluation conducted by the Ministry of Rural Development few years ago during the erstwhile UPA regime had ranked two northeastern states Tripura and Sikkim as toppers (in that order) for the implementation of MG-NREGA. 

The Mahatma Gandhi NREGA as we know promises 100 days of wage employment for the rural people.

There was an official recognition that MGNREGA has provided unprecedented funds to rural Sikkim and is unmatched in its scale and volume, bottom up planning and implementation and the state came out triumphant even in transparency standards. 

But over the last years, the state of Sikkim has not remained confined to achieving these desired results. The Chamling government in the state had sought to make MG-NREGA a “ladder of opportunity” to create pathways out of poverty by promoting sustainable livelihoods. 

For this to happen, the state government has envisaged strategies to make planning process under MG-NREGA strong enough. Subsequently working overtime, the Sikkim government under leadership of the chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling created a ‘G5P Approach’ to make the NREGA more result oriented. The G5P Approach essentially meant – Gram Panchayat Pro-poor Perspective Plan (G5P). 
Firstly, the new mechanism achieved better involvement of local poor as according to state government officials, under the old system of planning through Gram Sabhas; “voices of the poor households more often went unrecorded as poor people frequently could not attend the gram sabhas”.
Even at the central government level in the union Rural Development ministry there is general appreciation of the new G5P Approach of the Sikkim government.
“Yes, the new scheme of thing has worked well in Sikkim,” said a senior RD ministry official who made an official visit to the state to assess the impact of G5P Approach. “The plan drafted at the village level was thus prepared with a pro-poor mandate and there was also a five year perspective plan prepared for each Gram Panchayat. This is commendable,” the official told this blogger. 
In fact, at one point of time, a former Rural Development Minister in the erstwhile UPA government also recorded appreciation for Sikkim’s ‘springshed development (Dhara Vikas)’ works implemented under the MG-NREGA . The central officials too felt that the Dhara Vikas scheme as practiced by Sikkim was an example which all hill states could emulate.
The NREGA and Rural Development front is not an isolated case. Earlier this year, Sikkim’s much acclaimed organic mission was given a heightened appreciation by no less than the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Replying to the debate on President's address to the joint sitting of Parliament on June 11, 2014, Modi in fact in his first speech in Lok Sabha giving the example of Sikkim emerging as a big producer of organic food had wondered why the entire north-east cannot be made an organic hub to meet the emerging global demand for organic produce. Conceptualised by Sikkim Chief Minster Chamling, the State Organic Mission was launched on Aug 15, 2010. Today about 30,000 hectares of land area out of the total 58,128 hectare of available cultivable land has been certified as organic.
But nothing much has moved from the central government’s point of view over the years to emulate a state like Sikkim. Instead generally the armed-chair experts from the Planning Commission – both officials and otherwise patronized by the power that be – have often tried to force in a uniform pattern of developmental activities into northeastern states like Sikkim.

Now that the Prime Minister has set the ball rolling to recast the Planning Commission, one only hopes that these finer issues will be kept in mind even Team Modi really wants to make substantial impact in the planning process in the country, especially in these far-flung states.
Prime Minister Modi’s move to dismantle Planning Commission is also being seen as a decisive move to undo certain aspects of Nehruvian legacy.

Therefore, before one concludes it would be still pertinent to recall how Jawaharlal Nehru had visualized broad framework for developments in northeast. He had laid down certain fundamental principles like: tribals should be allowed to develop along the lines of their “genius and likeness and nothing should be imposed”. 

The Modi regime would do well to retain this legacy and also strive to ensure that tribal rights in land and forests are respected. 

More than these perhaps the new government and the new structure replacing the Plan panel should build up a team for tribal welfare management. 

Importantly, and yet again, as Nehru once said with regard to government functioning in Nagaland; we should judge results, not by statistics or the amount spent, but by the quality of human character that is evolved. Time to Pause. 

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