More than three years after the Prime Minister asked each Member of Parliament to adopt one village and eventually more, the plan hasn’t really worked. Here’s an example.
Taking forward Gandhi’s philosophy of self-sufficient ideal villages, the government introduced the SAANJHI programme in October 2014. Commonly known as the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (Parliamentarians’ Ideal Village Scheme), the scheme envisioned that each Member of Parliament (MP) would adopt a village; and over three phases, adopt up to three villages.
The scheme is now in its final phase and less than 20 percent of all Parliamentarians have selected villages to be adopted in this phase. The performance in the first two phases has not been laudable either, and overall, only 42 percent of the work has been completed so far; the scheme is supposed to come to a close in March 2019, and by then, the country should have 2,370 ideal villages. Community Correspondent Ramlal Baiga visited one such “ideal village” in Shahdol, Madhya Pradesh, to see the on-ground situation.
Kelmaniya, the village in Shahdol that was adopted in the first phase of the scheme, is a particularly peculiar case. It was adopted by Dalpat Singh Paraste, the then Lok Sabha MP from the constituency. Adopting a village means working towards its holistic social, economic and cultural development; ensuring basic health and education facilities, sustainable livelihoods and self-reliance, government accountability and social justice.
The work began on most of these fronts, but in less than two years, Paraste passed away and all the work came to a standstill. Bye-elections were held in November 2016, and Adivasi leader Gyan Singh was elected as the new MP. Shahdol is a reserved constituency for Scheduled Tribe candidates and has a large Adivasi population; one of the ideal village plans for Kelmaniya was to improve the Adivasi Baiga community’s quality of life.
Ideally, Gyan Singh would have taken over Paraste’s responsibilities, but this is where the case of Shahdol becomes complex. Singh was a sitting Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and a Cabinet Minister in the state government when he won the Lok Sabha seat. Even four months later, he continued to hold both positions. Technically, the law allows this for six months, but in reality, the responsibilities that both positions entail get hampered. Singh’s attendance in the Lok Sabha, for these four months, was a low seven percent. At the same time, he had not been attending the Assembly’s sessions either. Commenting on the situation, Singh reportedly said that he will continue to function in both capacities unless the Chief Minister decides otherwise.
In the midst of all this political complexity, Kelmaniya remained adopted but abandoned. Today, the Sub-Health Centre has no staff, the schools have no boundary walls and toilets, the homes have no potable water, and unemployment has forced people to migrate to cities. The MP is not the only person in-charge of developing these ideal villages. The Chief Secretary of the state, the District Collector and the Gram Panchayat (Village Council) are all involved in the implementation at different levels. According to Ramlal, the local level governance is not in good shape either.
Moving on from Shahdol, which had its specific problems after from overall laxity, what contributes to the low rates of adoption and progress under the scheme? The main reason identified seems to be the lack of a dedicated fund for the scheme. MPs are expected to “use their political capital to energise existing government schemes” and use the funds provided under these schemes. But in villages like Kelmaniya, even funds under schemes like MNREGA (rural employment scheme) and the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (housing scheme) have not been efficiently utilised, according to local residents.
Apart from funds from these existing schemes, MPs can also use funds from Central and State Finance Commission Grants, from MPLADS (Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) and from the Gram Panchayat’s revenue. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funding is also an option and MPs in Gujarat and Rajasthan have reportedly turned to it.
The scheme is supposed to be monitored by independent agencies and it is unlikely that the goals will be achieved by March 2019. In the next roll-out, envisioned between 2019-2024, the targets are even more ambitious at five villages per Member of Parliament.
Meanwhile, Ramlal and the residents of Kelmaniya are approaching the District Collector with their complaint. Support them by calling the District Collector, Naresh Kumar Pal, at +91-7562241700 and urging him to address the situation with immediate effect.
Video by Community Correspondent Ramlal Baiga
Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team