Monday, July 25, 2016

India's Model Villages: Why Modi's Pet Rural Development Scheme Is Not Working Properly?


Only 53 of 278 BJP MPs in the Lok Sabha have selected new villages in phase two of the scheme.

Close to two years after its launch, there seem to be few takers among parliamentarians for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's flagship rural development scheme, the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, which aimed to develop at least three “model villages” in each parliamentary constituency by 2019. 

Soon after the launch of the scheme in October 2014, 701 of total 795 ruling and opposition MPs had adopted a village each to be developed over two years.
In the second phase, till July 20, only 100 of 795 MPs – 77 in the Lok Sabha and 23 in the Rajya Sabha – had selected a second set of villages to next be developed as model villages in their constituencies, according to data from the ministry of rural development, the nodal ministry.

There seem to be little enthusiasm and support for the scheme even among ruling Bharatiya Janta Party MPs. Only 53 of 278 BJP MPs in Lok Sabha have selected new villages. Among BJP MPs who did not adopt villages in the second phase are cabinet ministers Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Jual Oram, and even the minister for rural development Narendra Singh Tomar, a Lok Sabha MP from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh.

Of the 14 MPs spoke to, including five of the BJP, many pointed to lack of any funds in the scheme as the reason why they were slow to adopt a second village. Opposition MPs who had adopted villages in the first phase said that given the lack of structure or resources in the scheme, they had been unable to achieve much in the villages initially chosen, and were reluctant to do so a second time as it would just lead to disappointment, and translate into a political cost for them.

Opposition MPs said the the scheme was an “eyewash”, and a “mere publicity campaign” when even funds regularly sanctioned from their Member of Parliament Local Area Development or MPLAD funds were not being implemented properly by district administration in several states.

“Soul of rural India”:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had unveiled the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana on October 11, 2014, Jai Prakash Narayan's birth anniversary, in which he asked MPs cutting across party lines to coordinate convergence of existing rural development schemes in one village in their parliamentary constituencies and to develop it as a model village by 2016. 

MPs were first to supervise the development of one village as a “model village”, before extending the scheme to two more villages to be developed by 2019, thus targeting about 2,500 of India's 6 lakh villages. MPs were to use funds from existing schemes and their MPLAD Fund of Rs 5 crore. No additional funds were allocated for the scheme.

As per the scheme plan, a “model village” would be one with basic infrastructure, as well as values inspired by Mahatma Gandhi such as “social justice, cleanliness, peace and harmony, mutual cooperation, self-reliance, local self-government in the village and their people so that they get transformed into models for others.” MPs were to be the “pivot” for bringing new amenities as well as social change and transformation.

Lok Sabha MPs were asked to select any village with a population of 3,000 to 5,000 in plains areas and 1,000 to 3,000 in hilly areas in their constituencies, besides their own or their spouse's village. Rajya Sabha MPs were given the option to choose any village from the State they represent that meets the population criteria. There is no other criteria.

District Collectors are meant to carry out a baseline survey and then chair monthly review meetings to monitor progress and MPs are required to supervise the progress.

“Pointless scheme”:
Dharmendra Kumar, a BJP MP from Lok Sabha constituency Aonla in Uttar Pradesh said he had not yet formally selected a second village but would do so soon. “In the first village I chose, Kapurpur, I got new street lights installed and a new cement road built,” he said. “I used my local area development funds for this, but it is difficult to do anything further without funds.”

Arjun Meena, a Lok Sabha MP of the BJP from Udaipur said he had used funds from Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act scheme and other funds allotted by the state government to start a skill development project in his adopted village but needed funds for doing anything further. Meena said he had adopted the first village after consulting panchayat representatives.

Minister for agriculture and farmers' welfare Radha Mohan Singh said in his constituency, East Champaran in Bihar, he had chosen the village with the highest Dalit population. He defended the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana's vision. "For a spirit of cleanliness, brotherhood, resolving disputes amicably to be inculcated in villages, funds or big budgets are not necessary," said Singh. "The idea is that this will lead to at least one village's progress."

Janata Dal (United) MP from Nalanda in Bihar Kaushalendra Kumar said, in the first phase, he had selected Nanand from where he had got 3,600 of 3,700 votes polled in 2014 general elections. He said he and Bihar's rural development minister Sharwan Kumar had met Birender Chaudhary, the previous union minister for rural development, to ask for funds for development projects in the village, but Chaudhary had reiterated that there were no funds under the scheme. “People were disappointed after I could not build a stadium that they had asked for. After this, I have decided not to adopt a second village,” said Kumar. “Why is the prime minister quiet about MPs selecting more villages under this scheme? Modi too knows nothing can happen through schemes like these.”

In West Bengal, 38 MPs including 33 MPs of the All India Trinamool Congress, the second largest opposition party in Lok Sabha, have declined to adopt any villages. They did not adopt any villages in the first phase as well. “There are 1,500-2,000 villages in a parliamentary constituency, adopting one village is pointless,” said Saugata Roy, MP from Dum Dum. “Why should one village get a disproportionate share of an MP's local area funds?” 

In Uttar Pradesh, which has the most number of representatives in Lok Sabha, only 22 of 80 MPs, all from BJP, adopted a second village. MPs from 18 of 35 states and union territories, including Punjab, Telangana, Kerala, Goa, have not adopted any new villages. The situation is not much different in even large BJP-ruled states such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, in each of which only one Lok Sabha MP chose a new village. 

Badruddoza Khan, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP, who represents Murshidabad constituency in Lok Sabha, said the Modi government needed to pay more attention to how political rights of MPs were being undermined in implementation of central schemes such as the rural roads scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.

“Under the scheme, villages with more than 500 population can get new roads,” said Khan. “I gave the names of 17 such villages without roads in my constituency, including some villages with 1,000 population. But the district magistrate gave no response despite the fact that under the scheme, local MPs have to be consulted.” Khan said he had also raised the issue during question hour in parliament on July 21, invoking support from other MPs.

Like a majority of MPs, he too has declined to choose a second village under the model village scheme, he added.

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