The District is the Principal Administrative unit below the state level responsible for implementation of almost all the centre and state level schemes. It is a unit of administration covering most of the departments of Government.
In the words of the study team on district administration constituted by the Administrative
“The district is the most convenient geographical unit where the total apparatus of public administration can be concentrated, and where it comes into direct contact with the people. Most departments of the state Government out-side the secretariat, have external services which are located in the district. The sum totals of the activities of these departments and some others, which may also be connected with the affairs of the Central Government, together constitute the administrative machinery in the district.”
The Municipalities, Nagar Nigam, block and village level bodies are generally executive in nature, while the district level body mostly has a co-ordinating and supervisory role.
As both centre and state governments are running various welfare schemes, these schemes are facing various challenges in implementation at district level. Some are discussed as follows:
• Financial Resources:
In most of the central schemes funds are devolve to district through corresponding states, Many a time funds stuck at state level due to various political and administrative reasons and district administration feel crunch of funds. Even in schemes in which funds are directly transferred to district administration from centre gets delayed and scheme lost its significance and developmental work get halted or delayed. Example in MNREGA delay of payment has reduced the demand for work significantly and no. Of man days are reducing. More than 10,000 crore payments are pending. Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) have highlighted the lack of administrative capacity of the village panchayat members to run MNREGA scheme in a designed and decentralised manner.
• Planning and Coordination:
Though schemes provides broader guidelines, yet at district level planning is required for implementing of scheme taking various parameters of development into account. Many a time backward areas including certain blocks and villages of district get ignored during the process. Thus planning is not inclusive and benefits of the scheme do not reach in the required area. After planning coordination within the district in various departments pose a challenge. Unclear and overlapping role create confusion and accountability cannot be fixed. Overlapping objectives of many schemes especially in health services, lead to poor implementation of one or the other scheme.
Non availability of adequate infrastructure is also a big challenge in implementation. This includes infrastructure ranging from roads, electricity, drinking water supply, IT infrastructure, primary health care infrastructure. Non connectivity of distant village from district excludes them from getting benefited from many schemes. Health sector schemes like National Rural Health Mission are not able to improve health parameters because primary health care and community health centers are in dilapidated condition.
Mid day meal case study: The biggest problem of Mid Day Meal that facilities for cooking food, storage of food items and their serving have not been put into place. Ideal is the situation that the meals should be prepared in the schools itself so that the children eat hot, healthy and fresh food. For this, kitchens in schools itself is essential. Unfortunately, in the country of 6,00,000 villages, where children are still compelled to study below trees, in majority of schools, there are arrangements not made for toilet and drinking water for children attending classes. Under such a scenario, kitchen and stores seems luxuriant.
Food grains rot not merely in the warehouses of Food Corporation of India. It transpires from the audit report of 2008 that in schools of Bihar nearly more than 547 tonnages of food grains became during the period of 3 years. According to one report of Human Resource Development Ministry, the food items, instead of being stored in school kitchen stores are kept in the houses of head masters of schools, which is against rules. In the absence of adequate structural facilities, this is not surprising that the standard of foodstuffs is extremely appalling. We have not yet learnt lessons from so many incidents of meals of death Oftentimes, reports pour in of being found lizards, frogs, bugs and insects of various species. Cooks do not maintain cleanliness in preparing meals for children. Worse, the persons keeping watch on them are also not trained.
• Human Resource and Skills:
Though most of the government run scheme faces the challenge of both number and quality man power while implementing, this is most visible in Sarv Shikhya Abhiyan which was started to ensure Right to Education Policy for children however reports shows the poor pupil to teacher ratio and quality of education is such that student of class VII are not able to read the textbook of class III and do basic arithmetic.
In implementation of MNREGA, there is the deficiency of adequate administrative and technical manpower at the Block and Grama Panchayat (GP) Levels, especially at the level of programme officer, technical assistants, and Employment Guarantee Assistant Level etc. The lack of manpower has adversely affected the preparation of plans, scrutiny, approval, monitoring and measurement of works, and maintenance of the stipulated records at the block and GP level. The CAG report points out that besides affecting the implementation of the scheme and the provision of employment, this also impacted adversely on transparency.
Though Government is trying to convert India into a knowledge and digital society.
unavailability of trained manpower and lack of required skills pose a challenge to achieve this objective specially in small districts.
• Political Intervention and Corruption:
Statistics clearly indicate that the poverty alleviation programmes have had a minimal effect on poverty levels in India due to corruption. The actual funds that reach the beneficiaries are very little compared to the funds allocated for welfare schemes. Corruption of the local governments leads to the exclusion of specific sections of the society.
Mid Day meal and PDS distribution system are bright example of corrupted supply and manipulation of the sanctioned food grains and cereals. Private companies and Contractors collude with local administration and politicians to get mid day meal contract because large money is involved in scheme. Genuine NGOs, SHGs and women help groups are excluded.
Same is the case in getting license of PDS distribution.
In MNREGA, Local governments have also been found to claim that more people have received job cards than people who actually work in order to generate more fund than needed, to be then embezzled by local officials. Bribes as high Rs. 50 are paid in order to receive the job card.
A multi-crore fraud has also been suspected where people have been issued under the MGNREGS card who is either employed with another Government job and who are not even aware that they have a job card. There are several cases of fake muster roll entries, over writing, false names and irregularities in job cards. Even the names of dead people who have not registered often feature in the muster rolls.
• Field Level Monitoring and Beneficiary verification:
Insufficient monitoring by the central government, misalignment of incentives which encourage rent seeking activities and finally, a lack of accountability which distorts the management of funds. These are some of the common trends witnessed in the poor implementation of many schemes such as ICDS in Bihar, NREGA in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, Mid day Meal in Madhya Pradesh, Health Insurance Scheme in Maharashtra, Old Age Pension scheme in Chhattisgarh and Bihar and the Integrated Housing and Slum Development Program in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh among others.
In 2013, in the Mid-day Meal tragedy in Bihar, 23 children were killed after eating contaminated cooked food, the flagship government scheme which provides lunch to nearly 120 million children in India every day facing lack of monitoring and hygiene, and also huge
The public distribution system has suffered because of lack of identification and verification of the specified people. Today, if we analyze we will find the entire nation has only 35% of cards distributed among the BPL families under BPL card scheme. But the quota is coming in full to all the covered states. Where the rest 65% of supply does go? Is the district
administration not responsible for it?
• Caste and gender discrimination and Power Structure:
In India social structure of caste and patriarchy many a time hamper the implantation of schemes and desired results from them. Dominating caste group along with collusion in district administration and political system usurp the benefits of welfare schemes and vulnerable group are excluded.
Women are sometimes told that manual labour under the MGNREGS is not meant for women and they could not participate in ongoing works as it entailed digging and removing soil. In some states, the powerful groups among the work force get large number of job cards.
• Effectiveness Evaluation and feedback Mechanism:
District administration most of the time is process oriented rather than focusing on effectiveness of the scheme. These make the whole process complex and cumbersome while implementing. Even Most of the schemes don’t have any effective evaluation mechanism or feedback mechanism from the target group so scope of improvements gets closed. Schemes become supply rather than demand driven thus do not satisfy aspirations of target group.
• Grievance redressal mechanism:
No administration can claim to be accountable, responsive and user-friendly unless it has established an efficient and effective grievance redress mechanism. In fact, the grievance redress mechanism of an organization is the gauge to measure its efficiency and effectiveness as it provides important feedback on the working of the administration.
There are rules, regulations, instructions which are archaic and aimed at shifting the work towards citizens. Slackness in administration, low morale of the services, inherent inertia, absence of incentives, lack of proper authority and accountability are the delay-breeders and the delay is the major factor that generates the grievances. In many cases Departments/Organisations justify the delay and continue with their inability to take decisions by putting the onus on another agency or on the petitioner. Many a times, the actual cause of grievance lay in internal inefficiency of the system and failure to identify simple systemic solutions. It is also observed that the time norms set by Departments for providing services were not being adhered to in many cases. These factors need to be tackled properly through systematic changes.
Models Proposed for Reforming Governance
• Reinventing Government Model
Reinventing Government concept was introduced by Osborne and Gaebler. It applies the business customer service model to government. Citizens are seen as customers and the administrative role is streamlined by converting policy alternatives into market choices. Most entrepreneurial governments promote competition between service providers. They empower citizens by pushing control out of the bureaucracy, into the community.They measure the performance of their agencies, focusing not on inputs but on outcomes. They are driven by their goals-their missions-not by their rules and regulations. They put their energies into earning money, not simply spending it. They decentralize authority, embracing participatory management. They prefer market mechanisms to bureaucratic mechanisms. And they focus not simply on providing public services, but on catalyzing all sectors-public, private, and voluntary-into action to solve their community problems.
• Re-engineering government Model
Re-engineering or Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) is the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service, and speed. It represents an effort to turn back the Industrial Revolution and reassemble the tasks and functions taken apart by the 19th century principles of the division of labor.
According to Fowler, its many features include the following results of the desired changes:
a) Separate, simple tasks are combined into skilled, multi-functional jobs.
b) The stages in a process are performed in their natural order.
c) Work is performed where it is best done-some parts of the process may thus be outsourced.
d) The volume of checking and control of separate tasks is reduced.
e) There is total compatibility between processes, the nature of jobs and structure, management methods, and the organization’s values and beliefs.
f) IT is recognized and exploited as offering many opportunities for the redesign of the work systems and the provision of information to enhance devolved decision-making.
g) Processes may have multiple versions to cope with varying circumstances.
Re-engineering is thus more inward-looking and gives greater attention to the role of information technology (IT). BPR has been extensively applied in private business, but only to a limited extent in the public sector.
• Good Governance Model
Good governance helps create an environment in which sustained economic growth becomes achievable. Conditions of good governance allow citizens to maximize their returns on
Good governance does not occur by chance. It must be demanded by citizens and nourished explicitly and consciously by the nation state. It is, therefore, necessary that the citizens are allowed to participate freely, openly and fully in the political process. The citizens must have the right to compete for office, form political party and enjoy fundamental rights and civil liberty. Good governance is accordingly associated with accountable political leadership, enlightened policy-making and a civil service imbued with a professional ethos. The presence of a strong civil society including a free press and independent judiciary are pre-conditions for good governance.