| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
From 2008 onwards, the following action plan was implemented over the next 6 years as detailed below:
24 Gram Vikas Kendras (GVKs) were established to function as a Gram Panchayat cluster support office. A mission mode initiative was taken up to construct all the remaining toilets in households, schools and child centres by placing it on the top of the development agenda. By Oct, 2008 sanitation was universalized and Sikkim became the first and only State in the country to have achieved this distinction. Posting of additional functionary (Bare Foot Engineer BFE) was done at the village level to maintain the drinking water pipelines.
An additional functionary (Gram Rozgar Sahayak GRS) was provided at the village level to support the employment programs. Following this bank and post office accounts were opened for all the rural households. Sustainable livelihoods were promoted under MGNREGA by shifting the focus from construction activities to income generating ones. Social audits were grounded by partnering with local NGOs to enhance transparency and accountability.
MGNREGA was grounded with micro-works in every habitation and could provide employment to 70% of the rural households mostly women every year. A new functionary (Panchayat Accounts Assistant PAA) was provided to support financial record keeping at the Gram Panchayat level. Capacity of functionaries was developed in geohydrology to revive dying springs under a unique springshed development initiative www.sikkimsprings.org. Gram Panchayat Planning and Budgeting guidelines were prepared by Professor Dafflon, University of Fribourg, Switzerland.
The Chief Ministers Rural Housing Mission (CMRHM) was launched by reforming the existing housing programs. Village Development Action Plans (VDAPs) were prepared at the gram panchayat level using PRA tools to identify development priorities including participatory identification of the poor and resource mapping. Pilots were implemented to revive springs, streams and lakes under the springshed development initiative. Three more Gram Vikas Kendras were established taking their number up to 27. While all the Gram Panchayats have a fully functional office (Gram Prashashan Kendra GPK), 45 GPKs were upgraded to brand new offices. Following the devastating 18th Sept, 2011 earthquake of 6.8 magnitude, the assessment of the damage and vulnerability of rural structures was also carried out.
Social audits were institutionalized by establishing an independent social audit unit, and pilots were taken up to build the capacity of the state and district resource persons. The Sikkim Panchayat Act 1995 was amended to ensure 50% reservation for women and the Sikkim Panchayat Elections 2012 were conducted successfully. The springshed development initiative was upscaled to cover 50 springs and 5 lakes. The Reconstruction of Earthquake Damaged Rural Houses Project (REDRH) www.sikkimrmdd.gov.in was launched in mission mode to reconstruct 7,972 fully damaged houses in home owner-driven mode.
Quality social audits were upscaled to all the Gram Panchayats of the State. A Junior Engineer (JE) functionary was provided at the gram panchayat level to support infrastructure creation. Three more Gram Vikas Kendras were established taking their number up to 31. The hydrological contribution of hill top forests was enhanced by taking up ground water recharge under the springshed development initiative. Trainings workshops were held all over the state to train 1,000 masons on earthquake resilient construction techniques.
Under the CMRHM and REDRH housing programs 8,000 houses were completed successfully in home owner driven mode. Another functionary the Panchayat Development Assistant (PDA) was provided at the GP level. Jointly with the Horticulture department large scale horticulture plantations were taken up of large cardamom and mandarin orange in the lands of the poor. Also animal shelters i.e. cattle-shed and pig sty were constructed in the lands of the poor jointly with the animal husbandry department.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Various Ministries of the Government of India namely the Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation provided generous financial and technical support to this initiative.
The officials of RMDD during this period Shri Anil Ganeriwala (2008-2012), Shri Dilli Ram Nepal (2012-2014) and Shri Sandeep Tambe (2007-2014) provided able leadership. They along with the other functionaries at the state level designed these new initiatives. The implementation was carried out by the cluster support office (Gram Vikas Kendra) and the village office (Gram Prashashan Kendra), while the monitoring was done from the District level and evaluation from the State and National level.
Professor Bernard Dafflon, University of Fribourg, Switzerland provided technical assistance on decentralized planning and budgeting and the Village Development Action Plan (VDAP) project with Swiss Development Corporation (SDC) support.
The knowledge partner for the training of masons under the rural housing programs (CMRHM and REDRH) to construct earthquake resilient houses was the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT).
The knowledge partners for the Springshed development initiative were the following NGOs namely WWF-India, People’s Science Institute, Dehradun and ACWADAM Pune.
Independent Social Audits were taken up in partnership with the Voluntary Health Association of Sikkim (VHAS) NGO, who in turn partnered with District level NGOs to ground this initiative. The knowledge partner was the National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad and the Society for Social Audit, Accountability and Transparency (SSAAT), Andhra Pradesh.
Performance evaluations were done by the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong (IIM), Institute of Rural Management Anand, Gujarat (IRMA), Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (IISc), Indian Institute of Public Administration, Delhi (IIPA) and the Water and Sanitation Program - South Asia of the World Bank (WSP).
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The financial resources for this initiative were largely contributed by the national programs of the Government of India, while the state government provided supplementary funds. Financial resources to the tune of Rs 1110 crore were utilized during the 6 year period from 2008 to 2014 by making a capital investment of Rs 500 crore under MGNREGA, Rs 230 crore under CMRHM/IAY, Rs 230 crore under REDRH and Rs 150 crore under Panchayati Raj. Since this initiative was implemented in direct partnership with the gram panchayat and the local community it resulted in significant cost savings from beneficiary co-financing, community contribution and local facilitation making the investment sustainable.
Adequate human resources, technical support, innovative institutional mechanisms and effective project management was contributed by the State. Five new functionaries (PDA, BFE, GRS, PAA, JE) were provided to supplement the lone functionary at the village level. These new functionaries functioned as a support team for maintenance of drinking water schemes, employment programs, financial record keeping and civil works. Thirty five line department functionaries were innovatively deputed to each of the 31 cluster level - Gram Vikas Kendras to support a cluster of 6 Gram Panchayats. This investment in functionaries helped to bridge the critical human resources gap and facilitated the effective delivery of public programs at the gram panchayat level.
Specialized technical resources were sourced from knowledge partnerships forged with the Swiss Development Corporation, India, German Technical Cooperation (GIZ), India, National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, Institute of Rural Management Anand, Gujarat, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Indian Institute of Management, Shillong, National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad, Society for Social Audit, Accountability and Transparency, Hyderabad, WWF-India, People’s Science Institute, Dehradun and ACWADAM, Pune.
Other than these specialized collaborations, partnerships with local institutions and local capacity building to develop para-professionals (master masons, para-geohydrologists, social auditors etc) ensured the sustainability of this initiative.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
In 2008, Sikkim became the first and only Nirmal Rajya in the country having achieved 100% open defecation free status in all the gram panchayats. As per Census of India (2011 compared to 2001), 87% of the houses have toilets (increased from 36% in 2001), 85% have access to running tap water (increased from 70% in 2001), 93% of the households have electricity (increased from 78% in 2001) and the thatched roof houses have reduced to 6% (from 17% in 2001).
Of the total 93,000 rural households in the State (Census of India, 2011), 63,000 households (mostly women) were provided employment of more than 70 days under MGNREGA during 2013-14. Hence, the programme was able to enhance the annual income of 70% of the rural households (mostly mother’s) by about Rs 9,000/-. While during 2007-08, only 19,787 households were provided 43 days of employment. Also, earlier the total wage payment was released in cash, while by 2014 hundred percent of the wages were released in the newly opened bank and post office accounts thereby heralding financial inclusion.
Till 2008, village footpaths dominated the shelf of projects, now diversified investments are being made on minor irrigation channels, plantations (horticulture, forestry and fodder), torrent training, land terracing, water tanks, farm ponds, cattle sheds etc to strengthen livelihoods. Consequently the footpaths have declined from 52% in 2008 to less than 25% now. The springshed development initiative resulted in an annual ground water recharge of 1000 million litres leading to the revival of 50 springs and 4 lakes.
As per the Planning Commission, Government of India (2012) estimates, the percentage of poor households has come down significantly from 31% to 8% during the period 2004-05 to 2011-12. Consequently, the population of the poor in the State has come down from 1,70,000 in 2004-05 to 51,000 in 2011-12. A sizeable poor population of 1,19,000 (23,000 households) have been lifted out of poverty over this seven year period. This 70% poverty reduction over the last 7 years is amongst the best in the country.
Also, based on the devolution index constructed by the Indian Institute of Public Administration, Delhi, Sikkim has judged as amongst the best states in the country in empowerment and accountability of the Panchayati Raj institutions.
A total of 2,147 ha of horticulture plantations were established covering 9,000 beneficiaries in which 46 lakh horticulture plants were planted in the lands of the poor jointly with the Horticulture Department.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Internal monitoring systems and independent evaluations by reputed agencies have been taken up regularly. Based on these independent assessments by various Ministries of the Government of India, RMDD was conferred 25 national awards over the last 6 years as provided below:
Ministry of Personnel, Government of India (2013): Carried out the assessment jointly with Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad, for conferring the more prestigious award for civil service in the country – “Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration” for the initiative titled “Excellence in Rural Management and Development in the Challenging Physical Environment of the Sikkim Himalaya”. The Rural Management and Development Department (RM&DD), Government of Sikkim, was conferred this award by the Prime Minister - Dr. Manmohan Singh on the occasion of the Civil Service Day on 21st April, 2013. The citation of this award can be accessed at: http://www.darpg.nic.in/darpgwebsite_cms/Document/file/PMAwards_Citations.pdf
Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India (2008-2014): Under MGNREGA the Department has bagged seven national awards in the category of best performing panchayat, district and social audits. These awards can be accessed at:
http://isikkim.com/2012-02-sikkim-wins-national-award-in-mahatma-gandhi-nrega-sammelan-03-03/ http://forbesindia.com/article/person-of-the-year-10/sandeep-tambe-protecting-our-flora-and-fauna/20752/1 http://www.atree.org/sandeep-tambe
Nirmal Rajya Puraskar by Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, 2008
A Decade of the Total Sanitation Campaign, Rapid Assessment of Processes and Outcomes by the Water and Sanitation Program, The World Bank http://www.wsp.org/sites/wsp.org/files/publications/WSP_India_TSC_Report_Vol_1_Press.pdf
Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India (2012): National Groundwater Augmentation Award to WWF-India for technical support to the MGNREGA-Dhara Vikas of RM&DD by, 2010-11. http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?uNewsID=204208
Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India (2009-2014): Based on devolution index constructed by the Indian Institute of Public Adminstration (IIPA), Sikkim was judged as the 2nd Best State in Panchayati Raj in 2009-10 and 3rd Best State in 2010-11. In the year 2011, Melli Dara Paiyong Gram Panchayat Unit was awarded the "Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Purashkar - 2011". In 2012, Sikkim bagged the best performing District Panchayat award (South District), best performing Gram Panchayat award (Gerethang and Aritar), Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Award (Sanga Dorjee). Again in 2013, the Yangang Rangang Gram Panchayat was awarded the Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Award and in 2014 this award was bagged by the Samdong Gram Panchayat. These awards can be accessed at:
Greening Rural Development in India Report by UNDP India, 2013: In a recent report released by UNDP-India on Greening Rural Development in India, the success story of “Reviving Springs in Sikkim” is highlighted. This report can be accessed at: http://www.in.undp.org/content/dam/india/docs/EnE/greening-rural-development-in-india.pdf
Inclusion in SAARC success stories 2014: The springshed development initiative was selected as a success story at SAARC level in a report titled “Success Stories in Mountain Ecosystem Management, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation” by Mountain Ecology Division, SAARC Forestry Centre, Thimpu, Bhutan, March 2014. http://sfc.org.bt/images/successstories.pdf
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The social audits were implemented from 2010 onwards and resulted in the functionaries and the elected representatives becoming answerable to the people in the gram sabha forum. Initially they were reluctant as they felt that they were only answerable to their higher ups and not to the people. Hence, there was discontent amongst the functionaries as they were afraid that they may get humiliated in public. However, a strong political will and persistence of this effort paid off and the mid-course correction brought about by these social audits could be sustained and institutionalized.
The corruption identified during the social audit gram sabhas was picked up by the media and it gave rise to a popular perception that corruption levels were rising in rural development programs. Earlier these delivery issues were hidden in government files, and did not make it to the public domain giving in a false sense of well being. Mass media was used to convey the message that these social audits were initiated by the Department itself to uncover corrupt practises and to improve program delivery. Also, press releases were re-positioned to present the social audit findings as an improvement that was needed rather than as a fault finding exercise.
During the initial stages, imperfections in the decentralized approaches were highlighted in the media and reverting back to the contractor-driven approach was touted as the way forward. E.g. Construction of few houses in the home owner-driven approach got stalled as the money was diverted by the owner and in a few cases the prescribed core design of the house was not adhered to. Monitoring from the state and district level was strengthened and once the new houses in good quality started getting completed the initial criticism was soon forgotten.