Money alone does not make an 'adarsh gram'. Community-led initiatives do
A lot has been said and heard about the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY). A common refrain is that it does not have special funds for its effective implementation. Media reports say that some MPs are unwilling to adopt any village under the SAGY to avoid any notion of preference for one or another village and thus avoid wrathful response of other villagers at the time of elections. But nobody perhaps said that money alone does not convert a village into a model village or ‘adarsh gram’. Then what is that element which works towards the making of a model village? It is our understanding of the term ‘adarsh’.
If one takes the literal meaning of a ‘model’, it means the design of an activity or situation which is considered an excellent example for replication. It helps in determining the positive aspects of any given situation, which can be considered for its replication to show an impact at a wider scale. A conceptual model village is one where villagers act as decision makers, partners and beneficiaries with multi-sectoral, multifunctional and integrated development to achieve holistic and sustainable development backed up by futuristic and progressive skills leading to higher levels of productivity and improvement in overall quality of life. For Drishtee, a social enterprise, “a model village is a sustainable community that is able to generate and maintain the resources necessary to improve its level of well being by strengthening the sustainability pillars of livelihood, infrastructure and services.”
The commonly understood meaning of the term ‘adarsh’ in context of the model village scheme is a village which is endowed with all the modern facilities including infrastructures. But this is an ongoing exercise and no amount of money will ever be sufficient. This is so because the meaning of ‘adarsh’ will change with the change of time and our perception of modernity.
However, there are certain elements that constitute the core of a village community, and if taken cognisance of, can contribute towards creating sustainable conditions for emergence of a model or ‘adarsh’ village. It is their humanistic values towards gender justice, education, health and disadvantaged sections. Making sustained advancements in these areas do not require fund, but a community which is mobilised enough to take up these humanistic values as their immediate and long-term goals.
It has to be appreciated that villages would not become ‘model’ villages just by creating good social and physical infrastructure in a blueprint approach. A village becomes a model if it has developed or created some unique characteristics which are worth emulating in the adjoining regions, and provinces and even at the national level. The model evolves over a period of time by adopting a ‘process approach’ in which the villagers launch a new initiative for the benefit of the entire village community, move ahead, falter and tumble down, learn from their mistakes and finally achieve the shared goal.
It is not necessary that a village becomes a model when it has a set of unique features. Even one unique characteristic can make a village a model village. Some examples here will be in order. A village may become a model village if it has: no child labour, 100% free from open defecation, 100% registration of deaths and births, 100% institutional deliveries, 100% immunisation of children, 100% registration of pregnant women and their regular monitoring, 100% supply of assistive devices to all the persons with disabilities, 100% enrolment of children in schools, zero cases of untouchability and atrocity against the dalits, 100% financial inclusion, etc.
Each of these elements, even if achieved in one village, would give the label of a ‘model’ to that village. What is important to realise is that a village is not made a model in a given time-frame. It evolves gradually into a model village by adopting practice(s) worthy of emulation in other places. Who would not like to see a village which is free from child labour? But this requires constant persuasion of the parents of the working children by the village community for sending their children to school and not for work. Likewise, all other elements mentioned above can be sustainably achieved if the village community is mobilised enough to adopt these elements as their goals. The good thing is that all these goals can be accomplished without special funds.
When it comes to selecting a village under the SAGY, the MP should select that village where the village community is mobilised enough to come forward on its own and request for the adoption of their village under the SAGY. The village community must demonstrate that the people in their village are ready to commit themselves to certain values, as mentioned earlier, and are eager to fulfil their goals without any financial implications, and support the convergence approach. To avoid any scope for discriminatory feeling in the selection of villages under the SAGY, the MP must circulate a set of value(s) based guidelines, and the final selection of a village under the SAGY should be based on the scrutiny confirming complete conformity to the guidelines.
There are funds already available at villages and gram panchayat level in different sectors. It is important to converge these funds with the adopted community’s values and goals. Additionally, what is crucial for accomplishment of the village community’s goals is the community’s involvement. It is at this juncture when our MPs can make significant contributions by involving the community in identifying their goal(s) and accomplishing them through their catalytic support from their MPLAD (member of parliament local area development scheme) fund, and other funds available including the corporate social responsibility allocations. Alternatively, the SAGY can adopt the funding pattern of the Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Village in which each selected pilot village gets a gap filling fund of '20 lakh from the ministry of social justice and empowerment.
The model village should showcase the development programmes as effective instruments for rural development and panchayati raj governance through a process of prioritised implementation and optimised management which would reflect in the development of the village concerned as beacon lights and success stories for others to see and emulate. Such a village should also create a positive attitude/behaviour to bring about necessary attitudinal and behavioural changes in the rural mindset through community mobilisation so that real and meaningful change in quality of life, lifestyle and community participation in local development works and governance become feasible and get realised to the desired degree. The model village must show demonstration effect to achieve holistic development as a model which can be replicated. Field visits to a model village by villagers from neighbouring areas should expose them to the best practices in rural development and local governance and motivate them to implement these viable strategies and doable interventions to uplift the quality of life in their own case too.
Prof Prasad is associated with the National Institute of Rural Development & Panchayat Raj, Hyderabad
(The article appears in July 1-15, 2016 ediion of Governance Now)