A Case Study of Assam, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh by N.V.Varghese, Yazali Josephine etc; NIEPA, New Delhi, India, 1998
The three states under study varied in terms of existing institutional arrangements to plan and implement DPEP activities. The three states are Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Assam. In Kerala SCERT was not in operation but DIETS were in operation in all district. In Assam, SCERT was in existence but DIETS were not in existence in all districts except one. In Madhya Pradesh both SCERT and DIETS were in existence during the period of the study i.e. 1994-95 to 1996-97.
The participatory process in the plan was very widespread in Kerala, fairly broad based in Madhya Pradesh and was weak in Assam. The initial years of the programme implementation was focused on creating institutional structure to manage the programme. In all the three states, the first year of the programme implementation experienced large-scale activities related to awareness campaigns.
The organizational arrangements of Block Resource Centre and Cluster Level Resource Centre were created by the second and third year of implementation. The allocation and utilization rates indicate that these activities have accounted for a very high share because of civil work orientation. More than 50% of the expenditure during 1994-97 accounted by civil works in all districts. In same case it was more than two thirds of the expenditure. The non-civil work activities have not picked up faster pace.
To sum up the trends: Firstly, more emphasis is placed on civil work related activities in implementation. Secondly, non-civil work activities are not progressing at an expected pace. Thirdly, programmes, which require very little investment, are given low priority in implementation. Fourthly, programmes, which require financial commitment from the part of the state government for sustainability, are not adequately progressing under DPEP. Fifthly, the existing institutions are less relied on to implement the programme. The trend seems to be more towards creating more institutions or groups, which will be under the direct control of the DPEP. This has serious implications for institutionalizing and sustaining many of the project activities. The low level of utilization especially in non-civil work related activities cast doubt on the absorptive capacity of the district. If the past trends continue, many districts may not be in a position to utilize the resources indicated in the perspective plans and as allocated in successive annual plans.
The low levels of utilization of funds can be due to two reasons. Firstly, the initial budgets were inflated and hence the activities are carried out at a level of expenditure, which was lower than anticipated. Secondly, the budgets are realistic but due to various reasons the planned activities could not be taken up. The major reason for under utilization of allocated funds under DPEP stems from the latter factor. Hence it reflects a state of less efforts from the part of the state and district level functionaries, to focus on education specific activities.
Some of the reasons for non-implementation of some of the DPEP activities were the difficulties associated with financial sanctions at the local level. At times, the accounts officers were not adequately trained in DPEP concerns and objectives. Consequently, they scrutinized the proposals for financial sanction strictly according to the rules and regulations applicable to routine programmes. Whenever new programmes are initiated, the local educational functionaries were required to provide repeated clarifications. This delayed the process of financial sanctions and implementation of activities. Therefore, there is a need for organizing programmes for the account personnel to orient them to DPEP and its features. This may help in avoiding procedural delays in implementing some of the activities.
As indicated earlier activities which require less resources and more local level efforts are not progressing at a required pace. Therefore, the emphasis needs to be shifted to local level initiatives in place of state and district level interventions. In other words, the trends indicate that the organizational arrangements to promote local initiative need to be further strengthened. These local initiatives become strong when the local bodies, Village Education Committees and the school teachers and headmasters enjoys more autonomy and freedom to plan and manage activities related to the day-to-day functioning of primary schools. This requires local level capacity building to activate the community to increasingly participate in educational activities.
The positive development in this direction under the DPEP, is the creation of resource institutions like Block Resource Centre and Circle Resource Centre, which are closer to schools and villages. These organizational arrangements need to be linked to provide support to villagers, to develop plans and monitor activities, and provide academic support to improve classroom-teaching learning process. Providing such a sustained professional support requires establishing strong linkages between local people and local institutions on the one hand, and between local institutions and district and state level institutions on the other. In many cases these linkages are weak.
Finally, low levels of utilization of funds is an indication of non-availability of non-monetary resources required to plan, manage and monitor educational activities at the local level. The non-monetary resources have not increased in accordance with the increase in financial resources. The monetary resources can be mobilized from outside the local areas and channelised to any locality. However, the non-monetary resources are less mobile and hence they have to be developed at the local levels itself. It is expected that the programme implementation in the coming years will focus more on mobilization of non-monetary resources which implies an increased emphasis on local level capacity building activities. A more co-ordinate functioning of the existing and new organizational arrangements becomes a necessary condition to initiate and needless to add, a substantial progress in this direction can be made by broad basing the annual planning process and further strengthening the appraisal of the annual plans.