Pragmatic | Is Saranda Development Authority a good idea?

The development model in maoist-affected area needs to be scalable and replicable

In a letter to the Jharkhand Chief Minister, Union Rural Development minister, Jairam Ramesh has suggested that the state government create a separate Saranda Development Authority. (Read this blogpost about the Saranda Action Plan, a development plan put in action by the government for this erstwhile Maoist-affected area.)

“Apart from the core area, some gram panchayats in the fringe area of Saranda should also be included in the plan. There can be a separate agency, Saranda Development Authority, which can implement the development plans in an integrated manner with a clear mandate,” Ramesh said in the letter.

The Saranda Development Authority can be headed by a nodal officer, assisted by a young IAS officer. All departments working in the area should report to this authority so there is a single focused approach for development of the region.

“The district level and the state level monitoring committees (including representatives from police and central paramilitary forces) can regularly meet and monitor and coordinate activities of this authority. A realistic time frame is also required for achieving the various developmental goals,” he said in the letter.[Telegraph]

On the face of it, Mr. Ramesh seems to be making all the right arguments. A dedicated Saranda Development Authority will achieve better results for Saranda’s 36,000 tribals. The reason for the proposal is obvious. Mr. Ramesh has “taken this Saranda project as a challenge and as a way of demonstrating how development and security can and should go hand-in-hand.”

But there are two issues which need to be kept in mind here.

One, Saranda is not merely a showpiece of government’s success. It is a model which has to be scaled up and replicated across all the Maoist-affected areas. Is it possible to create such dedicated development authorities for each group of 60 villages across the country?

Two, what about the existing structures of governance in that area? If they are unable to adapt and deliver on a plan which is being personally monitored by a union cabinet minister, the government officials need to be either sacked or systems and processes of governance suitably modified. This should be paid as much attention as the execution of the Saranda Development Plan.

It is extremely important that Saranda Development Plan succeeds. But it is also equally important that the execution of this plan fits in with the bigger picture of developing Maoist-affected areas. If it stands out as an isolated success-story among a sea of failures, we would have lost another great opportunity to finish the Maoist menace.

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.