Hire qualified people for govt’s welfare schemes: National Advisory Council

roles-responsibilitiesNational Advisory Council (NAC) provides inputs in the formulation of policy by the Government and to provide support to the Government in its legislative business.

In the discharge of its functions, the NAC will have a special focus on social policy and the rights of the disadvantaged groups.

The NAC comprises distinguished professionals drawn from diverse fields of development activity who serve in their individual capacities. Smt. Sonia Gandhi is Chairperson NAC – National Advisory Council

The government must focus on recruiting more qualified staff to improve the effectiveness of its social welfare programmes, the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council has said. “A key impediment in delivery of outcomes in flagship programmes has been lack of key human resource capacities at the cutting-edge level of implementation,” the Council, which guides the Centre on social policy, has said in its recommendations to the government.

To correct the imbalance, the Council has suggested a host of measures, including higher pay for those working in social welfare schemes in underdeveloped districts and recruitment of local talent. Millions of poor people in villages and small towns are enrolled under a several government-sponsored social welfare schemes, but the full benefit of these programmes often fails to reach the targeted population largely because of administration-related problems.

With key states going into elections this year, and general elections next year, any sprucing up of the Centre’s welfare schemes could help the Congress-led UPA government push its ‘aam aadmi’ credentials.

According to the Council, qualified candidates tend to stay away from applying for such jobs because of poor salary at the grassroots level and public perception that the recruitment process is graftridden.

The impact is felt most keenly in backward districts, where it is difficult to recruit and retain staff. At the same time, several flagship programmes in the areas of integrated child development services, elementary education and basic healthcare have had large vacancies for years.

States have not moved to fill these vacancies, and programmes, operating under severe constraints, get further stretched affecting the outcome. The Council feels that in many cases government departments have not kept up with the needs of the population they serve, which are reflected in poor or inadequate outreach programmes.

The Council’s recommendations, prepared by a panel headed by Planning Commission member Mihir Shah, suggest nurturing local talent to fill this gap. The most successful example of using local talent is the mitanin model of Chhattisgarh, which has been adopted by the Centre for the national rural health mission.

To encourage people to work in backward areas, it has also suggested monetary and nonmonetary incentives like housing and education opportunities for children. The working group has suggested a mix of government officials and professionals to run these programmes, like in the states of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, where a large number of professionals with training in rural management and technical areas are involved in the implementation of rural schemes.

Another problem highlighted by the Council is the tendency of hiring contractual staff, which suits state governments that are reluctant to take on the long-term financial obligations toward permanent employees. Official data on the rural employment guarantee scheme shows that Bihar has employed over 10,000 contractual staff members, 1,000 engineers and 500 programme officers at the block level.

The terms of employment and service conditions of the contractual staff are not always favourable, which acts as a disincentive and affects programme implementation.

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