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Many initiatives were taken by the central government of India and the state governments respectively to improve the accessibility and quality of school education in India. The Government of Karnataka has taken a ground-breaking step to make school education more participatory with the involvement of parents in the school’s decisions. The government established School Development and Monitoring Committees (SDMC) to ensure community participation in the education of their children. The SDMCs under the Karnataka Panchayati Raj Act of 1993 have been operational since 2006. The law mandates that each school should constitute SDMC.
The field site, Nangali Gram Panchayat constitutes of eight villages. The schools in all the eight villages have SDMC setup. We interviewed the teachers, headmasters and in some schools the parent members of the committee regarding the functioning and need of such a committee. The teachers responded that they have formulated SDMC keeping in mind the guidelines specified in the Act. Most of the school headmasters were generous enough to show us the minutes of the meetings that they have conducted over the last few months. The law mandates that the meetings of SDMC should be held atleast once in a month. But in most of the schools (75%) that we visited, the meetings were held once in three or four months. The data (on papers) shows that the committees are formed, however in practice/on ground, we discovered that the committees are formed but the meeting were not conducted atleast once after the commencement or orientation meeting. When asked about the problems they are facing in functioning of the committee, the teachers said that the parents do not turn up for the meetings and hence if there is no quorum, the meeting gets either postponed or cancelled.
We found that approximately in 60% of the schools, the members of the committee were not aware of their duties and responsibilities. The teachers and the headmasters were hesitant to introduce the parents to us. What surprised was the fact that in some schools, some members were not aware that they are the members of a committee. Most of the parents are part of these committees just for the sake. The parents of most of the students work as daily laborers and it is very difficult for them to leave work and come for the meetings. They say if they do not work and attend the meeting then their children will have to starve for a meal. Their only source of income is their daily wage and they cannot compromise on it. The schools where parents are not participating are facing extreme danger of polluted water, shortage of books and uniforms, leaking roofs etc.
In contrast, The two schools we visited has committee that is constituted and functioning regularly. The result of such participation is seen from outside the school itself. The schools have pukka (concrete) buildings, toilet facilities, water tap connection etc. The parents are participate efficiently, meet regularly and decide on the issues that the school is facing and take it to the higher authorities. The parents also monitor the attendance of the teachers which results in the improvement of learning outcomes of the students.
We believe that there is need for community participation and monitoring mechanisms for the better functioning of the schools and SDMC is a great platform to fulfill this. Having said this, our experience with the eight schools in Nangali Gram Panchayat is that there is lack of capacity building training amongst the members of the committee. If there is proper training, awareness workshops, and some incentive for parents to participate in the school planning then SDMCs can achieve the goal with which they have been instituted.
 The Law is, ‘ The Karnataka Gram Panchayat’s (School Development and Monitoring Committees) (Model) Bye-Laws, 2006’
“Bhai (brother)…It won National level award” Sanjay was telling me with a snoozy voice and half opened eyes. “Hmm….let’s see Sanjay, what we got on the field” I replied. Sanjay heard it and slept in his seat. Meanwhile, the bus from Majestic Bus station is picking up its speed and is heading to Malur, chasing the early morning fog of Bangalore.
Malur was once called as ‘Malligepura” which means the land of Jasmine flowers. It is located 30 Km away from district head quarter Kolar and 50 Km away from State capital – Bangalore. The Malur Taluk Panchayat has 28 Gram Panchayats consisting of 368 villages, all covering 2.36 lac population under its administration. We noticed that the Taluk Panchayat Office Complex is spread across 4-5 separate buildings and is clean and tidy.
[In Picture: Kudiyaneeru Gram Panchayat Office]
By 1030 hrs, the office has quite busy environment around. We did not feel boredom as we were keenly looking forward knowing why and how Malur won National Award for Panchayat Employment and Accountability for the year 2013-2014, from President of India. In the same year, the office also received “Panchayat Sashakthikarana Puraskar” from Chief Minister of Karnataka. Since 2011, four Gram Panchayats under Malur Taluk Panchayat have won various awards like Nirmala Grama Puraskar, Gandhi Grama Puraskar.
Mr. Sanjeevappa (Executive Officer, Malur) had asked us to follow him to attend a weekly review meeting where in all 28 Panchayat Development Officers (PDOs) from their respective gram panchayats attend and review the progress and discuss other issues in their panchayats. The meeting was also chaired by Assistant Director of Malur Taluk Panchayat Office. It was really a nice experience to witness how such an important meeting progressed with great extent of coordination under magnificent leadership of the office. Many issues related to Housing Schemes (Ambedkar Yojana, Basava Awasa Yojana), Swatch Bharat Mission, Sakala, Status of complaints received, tax collection etc. were discussed and ways resolving the same were suggested to PDOs. We felt like it was more than a corporate progress review meeting.
When asked about Taluk panchayat committees, one of the officials has mentioned that there were 06 numbers of meetings were held in the previous year. The new council has formed all the three standing committees (Social Justice, Civic Amenities and Production committees) and also one committee for auctioning new commercial complex built as a Taluk Panchayat asset. A set of photocopies of minutes of meeting that was held before the Election Code of Conduct, was given to us.
After Office lunch, we then visited Kudiyaneeru Gram Panchayat. The PDO has explained us how does the biodiversity committee work on ground and how the selection of members in a committee does happen. He had also shown the recently built spacious Gram Panchayat Office and the meeting hall.
We returned to Malur. We really got surprised seeing the documentation work of this office. One of the officials had shown us how he documented the entire MNREGA work details for the year and also a document consisting of brief details about practices followed for some of the programs. A copy of these documents are uploaded here (We have taken the oral permission from officer for this). Please click on the below links to access these documents.
Sanjay and I remained speechless for a while. We were really glad to know and see such an exemplary working system, efficient leadership working at grass root level. We then felt and understood why this Taluk Panchayat won the best award!!
Written by: Vikash Madduri and Sanjay Kumar Jayswal.
We attended the Water and Sanitation Committee meeting at Bethamangala Gram Panchayat, Bangarpet Taluk, Kolar on 19th Dec 2015. The committee is formulated under Sec 61a if the Karnataka Panchayati Raj Act. Under Sec 61a ‘a Gram Panchayat may appoint one or more Committees consisting of such members as it may decide for any purpose other than those specified in Sec 61 and may invest the Committee so appointed with such powers and functions as may be necessary or expedient for the fulfilment of the purpose for which it is appointed’. Bethamangala Gram Panchayat has constituted 6 such committees (Water and Sanitation Committee, Housing committee, Education and Health Committee, Public Food Distribution System Committee, Bio-Diversity Committee, Tax Collection Committee). The Members of these Committees are Gram Panchayat Members and each Committee is headed by the Gram Panchayat President. Each Committee has 7 members including the President and the PDO. The Panchayat Development Officer (PDO) acts as the Secretary to all the Committees.
The meeting was attended by President, Vice-President, PDO and 11 Gram Panchayat members. It is a General Body Meeting (GBM), and hence the village citizens are not allowed to attend the meeting. Each Committee maintains its own book to note down the proceedings and the resolutions taken by the members. The Water and Sanitation Committee meeting was taking place for the second time after the new Gram Panchayat got elected in July 2015. Each Ward member presented the problems faced by their ward relating to water and Sanitation. One of the major issue that came up in the meeting was the dumping of waste from chicken shops in front of the hospitals and temples. This is highly unhygienic and may lead to many other diseases. Most of the chicken shops do not have license and hence are not accountable. Earlier two notices were sent to the Chicken shops to stop disposing the waste in front of the temples and the hospitals, and disposing them in the city outskirts. These notices were not taken seriously and the shops continued to dispose off the waste in front of the hospitals and the temple. In the Water and Sanitation Committee meeting, resolution was taken to send the final notice to the shops and if the shops do not follow the orders, they will be punishable under the law and their license may stand cancelled under Section 87 of the Karnataka Panchayati Raj Act.
The formation of various sub- committees is a sign towards more participatory governance. The composition of the committees is also such that there is representation from SC/ST’s, and women members. The members focus on the issues relating to their committees and instant resolution is taken for the problem. The major challenge facing these committees is that they do not meet regularly. There is a need to spread awareness amongst the members about the importance of these committees. There are training sessions conducted by SIRD (State Institute of Rural Development) for the Gram Panchayat members to generate awareness about the committees and ensuring their functioning. These training sessions are not attended by all the members.
Bethamangala Gram Panchayat, on the other hand showed commitment to form the committees and these committees are functioning well. The members of the various committees meet regularly to discuss the issues facing the Gram Panchayat, and are quick in taking steps to resolve the problems.
Today, I visited Bethamangala gram panchayat office which is located around 40 Km away from my project work site. Our team had visited Kolar Zilla Panchayat office yesterday to enquire about panchayat committees. We were advised to visit Bethamangala Gram Panchayat. Bethamangala gram panchayat has only one village i.e. Bethamangala which has a population around 11000 spread across nine panchayat wards. I met Mr. Mahesh, panchayat development officer, who did his post-graduation from Bangalore University and has been in service past 7-8 years. He informed me that this village panchayat has been awarded Gandhi Gram Puraskar, for two consecutive years. He had shown me the cheque of five lakh rupees that he had received on 2nd October 2015.
When I asked about the criteria of this award, he had shown me the questionnaire consisting of 40 parameters that entitles this award. Some of these parameters are related to functioning of panchayat committees. He had also provided me list of committees that were formed after the recently elected new council is formed. He also informed me that one meeting, about the progress of these committees has already been conducted and other one is scheduled in January 2016 as the election code of conduct is in place across Karnataka by which no meeting or sabha can happen. He had explained briefly about formation and the functions of 9 committees under article 61 and 61-A of Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act.
I had requested to share his experience about handling these committees. He told me that awareness and interest levels of both ward members and citizens are crucial for the functioning of committees. He said that people of Bethamangala would understand the panchayat office to a great extent, thanks to the ward members (some of them are re-elected) who are instrumental in the functioning of committees. He advised me that the context and composition of villages vary from each other and one has to understand them and move forward accordingly despite many challenges.
The office looks spacious and is well maintained. I was really happy to observe the documentation of this office work and glad to note how a committed/dedicated and educated person can make a significant change in the lives of people. I felt happy seeing committees working in a gram panchayat. However, Bhethala, the ghost who ask questions (from the tales of Vikrama-Bhethala series) had asked “Is it political will or a commitment or geography that makes difference ?” Or “Is it awareness, education that makes difference?”
Written by: Vikash Madduri
Our team visited Kolar Zilla Panchayat office and Nangali Gram Panchayat Offices on 30th November 2015. Our team had second round of meeting with Gram Panchayat Organization Development (GPOD) team of Avantika Foundation at Kolar and an introductory meeting with Nangali Gram Panchayat office members. I must say that I have lost myself in the beauty of Nangali village.
While the Gram Panchayat members are happy hearing our project details, I am astonished by the help offered by them. It appears to me that our clinic got good team to work with us for the mammoth work that is in our hands. We got decent accommodation in Nangali village.
There are no good surprises during our field study in the first week (30th Nov to 4th Dec 2015). We visited 6 villages and conducted 20+ interviews with in three days of our fieldwork. I would like write here about my personal experience over this week with a reference to N. Jangalahalli and Kerasamangala villages.
The bad conditions of Anganwadi centres is no surprise. Anganwadi centre in N.Jangalahalli village is such an example. There are no children in the centre when we visited the centre. Anganwadi worker has told us that children did not come to the centre as it was raining past many days continuously and the parents were afraid of the conditions of the centre. What is more of concern is that there is no action being taken when the Anganwadi worker had informed the panchayat that school children won’t attend the centre as the rain water is continuously dripping from the roof top, causing the seating floor wet and muddy. The conditions of the room are quite bad. We can see the entry door holes for the visiting pet rats. There is no wonder why children can’t get sick if they attend this centre and study in this terribly stinking room.
Kerasamangala has a different story. The head master has informed that drinking water facility in this school is an immediate requirement. He had shown us the request letters to construct drinking water facility in the school that he had submitted in past 18 months. What still remained in my mind is the scene when he called a girl student and shown her broken yellowish tooth to us indicating the severity of fluorosis. A group of locals informed us that this being a Scheduled caste village, was neglected by the panchayat members of all terms. They also had taken up this situation to higher level leaders – both political and administration, but nothing has happened since then.
On the other hand, I must appreciate the primary school in Halekuppe village. The school is well maintained as it appears to me despite not conducting School Development and Management Committee (SDMC) meetings past 5-6 months. Students are in new uniforms and the premises including toilets are clean. The school has 4-5 big rooms for conducting classes and for Mid-day meals scheme kitchen equipment.
I was wandering in dilemmas. Had the committees been functional (in full / partial), why these severe problems remain the same since ages? I am not quite sure whether the citizens (in this case SDMC members who are parents of school children) really wanted to better the conditions of school. I am also not sure if all citizens or committee members had enough information about all the programs assisted by Centre and State governments.
From this week field study, I observed that SDMC are active but not regular. It is good to know that all the schools have formed these committees. Further, Drinking water and sanitation is below average in these villages all because of lack of information to the citizens as it appears to me. I feel we got necessary inputs to sharpen our objectives of local governance clinic. I am excited to see how clinic takes forward this journey in the upcoming weeks.
Written by : Vikash Madduri