The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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British donors on recce
- Rs 1100-crore rural project to be kicked off next year

Purulia, Oct. 31: The first “on-site” appraisal of a grand British-funded rural development programme was undertaken in the villages of Purulia over the past two days.

UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) will provide £150 million (about Rs 1,100 crore) to the state government for rural poverty alleviation schemes. “The seven-year project, expected to commence from next year, is in the appraisal stage,” said DFID representative Sean Doolan.

Along with his colleague Andrew Keningham and Dilip Pal, an official of the state’s department for panchayat and rural development, Doolan visited villages in Lodhurka and Kasipur and spoke to panchayat representatives and residents “to know first hand” about the condition people were in.

The first phase of the project will be implemented in six districts — Purulia, Cooch Behar, North and South Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri and Malda. “The districts have been chosen in consultation with the state government,” Doolan said. Inputs from a “design team”, comprising state officials and NGOs, have been taken into account. Districts with the greatest concentration of below poverty line families have been selected first. In the second phase, the project will take up six more districts, which are yet to be identified.

The objective of the programme is to implement development schemes by strengthening the panchayati raj system. “The village administration system in Bengal has a strong base. In the past two days, we spoke to several individuals and got to know of the situation in reality,” a DFID official said.

The thrust will be on developing the health set-up, drinking water schemes and irrigation, education and animal husbandry. “We have come to know that availability of water is a major problem in Purulia, because of which most farmers can cultivate only a single crop throughout the year. The project will take up several schemes so that water is made available for a longer duration.”

All the schemes will involve capacity building and the strengthening of the village administration, from the gram panchayat to the zilla parishad.

“Purulia poses a very big developmental challenge,” said Doolan. “We have to look at the sustainability of the project. Once we give the money, the government and the people of the state will have to continue to maintain the schemes that will be taken up,” he added. A final appraisal for the project will be carried out next month.

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