Rs 20,000 in bank accounts to be rural poverty barometer

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By Subodh Ghildiyal

NEW DELHI: A gram panchayat’s success in reducing poverty will be judged by the number of households with over Rs 20,000 in savings bank accounts or percentage of families with Aadhaar-linked bank accounts. Or, by the percentage of its households which have availed over Rs 20,000 as bank credit.

Interestingly, higher the number of households with bank loans for “diversified livelihood”, the better the village would be assessed on the scale of progress. It will also be a positive if greater number of families are in nonfarm jobs with skilled work, or are selling their products in markets. Another key indicator of positive change will be the number of families using compost as the primary source to fertilise crops.

Progress of a village will also be measured against the prevalence of malnutrition among children up to three years, percentage of children with full immunisation, number of girls completing secondary education and skilling courses.

These are among the parameters being considered by the rural development ministry to monitor its coming plan to create 50,000 poverty-free gram panchayats, its success to be measured against the “wellbeing of households” of a village.

Around 20 criteria for development will be clubbed into three categories — infrastructure, social development and economic development. A senior official said the scale to measure poverty-free panchayats — Mission Antyodaya — was being finalised.

According to the plan in the works, the target 50,000 gram panchayats will be bunched together in clusters of 5,000, the idea being that development or economic activity best happens in a collection of villages, be it dairy development or manufacturing or horticulture or tourism.

Sources said the gram panchayats will be selected on the basis of evidence that they have done “model work” or have demonstrated a level of “social initiative”.

Creation of poverty-free gram panchayats is a flagship plan mooted by the government, with the RD ministry in the process of drawing up the details of its implementation. In a bid to understand the factors that aid development in rural areas, the ministry recently sent officials to study 50 villages across Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which have made visible progress in overcoming poverty.

Also, an elaborate coordination mechanism for the scheme is being created. While it will be included in the list of schemes assessed by the PM and CMs in the Niti Aayog governing council, there will be state level coordination committees under the CMs.
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