Modi govt to launch new rural development scheme

MPs will be in charge of driving the change

shubhendu

Shubhendu Parth | October 10, 2014



First it was the cities and now it’s the turn of Indian villages to undergo a makeover. Having moved a step ahead with the release of the draft concept note on the smart city scheme, the government is geared up to launch the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) on Saturday at a function to celebrate the birth anniversary of Jayaprakash Narayan.

The programme, a brainchild of the rural development ministry, is aimed at driving all-round development of villages through a participative approach and will use the existing funds allocated for various development projects. According to the brief note shared by the ministry, members of parliament (MPs) from both houses will be the key drivers of this scheme with a mandate to initially adopt one village each that would be developed into adarsh grams (model villages) by 2016.

Under the scheme, during 2019-24, MPs will be able select one village every year for integrated development aimed at improving the overall quality of rural life. The project also envisages turning villages into model villages not just through infrastructure development but gender equality, dignity of women, social justice, community service, cleanliness, eco-friendliness, peace and harmony. It also aims to instill the spirit of community service, mutual cooperation, self-reliance, local self-government and drive transparency and accountability in public life.

The programme also aims to inspire a sense of pride among people by giving them ownership of the development schemes and through initiatives like honouring village elders, celebrating village day and folk art festivals and by driving them to develop their own village song.

The blueprint of the project, which is likely to be unveiled by prime minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, will have the gram panchayat as the basic unit for development. While a population size of 3,000-5,000 per development unit has been fixed for plain areas, for hilly, tribal and difficult areas the population base for each of these selected villages will be between 1,000 and 3,000. According to the document, while Lok Sabha MPs will have to choose a gram panchayat from within their constituencies, Rajya Sabha MPs will be able to select a gram panchayat from a district of their choice in the state from which they have been elected.

Provisions have also been made for nominated MPs and those from urban constituencies. While the former will be able to choose a gram panchayat from any district in the country, those elected from urban constituencies will have the option of going ahead with any gram panchayat from a nearby rural constituency. “The MPs will engage with the community, facilitate the village development plan and mobilise the necessary resources,” the note said adding that the development plan will place a special emphasis on poverty alleviation. “The planning process in each village will be a participatory exercise coordinated by the district collector and the MP will play an active facilitating role,” the note stated.

While the ministry of rural development will serve as the nodal agency for active coordination and monitoring of the scheme, provisions have also been made for setting up two national-level committees to supervise the overall project implementation – one headed by the rural development minister and the other to be headed by the rural development secretary with representatives from various ministries that will be involved with the implementation of various aspects of the SAGY.

Besides, each state will have an empowered committee headed by the chief secretary to oversee the project implementation. The committee will have members from the relevant departments, including domain experts and at least two members from civil society. While the respective rural development secretaries of the states will act as the member convenor, the district collector will be the nodal officer for implementing SAGY and will be responsible for conducting a monthly review meeting with representatives of the participating line departments. The MP concerned will chair the review meetings.

Adoption and adaptation of technology and introduction of innovation have also been marked as critical components of the programme and the government has also chalked out use of space application and remote sensing technologies for planning. It also intends to use information and mobile technology for monitoring and better delivery of services, including a separate, real time web-based monitoring system at the national level. The project also plans to use information technology for driving universal access to education and healthcare.

The scheme also envisages active participation by women in decision making and has plans to organise Mahila Sabhas and Bal Sabhas under the programme to discuss women and child specific issues and concerns. Since the programme has a lot of thrust of community participation, the government is hopeful that social mobilisation of community will also trigger awareness against risk behaviour like alcoholism, smoking and substance abuse among all age groups.

Interestingly, while the note shared by the ministry highlights that the scheme is inspired by the principles and values of Mahatma Gandhi's concept of rural development, and revolves around creating model villages for transforming swaraj (self rule) into su-raj (good governance), it does not specify how the project would be different from the recently conceptualised Rurban mission, that was basically structured around the PURA concept as mooted by former president APJ Abdul Kalam.

It is also important to note that the government has already set up a committee headed by SM Vijayanand, additional secretary in the rural development ministry, whose mandate is to frame guidelines for the Rurban mission that aims to provide urban amenities in rural areas.

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