A Group of Ministers,headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar,on Thursday approved the restructuring of 173 Central schemes into 70 in order to streamline their implementation,monitoring and grant flexibility to state governments to tailor them according to local needs during the remaining period of the 12th Five Year Plan.
On April 18,the Cabinet had referred a proposal mooted by the Planning Commission to the 13-member GoM,which approved it in its first meeting itself on Thursday.
While the Planning Commission in its Cabinet note had mooted 70 schemes,it later proposed 77 schemes to accommodate new demands by various ministries. The GoM was learnt to have asked the seven new schemes be absorbed into other schemes.
Seventeen of the approved 70 schemes will include 17 flagship programmes of the government with budgetary allocation to the tune of over Rs 2,30,000 crore,accounting for more than 40 per cent of the plan outlay of the current fiscal.
The move holds significance in the wake of proliferation of Centrally-sponsored schemes (CSS),which rose from 99 at the beginning of the 11th Plan (2007-08) to 147 by the end of the plan (2011-12). This coupled with 26 additional Central assistance (ACA) programmes meant a total of 173 Central schemes.
Alarmed by this proliferation,the Planning Commission had constituted a committee in 2011 that expressed concerns over the questionable utility of operating a large number of CSS with thinly spread resources at field level. In the last year of the 11th Plan,100 of the 147 CSSs each had allocations less than Rs 300 crore with total amounting to little over Rs 7,000 crore,accounting for about four per cent of total allocations for 147 CSSs. The committee had recommended pruning 147 schemes into 59 by merging smaller schemes into an umbrella scheme.
Sources said that Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Thursday suggested the GoM accept 59 as the ceiling,but given the Planning Commissions exercise outlining umbrella schemes for different ministries the GoM finally decided to limit these to 70.
The GoM also laid down certain criteria to provide flexibility in the implementation of the schemes. It decided that funds under the restructured umbrella schemes will be routed through the Consolidated Fund of States and do away with the practice of bypassing state governments in transfer of funds either to districts or societies. However,the GoM decided to impose a condition that state government will have to mandatorily transfer funds to implementing agencies within 15 days of receiving funds from the Centre,failing which they will be charged penal interests.
The GoM allowed states to keep 10 per cent of the outlay of each of these schemes as flexi-funds to meet local needs.