Seeking to bridge the rural-urban divide, government will set up 300 rural clusters by 2019-20 across the country as the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission with an outlay of Rs 5142.08 crore.
The mission aims to spur economic, social and infrastructure development in rural areas.
The Mission, that was announced last year to replace UPA government’s PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) initiative, aims at improving the quality of life of people there by involving the government this time.
The Centre felt that the earlier scheme “failed” because only voluntary organisations were involved.
When asked how different will be this scheme named after the founder of Bhartiya Jana Sangh and RSS founder member Syama Prasad Mookerjee from PURA scheme, Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh said the earlier scheme was only limited to the private sector.
“PURA was limited to private sector. There was no government participation in it. That is why it failed. It was planned at 13 places out of which it could not take off in four while the results on the rest nine were also not good.
“A need was felt to initiate the scheme in a new format,” Singh said briefing reporters after a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi government has earlier faced criticism from the Opposition on a number of occasions for renaming the schemes including PURA launched by the UPA in past.
When asked about funding pattern of the scheme, Singh said the expenditure will be met from various existing schemes at Panchayat level and Centre would pitch in to fill in the “critical gap” of up to 30 percent of the scheme expenditure wherever there is a deficit.
Under the scheme, the State Governments would identify the clusters in accordance with the framework for implementation prepared by the Ministry of Rural Development.
The clusters will be geographically contiguous Gram Panchayats with a population of about 25000 to 50000 in plain and coastal areas and a population of 5000 to 15000 in desert, hilly or tribal areas.
There would be a separate approach for selection of clusters in tribal and non-tribal districts. As far as practicable, clusters of village would follow administrative convergence units of Gram Panchayats.
The scheme will function with 14 mandatory components to ensure an optimum level of development of a cluster, which include skill development training linked to economic activities, digital literacy, fully equipped mobile health unit and inter-village road connectivity.
In the Budget for 2014-15, government had announced the scheme proposing to develop rural clusters in the country with the objective of improving the quality of life of people in the cluster, bridging the rural-urban divide and reducing distress migration from rural to urban areas.
The other components of the scheme in clusters will be providing citizen service centres- for electronic delivery of citizen centric services and e-gram connectivity, public transport, LPG gas connections, agro processing, agri services including storage and warehousing, sanitation, provision of piped water supply, solid and liquid waste management and upgrading education facilities.
The mission, which is said to be modelled on a similar initiative in Gujarat, will focus on creating community assets and improving basic infrastructure such as roads, shelter, power and drinking water in rural belts.
While announcing the scheme in the last budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had cited the example of Gujarat that has demonstrated successfully the Rurban development model of urbanisation of rural areas, through which people living in rural areas can get efficient civic infrastructure and associate services.
Hailing Modi government’s initiatives for developing rural India, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today said that like smart cities, the government has also a concept of smart villages.
The preferred mode of delivery would be through Public Private Partnerships while using various scheme funds.
With this ambitious bid to transform rural areas to economically, socially and physically sustainable spaces, government, the mission aims at development of rural growth clusters which have latent potential for growth, in all states and Union Territories, which would trigger overall development in the region.
“These clusters would be developed by provisioning of economic activities, developing skills and local entrepreneurship and providing infrastructure amenities. The Rurban Mission will thus develop a cluster of Smart Villages,” an official statement said.
The government said that these clusters would be well delineated areas with planned layouts prepared following the planning norms as laid down in the state town and country Planning Acts and similar central or state statutes.
For the selection of clusters, an objective analysis at the district, sub district and village level, of the demography, economy, tourism and pilgrimage significance and transportation corridor impact will be carried out.
The mission aims to create 300 such Rurban growth clusters over the next 3 years, across the country.
“The funding for Rurban Clusters will be through various schemes of the Government converged into the cluster. The SPMRM will provide an additional funding support of upto 30 percent of the project cost per cluster as Critical Gap Funding (CGF) as Central Share to enable development of such Rurban clusters,” the official statement said.
States would prepare integrated cluster action plans for Rurban Clusters, which would be comprehensive plan documents detailing out the strategy for the cluster, desired outcomes for the cluster under the mission, along with the resources to be converged under various Central Sector, Centrally Sponsored and State Sector schemes, and the Critical Gap Funding (CGF) required for the cluster.
In addition to the Critical Gap Funding, proactive steps have been taken to ensure the success of the mission with adequate budget provisions for supporting the state government towards project development, capacity building and other institutional arrangements at the state level, it said.
The Mission envisages institutional arrangements both at the state and Centre to ensure smooth implementation of the Mission. The Mission also has an Innovation budget towards facilitating research, development and capacity building.
The cost of developing a cluster may vary between Rs. 50-52 crores, the rural development minister said.
The original Rurban programme was launched in Gujarat in 2012 during Modi’s tenure as chief minister.
Under the scheme, the government had planned formation of a dedicated institutional set-up in the form of Rurban Cell under panchayat/rural development department.
Announcing the programme in a joint session of Parliament in July last year, President Pranab Mukherjee said it would “provide urban amenities to rural areas while preserving the ethos of the villages”.
In the first phase, Rs 100 crore is to be spent on the scheme in three identified projects in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh and Sangli and Buldhana districts of Maharashtra. The mission was a promise made by the BJP in its 2014 Lok Sabha election manifesto.
Centre had also set up am 11-member committee to study in detail the reasons for failure of similar initiatives in the past and recommend ways to ensure that this project succeeds.
A similar initiative was taken by the previous UPA government – PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas), which has been in place since 2004. However, the scheme never took off and hence the government wanted to study the failures before launching the scheme.
They had also studied in detail the success story of Rurban mission in Gujarat as well as individual-based success stories in a handful of districts.