Sunday, April 18, 2010

Now, citizens to audit govt's welfare schemes?

, New Delhi

Troubled by the quality of the mid-day meal or the continued absence of the anganwadi worker from the ICDS centre? You can make a call or just SMS your complaint. In a move that is likely to bring accountability and transparency in governance, and more importantly give power to the citizen, the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC), in association with state governments and civil society partners, plans to introduce a "citizen's audit'' to assess delivery mechanisms of welfare programmes and the government's performance in achieving the millennium development goals (MDGs).

The audit is likely to begin in six districts of three states by September this year. UNMC regional director (Asia-Pacific) Minar Pimple said, "This will effectively mean real time tracking of the MDGs.'' The UNMC along with its partners is working at a software platform by which people will be able to call or SMS their complaint with the district collector's office. The data can then be used to take immediate action.

According to Pimple, India has been making progress in certain fields like enrolment of children in schools and halting the progress of HIV/AIDS. But there continue to be indices like infant mortality, gender empowerment, lack of access to safe drinking water and poverty where the country has not been able to make much headway. Studies have also shown that the problem rests with states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh that are the worst affected in all indicators.

Besides focusing on accelerated development of MDGs by pushing for higher allocation of government resources and citizen's monitoring, the UNMC also plans to work with parliamentarians. Grading parliamentarians according to the performance in their fulfilling goals like access to water, sanitation, roads will be the objective. "We would like to make it a constructive engagement with MPs,'' Pimple said.

The UNMC also plans to emphasise on local MDGs through its civil society partners. Gender empowerment is the key to make things work, says Pimple. Citing the example of Nepal and Bangladesh, Pimple said that the two countries had a lower growth rate than India but had succeeded in bringing down infant deaths and maternal mortality by encouraging greater participating of women. He said that in fact the women's reservation bill was an important step in this direction for India. UNMC's `Stand up & Make a Noise' campaign -- to be launched in September -- is an effort to create awareness amongst people about their rights.

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