Has the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, aimed at all-round development of three villages by each Member of Parliament, made a significant impact on the ground?
It is far easier to tell others to do something than to do it ourselves. Just like an older sibling finds it easier to tell the younger one to study, we like to tell people to keep their streets clean, rather than taking up a broom and getting to the task at hand.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana on August 15, 2014, he said all parliamentarians want to do something for the society, but find they have little opportunity to do so.
Through the scheme, he gave a concrete opportunity to do something.
The idea was that each parliamentarian would take up one village each for three subsequent years, and transform the three villages to make them an adarsh, or ideal.
Initially, there was quite a movement on this front. In his short tenure as Minister of Rural Development, Nitin Gadkari convened many a meeting to formulate guidelines for the model village initiative. The scheme was formally launched on October 2, 2014.
The scheme expected each parliamentarian to select a neglected village in their constituency inhabited by marginalised people, and provide leadership in transforming that village by converging financial provisions available under numerous government schemes and possibly also use MP Local Area Development funds.
The transformation was foreseen in four spheres — physical, social, human and environmental – and MPs were expected to choose a village and inform the choice to the Ministry of Rural Development. Accordingly, a large number of parliamentarians, some 700 of them, did choose the village.
While cynics thought that this was just another gimmick, the novelty of exhorting MPs to take interest and transform three villages excited quite a few.
Civil society organisations collaborated with quite a few enthusiastic
MPs to help them prepare micro-plans for village development as required by the scheme and in some cases, such as Vijaywada Rural and a few other constituencies, MPs used the scheme to transform their constituency as a whole.
However, was this a sporadic development or was it widespread? There is little information in the media about this – perhaps because of newer and more exciting talking points such as demonetisation and GST, and for the critics, cow protection and vigilantism.
Three years after the announcement, the spirit of the model village scheme seems to be sagging. It was, in fact, even difficult to know if MPs had chosen their second and the third villages.
A few points may be made about a priori chance of the scheme being a star success. In the first place, development in a village can take place as a result of implementation of diverse aspects of development by public agencies such as the Gram Panchayat, district administration, etc. Several elected representatives are involved are concerned in the process.
To start with, there is the Sarpanch and his team. Then there are the representatives of the Zilla Panchayat and the local MLAs, and finally, the state government. While no one would object to development of a village, it appears logical to believe that the scheme would stand high chances of success if all these agencies were aligned. Thus, a hypothesis can be that the scheme would see a higher chance of showing concrete results if they all belonged to the same political formation and within that the same caucus.
Secondly, an MP’s constituency has on average 1,000 villages. Should he or she be seen spending too much energy on one of them? How would the others take it? Would there be a backlash? It is said that in Mahabharata, Duryodhan settled for Krishna’s Yadav army but Arjuna asked for the Lord himself. So, would the rest of them say, “Give your leadership to the chosen village but give us all the funds?” If that happened, how would the model village be developed?
Thirdly, the scheme was to be implemented not by direct infusion of new, specific funds but by converging government schemes. While eminently possible in theory, this necessarily would require allocation of a limited existing resource. Naturally, the model village, and the MP on its behalf, would have to negotiate, influence, and lean on others for a favorable allocation. This meant, if nothing else, frequent and fairly intense engagement of the MP in the process.
Finally, the model village scheme talked of all round development, including the one to be brought about by behavioral change. But, it is far easier to construct roads, bring in electricity, build toilets and create drinking water facility than to bring about behavioural change in people.
A hypothesis is made that the spirit of the model village scheme would have won, showing huge transformation in the chosen village wherever the MP was able to align all other public representatives in his chosen task, where he was accessible and took personal interest in engaging in negotiation for converging funds, where he showed consistent interest in influencing social behavior of people and where he did this without the fear of a backlash from other villages of his constituency. Seemingly a very nice announcement, the model village scheme per se was not an adarsh from the point of view of the way politics and society function.
Disclaimer: This article, authored by Sanjiv Phansalkar, was first published in VillageSquare.in. The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily reflect that of YourStory.