The Partners: 
 

Once the idea of transforming the C.D block office into an information hub for decentralised information management and planning strategic action took shape, the Panchayats and Rural Development Department, Government of West Bengal started looking around for partners who could help the department in giving a concrete shape to the entire initiative.
 

UNICEF
 

UNICEF had already played a key role in system reengineering of ICDS for nutrition surveillance and monitoring in Whole of West Bengal. The Kano Parbo Na (Positive Deviance) initiative was also being implemented in a number of blocks of Dakshin Dinajpur. With its familiarity with the district and a history of involvement with system reengineering, UNICEF joined the Decentralised Information Management Initiative as the key partner for fund and other support. 

With UNICEF on board the Panchayats and Rural Development Department, Government of West Bengal also needed a technical partner who could provide the technology, training as well as the handholding services needed to reengineer the system
 

Riddhi Management Services Pvt. Ltd
 

Riddhi Management Services Pvt. Ltd fit into the role.  Riddhi already had a history of being involved in similar initiatives as GIS partners to the Office of the Registrar General of India for Census GIS India 2001, Directorate of Census Operations, West Bengal and Panchayats and Rural Development Department, Government of West Bengal. It had also undertaken the training of 358 ICDS project personnel for UNICEF in 2003-2004. Thus Riddhi joined the initiative as the technical vendor to provide all necessary training to the key stakeholders.

 

Identifying the stakeholders

 

Monitoring of grassroot level development indicators could be difficult for the district to undertake. The villages were just too many. But the person who was the helm of affairs was the Block Development Officer (BDO)- who was equipped with both the knowledge as well as the tools for planning and implementing strategic interventions at the grassroot level. The Block Development Officers also had to work closely with the various line departments, thus it was easy for them to access information on a regular basis and monitor the development indicators pertaining to health, education, nutrition and all other relevant areas.

 

The importance of empowering the BDOs was strengthened when Mr. Rahul Majumdar, the BDO of Bhagwangola-I block of Murshidabad district actually proved before a rapt audience that all the development indicators beyond the census 2001 data including information about each of the public service delivery Institutions, Self Help Groups, arsenic affected tube-wells of his C.D.Block had been ritually ported, analysed through a Geographic Information System

 

Just as the BDO was the administrative head of the block, the Sabhapati of the Panchayat Samiti was also the elected head of the block. If the Sabhapatis could be empowered in monitoring development indicators on a regular basis, they could easily work together with the BDO to bring about a change in the development scenario at the grassroot level. Moreover, the Sabhapatis were elected representatives and were well versed in the art of community mobilisation. They could play a key role in any initiative that required the involvement of the community.

 

Thus training the BDOs and the Panchayat Samiti representatives in regular monitoring of development indicators, could pave the way for a process of decentralised planning that had been continually stressed by the Panchayats and Rural Development Department, Government of West Bengal.

 

The Sub divisional officers also had a critical role to play. Being in charge of an entire sub division, the SDOs could communicate and monitor the initiative at close quarters. From the district’s side selected Zilla Parishad Karmadhyakshya’s could be devolved with the function of monitoring the process and providing supportive supervision to the Panchayat Samitis for community mobilisation at different points of time.