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Special Report    Vol. 3 Issue No. 28        June 1-15,  2007

 
The
COMMUNITISATION IN NAGALAND :

A UNIQUE EXPERIMENT IN EMPOWERING PEOPLE

Essential parameters in elementary education, enrolment, reduction in the dropout rates, the pass percentage as well as the attendance of the teachers in the primary schools marked a quantum rise in Nagaland between 2002 to 2004. So also is the case in the efficiency of the  village health service delivery system measured in terms of number of child and adult patients visiting health centers in rural Nagaland, improvement in the staff attendance, visit of the medical officers and even in the staff attitude. All this is reflected in a report by the UNICEF on the impact assessment of cummunitisation of public institutions and services in Nagaland. The unique scheme for involving the community was conceived under the stewardship of the then Chief Secretary of the State Shri R. S.Pandey and was launched after the passage of an Act namely Nagaland Communitisation of Public Institutions and Services Act in 2002. Initially. the scheme focused on three very important areas : Elementary education, Grass root health services and Electricity management.

The experiment evolved from the need to revitalize the massive welfare infrastructure and vast network of delivery services set up by the government  which had become ineffective and dysfunctional. It is based on the philosophy of communitisation as an alternative to privatization as well as management by government. This philosophy attempts to combine the best of both approaches by substituting the private profit motive with enlightened collective self interest.   It holds among other tenets, that when the empowered are not adequately motivated  to perform, it makes sense to empower the motivated. In a sense it was an attempt to reinvent the welfare state,

What is Communitisation?

Communitisation consists of a unique partnership between the government and the community involving transfer of ownership of public resources and assets, control over service delivery, empowerment, decentralization, delegation and building capacity – all with the aim of improving the delivery of public utility systems. Communitisation therefore involves transfer of government assets to the community, empowerment of community through delegation of governmental powers of management and supervision of day-to -day functioning of employees to village committees. It also demands ensuring accountability of government employees posted at the service delivery level to local communities and control of government assets by village committees including the responsibility for maintenance, amelioration and augmentation of assets. As such communitisation is based on triple ‘T’ approach. Trust the user community. Train them to discharge their newfound responsibilities and Transfer governmental powers and resources in respect of management.

Policy Parameters

The first important feature of the Act was to provide for the constitution of Boards or committees to represent the community which uses the particular facility set up by the government in the area of education, health and sanitation, water supply and so on. The second  comprised delegation of powers and functions of the state government to such authorities to manage such public utilities, transfer of government assets to such board, creation of fund for such authorities to which salary and other grants from the government would be credited for running and development of those utilities and imposition of responsibility on the government to provide to such authorities critical supervisory and supportive assistance. Rules under the Act were promulgated for each sector and communitisation of elementary schools and rural health sub – centers was initiated in the same year.

Communitisation of Rural Education

Communitisation empowers the village community to own and to develop the government primary and middle schools as its own. The Village Education Committee (VEC) is the local legal authority to manage the elementary education in the village. Salary amount for government employees in the schools is deposited in advance into the VEC account and the VEC disburses the salary. The VEC is required to ensure discipline and regularity of teachers with powers to enforce ‘no work, no pay’ principle. Funds for key purposes such as purchase of text books, furniture, construction and repair of buildings etc. are deposited by the government in VEC account. VEC was also given the powers to make inter-school utilization of teachers and select and recommend appointment of substitute teachers against long – term vacancies. VEC was also made responsible for universal enrolment. In the health care sector, as in the case of education, rules were promulgated prescribing powers and functions of the committees and authorities of the government and providing for constitution of Village Health Committees (VHC) in both rural and urban areas with  powers similar to VECs. 

Communitisation of Electricity Management

The experiment with communitisation entered a more complicated arena in 2003 when the government decided to move beyond the social sector and leave the management of electricity supply at the grassroots to the community. It is complicated because Nagaland like many other north eastern states has been plagued by resource gap in the energy sector, huge transmission and distribution losses and mounting electricity dues making the management of power supply and revenue administration in rural areas neither easy nor a pleasant proposition. The 2002 Act envisages the formation of Village Electricity Management Boards (VEMB) who are given the task of monitoring the availability of power supply, collecting electricity dues, supervising the electricity board staff and the power to check theft of energy and recommend punitive action. But they were also given a 20 per cent rebate on the electricity sold/consumed in their area. The VEMBs were authorized to use the money collected from the rebate in such welfare projects like providing street lights and adding power amenities.

Impact

The introduction of the communitisation programme has led to significant enrolment of both boys and girls with zero percent drop out in as many as 23 out of 28 villages covered under the study. Teacher attendance improved more than 90 percent in 18 of the 28 villages and unauthorized absence has been totally eliminated in 17 of the 28 villages. Impact of improved attendance of teachers reflected in improved attendance of children and passing rates of children  improved from 75 – 100 percent in 24 out of 28 communitised schools. What was more heart warming, that the data from 17 of 28 village schools showed a clear trend of children shifting from private schools  to government schools indicating growing confidence with government schools. In the health sector, there was more than 50 per cent rise in the children accessing the health centers across villages. The trend was similar for girl children and adults, at places the rise even exceeded 100 per cent. The study report says, there was improved availability of good quality medicines in almost all the villages studied  and the attendance of health functionaries improved to over 90 per cent in all villages, with 7 villages out of 28 reporting 100 per cent  attendance. While authorized absence has been reduced to 3-5 per cent, unauthorized absence has come down to nil. In the electricity sector, where the study was conducted a few months after the communitisation programme was launched, the results were quite encouraging

Task Ahead

The programme has been extended to three more sectors, namely, water supply, rural tourism and rural roads. In order to consolidate the gains, it is necessary to provide better exposure to the community through improved training, to strengthen governments supervisory and monitoring mechanism and to augment financial support so that infrastructure improves.  The programme can work in all areas irrespective of the strength of social capital since it has worked even in urban areas of Nagaland where traditional social capital is not very strong.  But while designing the programme, the characteristics of social capital and the nature of the agency function to relate to the outside world should be kept in view.  It would tremendously help if programmes like Sarav Shiksha Abhiyan, National Rural Health Mission, Rural Electrification Programme, ICDS are linked with communitization.

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