CUTS for welfare fund for women
Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) has urged the Finance Minister, Pradyuman Singh, to set up a welfare fund on the lines of one established by the Centre. In a pre-Budget memorandum submitted to the Finance Minister, the consumer rights organisation said that such a fund could help women set up enterprises of their own. It also sought a social security scheme for the rural labour class of the State. For the small and marginal farmers, the CUTS sought a crop insurance scheme. It also urged the State Government to utilise the funds already allocated for the resettlement of bonded labourers. The Government had allocated Rs.16 lakh in 1999-2000 and Rs. 2 lakh in 2000-2001 Budget, it said and added that a negligible amount was utilised so far.
Panchayat Budget Analysis- Advocacy tools
Ushering the final phase of the Project titled “Promoting State Accountability & Citizen’s Empowerment” i.e., grassroots advocacy, a training workshop was organised at Chittorgarh on the 12th Feb 2002. The aim of the workshop was to build capacities of our networkers, namely, district and block co-ordinators of the project to understand and comprehend some of the key findings of our budget analyses. They were also trained to disseminate the information through grassroots meetings and chaupal bhaitaks (Village square meetings).
They were also trained to collect and collate their experiences on issues and send them to us. This would work two-ways, one is the formulation of action sheets and the other is to use this information for policy advocacy.
The networkers were trained to use the analysed information and the experiences of people in forming small reader friendly documents and questions which could be raised at the gram sabhas and ward sabhas.
The future programme/s of the project was also discussed, which would primarily consist of interviewing beneficiaries of various schemes on how they found the scheme, how they got to know about the schemes, how easy was it to access benefits and so on. They were trained to prepare brief questionnaires for the purpose.
The workshop had a good turnout, with all our networkers, some grassroot NGOs not connected with our project directly, and representatives from the district and block level administration actively participating.
- Framing of an action plan for project implementation
The project is heading towards the second year now. In the first year, a number of activities were completed. These activities constitute the first few stages of the project. The immediate task was the formation of a project team. The project team was formed with Shri. Bipul Chatterjee, Assistant Director, CUTS heading the team, comprising of a team of management graduates. A core committee comprising of Senior Research staff of CUTS was formed exclusively for the purpose of guiding and assisting the project team.
The second step, was to design a micro and a macro plan of the project. To give a micro picture of the process and methodology involved over the period of three years of the project duration, a detailed plan of action in the form of a flow chart and pert chart was developed. The flow chart and pert chart have been the ready reckoner for the entire project team. The charts were prepared in English and in Hindi for the benefit of the field staff.
- Selection of Nodal Districts and Nodal Blocks
The third step was the identification of Nodal Districts and Blocks for the implementation of the project. The Nodal Districts and Blocks were selected on the basis of a number of parameters, namely, administrative convenience, strength of grass root level networking organisations and the outreach strength of CUTS on its own. 7 Nodal districts and 64 Nodal Blocks were selected. The 7 Nodal Districts and the geographic areas in terms of districts covered under each of the Nodal districts are:
Ajmer Ajmer, Tonk, Dausa, Sikkar, Jaipur Chittorgarh Chittorgarh, Bhilwara, Udaipur, Banswara, Dungarpur, Rajasamand Jalore Jalore, Sirohi, Pali Jodhpur Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Barmer Kota Kota, Bundi, Jhalawar, Baran Nagaur Nagaur, Churu, Jhunjhunu,
Sri Ganganagar, Hanumangarh,
Sawai Madhopur, Sawai Madhopur, Dholpur, Alwar, Bharatpur, Karauli
- Appointment of Nodal District Coordinators and Block Coordinators
For an activity of this nature, the primary requirement is data from various levels of governmental hierarchy. The various levels of government hierarchy starts from the Ministries & Departments located at the State Capital, District Magistrates and District Rural Development Authority at the District levels and the Block Development offices/Panchayat Samithis at the Block levels. Hence, the project team designed the process of data collection in a manner such that, consolidated information could be collected from the state capital, simultaneously from the District and Block levels. This was done, such that, the information so collected could be compared and collated and an in depth analysis to be made, which would present a very clear picture as the funds mobilisation and disbursement for the targeted constituencies.
The fourth preliminary step therefore was to appoint coordinators at each of the Nodal Districts, as District Coordinators. The criteria of selection of district coordinators, was on the basis of their strength in terms of networking and presence in each of the various blocks and villages coming under the nodal districts. The coordinators are primarily representatives of social action groups, which are extremely active in these areas, with strong grassroot level presence.
The primary responsibility of the District Coordinators was to collect data from the district administration and to coordinate the activities of Block Coordinators.
To assist the District Coordinators, Block Coordinators were also appointed in each of the selected blocks. A total of sixty four blocks have been selected for implementation convenience with a Block Coordinator appointed in each of the blocks. The responsibility entrusted with the Block Coordinators is to collect data from the various blocks, identify beneficiaries and to interview some of them, to get more insight into various aspects.
- Identification of Departments running programmes/schemes for the select target groups
Having completed the formalities of identification and appointments of District and Block coordinators, the project team undertook the task of the next phase, i..e., identification of various departments which were and are running programmes for the target groups. The identified departments which are running programmes for the target group – `Women’ are
- Women and Child Development Department (Integrated Child Development Department),
- Department for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj
- Social Welfare Department
- Medical and Health Department
- Agriculture Department
- Poultry Department
- Education Department
- Department for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj
- Agriculture Departments
- Small Savings and Revenue Department
- Rural Development and Panchayati Raj and
- Labour departments
Similarly, the departments which are running programmes for the target group of small and marginal Farmers are
For the benefit of the target group – `Labourers’, programmes are being run by the departments of
Identification of the schemes
The team then undertook the task of identification of the schemes which were in operation from the year 1991 till date. A number of schemes were found to have been discontinued and hence, the project team also decided to go into the reasons for having discontinued some of the schemes. It was also found that some of the schemes run by some of the departments were also location specific. One such scheme, which is quite popular in Rajasthan, but is specific to the regions of Banswara, Bhilwara, Dungarpur, and Sirohi is the Tribal Area Development Programme.
Another interesting information which the team learnt was that, in the past 3 years, there have been very few takers for the schemes for `Small and Marginal Farmers’, for the sole reason that the definition of `Small and Marginal Farmers’ prevented some farmers, who otherwise fell under the category of `Below the Poverty Line’ to avail of benefits under the scheme.
In identification of the schemes, the team realised another difficulty, which was mainly related to the budgetary allocation for the Members of the Legislative Assembly. A sum of Rs. 40.0 lacs has been earmarked to each of the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) for meaningful expenditure in his/her constituency. While broad parameters are given, keeping in mind the requirement of the district and the block, the MLAs are allowed to spend the allocated money as per their discretion, as long as they are within the given parameters. The team observed that a few programmes were organised under this category, which had a direct bearing on the selected constituency group of study.
Keeping this in mind, though, the project team had identified a number of schemes, it was left open to the networkers to add on to the list, if they did find scheme/s which catered to the selected constituencies. The selected schemes were however attached as enclosures to the main questionnaire for the information of the networkers.
Design and preparation of an information kit for data collection
The next task of the project team was to prepare a detailed information kit and questionnaire. The information kit was designed to be some sort of a ready reckoner for the field team to assist them and also with the view to give a better clarity to what information they sought for and why. The information kit had the following:
- A brief background of the project
- The vision and mission statement of the project
- A detailed flow chart indicating the various organisation/agency/s responsible for the implementation and monitoring of various schemes at varying levels
- A detailed questionnaire, on information sought
- A set of guidelines to the field staff on the methodology of approach.
- A data base containing names and complete coordinates of division, district and block level officers, who need to be contacted for the required information/data.
Tier 2(District Head quarters) Various departments, Jaipur Annual reports Department of Public Relations, Jaipur Economic Review, CAG Reports,
Finance Commission Reports
Tier 2(District Head quarters) District Magistrates Office/ Zilla Parishad Reports of various programmes schemes covering the entire district
Minutes of meetings held 4 times a year at block levels to assess the effectiveness of various programmes and schemes
Tier 3 (Block level) Block Development Office/ Panchayat
Names and addresses of all beneficiaries of schemes
- Second Phase
The project team decided to carry out some of the activities earmarked for the second phase of the project, namely opinion surveys, analyses of CAG reports, analyses of some of the financial survey reports and also start on analysing some of the data which have already been collected.
- Opinion Surveys
The first of the second phase activities carried out were 4 opinion surveys. The opinion surveys were basically one to get the perception of citizens on various happenings vis-à-vis the government machinery and their outlook towards some of these issues. The topics chosen were on issues which were burning and reported widely and which had a direct bearing on the common man. The issues selected were
- Opinion of Citizens towards corruption
- Where has the Money Gone? A Critical analysis of Drought Relief in Rajasthan
- A opinion survey on peoples perception towards some work programme instituted by the state government towards the relief of child labour
- A opinion survey on the Education Scenario in the state of Rajasthan.
- Analysis of CAG report
As part of the substantive work, the CUTS team has started with making a detailed analyses of some of the notings in the CAG report which have gone against some of the departments and on certain schemes. The factors which are being looked into are
- Causes for any anomalies found
- How often have the departments made similar errors or omissions
- Are these anomalies an off shoot of corruption
- How have these affected the common man
- Has there been any unjustifiable expenditure and if yes, how often have these been made.
The analyses are underway, but preliminary results have thrown up some very interesting revelations such as repetition of acts of errors and omissions, unspent amount due to negligence of officers, unspent amount due to wrong definition of terms and usage (which is mainly related to schemes for Small & Marginal Farmers) and expenditure related to foreign tours and travels under the guise of studying how drought relief work is being done in other countries and so on.
However, these are just preliminary observations, and efforts are being made to interview some of the officials to get a clearer picture of the whole scenario. This would be part of CUTS initiative during the next phase of the project.
- Pre-budget memorandum, 2001-02
For the first time in 3 years, CUTS played a major role in Rajasthan to lobby the government to offer certain packages in its budget for the year 2001-02, presented in the Legislative Assembly on the 27th march 2001. A detailed memorandum was presented to the Finance Minister.
- Suggestions Made To The Finance Minister
Some of the suggestions made to the Finance Minister are as follows:
- Women Empowerment and Girl-child Education: The alternative to free education in the budget should be development of awareness and sensitivity towards education of the girl-child in our society to motivate the head of the family to send the daughter to school. In the process, he will be even willing to pay the expenses. A Women’s Fund, similar to the kind of fund already in existence at the national level, should be established in the state, so that women from the poor and backward classes can start income-generating activities through loans.
- Consumer Welfare Fund: A Consumer Welfare Fund should be established in the state to make the Consumer Protection Act more effective by providing funds to grassroot consumer organisations. The Fund can also be utilised to assess the functioning of consumer courts and district platforms.
- Marginal Farmers and Agricultural Labourers: Farmers and landless labourers are facing the brunt of the drought in the state. Agricultural workers constitute 11.54 per cent of the rural workforce. Therefore, to provide social security, some new projects like crop insurance for marginal farmers, provident fund for agricultural labourers and state employees’ insurance schemes should be implemented where both the government and beneficiaries could contribute.
- Administrative Monitoring and Sensitivity: Stringent laws should be made to prevent misuse of government property. A comprehensive process of investigation should be functional at all levels. A provision should be made to bring transparency about the assets of government officials. Government employees should be given training from time to time to increase their efficiency, improve their way of functioning and sensitise them to the needs of the common man.
- Social Audit: Repeated failure of some government projects has prompted people working for
development, and non-government organisations, to ask the government to conduct social
audits of state-run programmes by experts. The Gram Sabha should do social audit of
development works at the village level. Resolutions for this should be placed in the meetings of
the Ward Sabha and Gram Sabha.
- Formation of Advisory Committee
As we are now proceeding towards the second phase of the project, the need for the formation of an Expert Advisory Committee has increasingly been felt. Hence, it has been decided to form an expert advisory committee comprising of Budget analysts, senior retired bureaucrats of the state, Jurists, journalists and academicians. A number of experts have been identified and letters informing them about the formation of the advisory committee and requesting them to join its board have been sent to them. We have received confirmation from some of them, while others have given positive indications, but a firm confirmation is awaited. A tentative list of eminent persons of the advisory committee is as follows:
- Shri Mitha Lal Mehta, Former Chief Secretary, Government of Rajasthan
- Shri Mangal Bihari, Former Finance Secretary, Government of Rajasthan
- Justice V S Dave, Former President, State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, Rajasthan
- Prof. V. S. Vyas, Chairman, Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur and is currently serving on the Board of Directors, Reserve Bank of India
- Justice N L Tibrewal, Former Governor, Rajasthan
- Prof. Ramesh Arora, Professor, Public Administration, University of Rajasthan
- Prof. Satish Batra, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Rajasthan
- Dr. Somdev, Associate Professor, Department of Business Administration, University of Rajasthan
- Dr. Vinod Vyasulu, Centre for Budget Analysis, Bangalore
- Mr. Sri Prakash Sharma, Editor, Rajdhrishti, Jaipur
- Presence of lawyers
- Part time members
- Consumer courts function more like civil courts
In addition to the experts committee, a sub committee is also proposed to be formed, which would comprise of among others, some of the serving district administration officials.
The advisory committee is expected to be in place by the second week of May 2001.
Formation of a consortium of Consumer Organisations to monitor the functioning of consumer forums in the state – `Sushasanay Jan Ayog’. The English translation reads as `People’s Commission for Good Governance’
Yet another activity which CUTS felt needs to be taken up in a big way is to tackle the problems related to the delays in award of justice in consumer courts. It has been felt that the reasons for the delays are due to
Hence, to monitor the activities of the consumer courts and to take up the issue of delay in a big way, it has been proposed to form a consortium of consumer organisations in the state of Rajasthan. The consortium would comprise of grassroot consumer organisations from all the divisions of the state and would comprise of retired bureaucrats, jurists, media persons, academicians, etc.
On the 18th March 2001, the consortium was formed and was christened as `Sushasanay Jan Ayog’.
On the 4th April 2001, the first meeting of the consortium was held in Jaipur and was attended by the members and experts such as Mr. Mitha Lal Mehta, Former Chief Secretary, Government of Rajasthan & Mr. Mangal Bihari, Former, Finance Secretary, Government of Rajasthan. The meeting worked out an agenda of functioning of the consortium and laid out the basic ground rules of approach.
The consortium will also in due course take up activities related to effective implementation of the Right to Information Act’.
The surveys threw open a pandoras box of interesting information. A brief note on some of the lessons learnt from the surveys and the actions taken by CUTS in this regard is given below, while a detailed report of the surveys are enclosed as annexures.
Corruption is an evil, which has to be fought on all fronts and at all levels. In India, corruption has unfortunately become very rampant in the last two to three decades. The issue before us today is not merely to catalogue the sorry tales of corruption but also to explore as to how we could tackle corruption. Hence, it was decided to conduct a survey to find out what were peoples perception to corruption and how it affects common man.
The survey was extremely successful and threw up a number of interesting information. A total of 80 respondents were surveyed. Some of the interesting highlights of the survey are as follows:
Out of the total of 80 respondents, 53% of the people felt that they were facing corruption on a day-to-day basis. A similar percentage of the respondents also felt that without the additional incentive, there was considerable delay in some of the actions taken by some of the various governmental and non-governmental agencies. The positive aspects to it was that majority of the respondents, to the tune of nearly 62% felt that corruption needs to be totally rooted out.
The survey on corruption also revealed some interesting statistics on the level of hierarchy of people who are corrupt in government offices. While almost 58% of the respondents felt that officials and workers at all levels were corrupt, 30% of the respondents believed that the senior officials were more corrupt than the junior officials. However, 20% of the respondents believed that the lower class of officials tend to be more corrupt than the senior officials.
The survey also tried to make an assessment as to the comparative corruption levels in the private sector. Majority of the respondents believed that corruption was much higher in the government sector than the private sector. They also identified some of the sectors, were the incidence of corruption was the highest. The sectors, which ranked in the top 3 were
1. Law & Order
2. Employment and
3. Power, followed closely by
4. PDS and food distribution
5. Water and irrigation facilities]
6. Natural calamities management and
The survey also brought out some mature thinking amongst the respondents as to the reasons for corrupt practices and the effects of corrupt practices on the common man in particular and the economy as a whole.
To further continue our initiative to confront corruption and inform the common man about the real scenario of corruption, we have decided to document cases of corruption in private and public sector, which has a direct impact on the lives of the common man. The research document would also address issues, as to how to tackle the problem of corruption effectively in order to ensure a corrupt free environment.
In addition to this initiative, CUTS has also submitted a memorandum/suggestions to the Chief Minister requesting him to take appropriate actions against officials who were found to possess assets disproportionate to their income levels.