The Constitution 73rd Amendment Act, 1992 envisaged that Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) have to be vested with such authority and power which will enable them to function as effective institutions of self-government.
The empowerment of elected representatives at different levels of panchayats becomes mandatory to ensure effective functioning of PRIs. The need for effective and relevant training becomes very important because of the enormous responsibilities placed particularly on Gram Panchayats in terms of planning, designing and executing various programmes of economic development and social justice.
Keeping in view the limited output capacity of the conventional training system on one hand and the enormous task of training a large number of elected panchayat functionaries, a distance education programme through Indira Gandhi National Open University was sponsored by Government of India in early 1990's. The multi-media distance education package was introduced among 60,000 elected members in the then four districts of Madhya Pradesh namely Baster, Raigarh. Guna and Dhar.
The self-learning was also translated in to five regional languages and given to Eight State Open Universities and one State Institute of Rural Development
(SIRD) for value addition and implementation. Further, ICT revolution warranted that new communication technologies available are brought in to play to make capacity building an effective and sustainable intervention.
The training process
The task of capacity building is enormous, as it involves coordinated approach for the massive awareness, orientation and skill development of lakhs of elected representatives and of development functionaries.
It was also realised that a clear vision and strategy is required to plan and provide for an appropriate training. The communication technology available as a result of ICT revolution was intended to be carefully integrated so as to reach large numbers with out compromising quality.
Thus a multi-mode training intervention assumed great significance. Multi Mode Training Intervention (MMTI) on the one hand encourages use of modern communication technology and on the other, integrates distance mode of training intervention with that of face to face conventional training mode. It also gives due consideration to learning styles and preferences.
The project covered six northern states including Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand with IGNOU as the implementing agency. In terms of strategy it involved establishing an institutional network of the SIRD and selected NGO's from the States, developing a suitable learning package through a balanced mix of distance learning and conventional training, adapting the materials to local requirements and implementing the capacity building intervention through distance mode.
The project has been able to prepare a multi-media package consisting of self-learning booklets and associated video programmes for distribution among the Panchayats; undertake capacity building of Collaborating Institutions (CIs); publication of local- Governance updates; conduct Block Development Officer's (BDO) Symposia and orientation programmes for development functionaries and undertaking of hardware mapping of Panchayats in 4 districts in each participating State. A brief description of each of this follows:
The self-learning materials, as a part of multi-media package, developed, printed and distributed consist of the following Self-learning Booklets include Basic Features of the Indian Constitution, Evolution of Panchayati Raj and the Constitution, 73rd Amendment Act-1992, Panchayats as Institutions of Self Governance, Decentralising Planning, Sectoral Planning, Role of PRIs in Development, Responsibilities of Panchayats in Centrally Sponsored Schemes, Institutions of Development, Development of Special Categories, Disaster Management, New Initiatives in Panchayati Raj.
3,500 sets of each of the above 11 booklets have been made available to all the collaborating institutions in each state.
Atleast six video programmes were produced as a part of the multi-media package for the elected members of Panchayats: Panchayati Raj – The Vision, How to conduct a Panchayat Meeting, Participatory Planning, New Initiatives in Panchayati Raj, Disaster Management, Responsibility of Panchayats in Centrally Sponsored Schemes. 25 sets of each have been made available to all the collaborating institutions in each state.
Training of THE Trainers
The Three Training of Trainers (TOT) Programmes were conducted under the project for capacity building of the collaborating institutions.
The first TOT programme was focused on the capacity building of CIs in distance education modalities so that the persons thus trained could be involved in preparing for and working on the state specific components.
In the second TOT on Pedagogy the participants got seriously engaged in preparing the state specific training manuals for orientation programmes expected to be conducted by them on their return for Panchayat Secretaries & Sarpanches.
The third TOT was mainly focused on imparting Counselling skills in order to prepare a cadre of Master Counsellors, who in turn would train a cadre of local counsellors at the district level.
The training model has included a multi-media package consisting of self-learning booklets and associated video programmes for the Panchayats.
Conduct of Orientation Programmes
One of the major activities envisaged under the project was the training of Panchayat Secretaries in handling their day to day responsibilities with a high level of professionalism and commitment and also to orient them in a way that they become instruments of socio-economic development in their respective Panchayats. The blue prints of the training were finally converted in to State Specific Training Manuals
The CIs concerned were expected to organise a one day symposium for the BDOs where the participants would be drawn from the whole State, at the same time ensuring the participation of the BDO's from the selected districts to identify the typical problems and constraints BDOs face in day-to-day implementation of development programmes, and discuss BDOs interface with the elected members of Panchayats and Line departments on the one hand, and that with MLAs on the other.
The CIs were expected to undertake hardware mapping of Panchayats. The mapping of hardware in four districts each of the six states was undertaken to get a preliminary view about the availability of requisite facilities on the field and appraise the various needs in order to help build dependable IT infrastructure at the Panchayats. The report based on the six state specific studies has been printed and distributed.
Diploma in Panchayat Level Administration and Development (DPLAP)
As a part of the project activities was a Diploma in Panchayat Level Administration and Development expected to be introduced among development functionaries through distance mode of learning. This is an attempt at education and training for those lakhs of development functionaries who have to work shoulder to shoulder with the elected members in implementing various development programmes and schemes. This Diploma is at final stages and expected to be offered this year in July, 2010.
To achieve its objectives, the project envisaged joint action and plans by Government established institutions and NGOs engaged in Capacity Building of PRIs in each participating State. As computerisation of the Panchayat operations is on the cards, these institutions are expected to increasingly rely on the state of the art information and communication technologies.
The success of this innovative capacity building intervention lies on how effectively these collaborating institutions are able to carry forward what has been achieved through this project.
It will also depend on how soon the policy planners and those responsible to take important administrative decisions are able to realize the importance of a Multi-Mode Training Intervention to materialise the dream of democratic decentralisation, which this country badly needs.
Prof. M Aslam