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Wednesday, August 01, 2001



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Central schemes streamlined, 139 scrapped

G. Srinivasan

NEW DELHI, July 31

IN a move designed to impart distinct improvement in expenditure management and ensure the efficacy of plan initiatives, the Planning Commission has knocked off as many as 139 Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSSs) out of 256 such schemes. Official sources t old Business Line here that though talks were under way for quite some time to transfer CSSs to States or converge or merge or weed out schemes that had outlived their utilities, it is only during this week that a decision was taken by the Members of the Planning Commission at the Secretary level meeting on the transfer/ convergence/ weeding out of CSSs for the Tenth Five Year Plan.

The Union Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, while unveiling the 20001-02 Budget, indicated that all schemes that are similar in genre would be converged to eliminate duplication. Centrally sponsored schemes that could be transferred to States would be identified and resource flows to these schemes would be linked to performance and delivery of beneficial results such schemes generate in the course of their being implemented.

The sources pointed out that the proliferation of CSS is well documented. For instance, there are nearly 50 CSSs in agriculture sector, 15 major schemes in rural development, more than 20 in environment and forest and about 30 schemes in education sector . The share of the CSS in the Plan budget of the Central Ministries has now increased to 70 per cent, against 30 per cent in the early 1980s. ``This expansion has taken place at the expense of investments in infrastructure, industry and energy sectors,'' the Plan panel said.

While the weeding out CSSs that have outlived their utility and convergence of overlapping CSS and transfer of CSS to the States is indispensable for effective expenditure management to contain rising fiscal deficit, the sources conceded that efforts wer e made to ensure a convergence -- inter and intra-sectoral -- of various schemes with identical goals/ target groups/ regions; and only such CSS schemes should be retained by the Central Ministries/ departments that are of national importance.

In the aftermath of the recent decision by the Group charged with the task of transfer/ convergence/ weeding out of CSS, only 117 would be continued out of the 256 CSSs that were prevalent. Out of the 117 existing CSSs, the maximum would be run by the Mi nistry of Environment and Forests at 14, followed by the Department of Animal Husbandry at 12 and Ministries of Tourism, Social Justice and Empowerment at 11 each.

The axe fell heavily on the Department of Elementary Education and Literacy where the total number of CSSs at 19 got pruned to two, while in the Department of Higher Secondary Education the schemes were reduced from 26 to 8. Similarly, in the Ministry of Environment and Forests the existing 22 CSSs have been whittled down to 14. In the Ministry of Textiles too existing 8 CSSs have been slashed to 2.

Sources said currently different CSS have different proportion of grant and loan component ranging from 100 per cent grant to 50 per cent. However, an inter-ministerial group set up has been directed to go into the issue of fixing a common funding formu la for all CSS (i.e. same proportion of loans and grants for all schemes) so that the selection of a CSS by the State is not merely swayed by the funding pattern of the concerned scheme.

The idea is to enable the States to choose the schemes that are most required by them from the available basket of the CSSs in a particular Ministry/ sector.

The recent Plan panel decision also stems from the strictures passed by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) who in a report in 1990 was critical of both the Centre and the State governments for ``shabby implementation'' of the CSSs.

Even the draft Approach Paper to the Tenth Five Year Plan has stated that the mushrooming growth of CSS is an instance of the state over-stretching itself. ``It would be better to do a few things well rather than messing up with a larger number of activi ties,'' it said.

Related links:
Plan panel meet to deliberate on sensitive issues

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