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Policy soon for training of rural bodies

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The Miinister of State for Rural Development, Mr Annasaheb N.K.Patil, interacting with foreign delegates who arrived for the training programme on income generating activities for rural women in Hyderabad on Tuesday.

HYDERABAD, Sept. 24

THE Union Ministry of Rural Development has embarked on an exercise of formulating a national training policy that would take care of the training needs of all the rural development functionaries in the country, according to Mr Lalith Mathur, Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor to the Ministry.

He said the Ministry was looking into the critical role to be played by the National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), the State institutes of rural development (SIRDs) and extension training centres (ETCs). ``We have a three-tier system of training institutions with the NIRD at the national level, 25 SIRDs at the State level and 88 ETCs at local level.

According to Ms A.K. Ahuja, Joint Secretary (Training), the Ministry was working towards a "comprehensive strategy and scientific outlook on training". Some draft reports have been prepared on these lines, which would be presented to the appropriate forum in due course. The State Governments would be called upon to propose State-specific plans.

Mr Mathur and Ms Ahuja were addressing a national conference of the heads of extension training centres and SIRDs organised by NIRD here on Tuesday.

Inaugurating the conference, the Minister of State for Rural Development, Mr Annasaheb M.K. Patil, said the SIRDs, barring some, have not yet become fully functional. Many States were not able to provide even the core facilities.

Besides, extension centres constituted the weakest link in the chain of rural development training institutions.

The Minister felt that not much thinking had gone into the establishment and strengthening of such centres. Half of the States do not have ETCs. Where they existed, "there is no clear-cut policy of what and how they will be doing".

In fact, the annual flow of funds to the extension centres provided by the Central Government had declined from Rs 3.45 crore in 1997-98 to Rs 2.98 crore during 2001-02.

As per the policy, he said, there should be one extension training centre for 40 community development blocks. Going by this yardstick, there should have been not less than 150 centres in the country.

But currently, there were only 88 ETCs. He wanted establishment of 62 more extension centres by this year-end.

Similarly, he suggested holding of regional level workshops at least once in six months and introduction of compulsory research activity at SIRDs and extension centres.

Stating that the Ministry's budget allocation to the north-eastern region was to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore per annum, Mr Patil emphasised the need for strengthening the NIRD centre at Guwahati.

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