The dream of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj institutions in Karnataka to have a dedicated University to focus on the comprehensive development of rural areas and strengthening the Panchayat Raj system, besides promoting suitable skills and competence in the area, will be realised soon. A 13-member expert committee headed by former Chief Secretary S.V. Ranganath, constituted by the government to study various issues pertaining to setting up of the RDPR University and give its recommendations, is likely to submit its report by July-end. It can be recalled here that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had announced his government’s decision to set up this University in the budget presented on July 12, 2013. After nearly five months of the announcement, the government constituted the expert committee comprising former bureaucrat A.N. Yellappa Reddy; R.B. Agavane, Chairman, Agriculture Mission; S.A. Patil, Vice-Chancellor, Karnatak University; H.B. Walekar; Prakash Bhat; Arun Patil; C.S. Patil; Niti Sharma, Director, Krishi Vignan Kendra, Hulikoti; Director, Rural Development & Self-Employment Training Institute; Director Institute for Social and Economic Change; and Syed Jama, Member-Secretary, on December 31, 2013.

The committee was supposed to submit its report within two months of its constitution. But Mr. S.V. Ranganath sought extension of term in view of delay in commencing the work. Considering his plea, the government extended the term by six months on April 29, 2014. Mr. Ranganath says that so far the committee had conducted three meetings and discussed various issues pertaining to setting up of the University, including its location. However, no decision has been taken to finalise a place suitable for setting up of the varsity.

According to the proceedings of the meeting held for constitution of the 13-member committee, the government is spending over Rs.10,000 crore for implementing various schemes for rural development. But failure to understand constant changes in different areas of rural development has impacted upon the performance of the RDPR department and the very purpose of spending such a huge sum for improving the condition of people in rural parts of the State is being defeated. Establishment of a dedicated University will help in capacity building of the rural population, which comprises 65 per cent of the State’s total population.

Funds not used
The RDPR department is also finding it difficult to spend funds allocated both by the Centre and State in the absence of specific policies and guidelines suited to the changed socio-economic scenario of the country. The State-level RDPR Vigilance and Monitoring Committee had expressed its displeasure over the lapse of Rs.1,400 crore allocated by the Centre and directed the department to make the optimum use of funds in last October.

The Committee, headed by H.K. Patil, took the authorities to task for not utilising Rs.6,275 crore allotted for implementing 12 important schemes, including Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.

Experts in the field of rural development are of the opinion that the proposed University will enhance the efficiency in running the Panchayat Raj institutions, besides plugging loopholes in the system by offering suitable suggestions.

Role of varsity
The proposed varsity will play a major role in the rural development planning process and formation of policies, analysis of existing policies at various levels, and providing a comprehensive plan for rural development. The aim of the varsity is to study poverty and illiteracy in rural parts, pilot projects envisaged by RDPR, find ways to contain migration and create employment opportunities, evaluate funds being utilised for various schemes, formulate programmes to bring funds from medium and major industries for the development of rural areas, and introduce Information Technology to improve individual and community capacity.

Dr. Yellappa Reddy, an environmentalist and former IFS officer, visited Gandhigram Rural Institute in Tamil Nadu to study the model for setting up of RDPR University.

He said the Institute is ready to share its experience with the newly coming up university in Karnataka.

After studying land and water usage pattern, state of horticultural and sericulture farms, and utilisation of natural resources in the State, he submitted a report on the ways to allow the rural people to lead a dignified life.

Instead of spending on concrete structures, the proposed varsity should be designed on the lines of Sriniketan of Vishwa Bharati University created by Rabindranath Tagore, he said.
-MURALIDHARA KHAJANE
Courtesy:The Hindu, June 1, 2014

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