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Is ‘India Lives in Villages’ a Clichéd Line or Are There Any Actions on the Ground?

gram panchayats

In early June 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote letters to all sarpanches of India, urging them to ensure the conservation of water in villages ahead of the monsoon season. Among other things, it was also an indication of a governance model. It is clear that this government believes in strengthening of Panchayats as they are the instrument in delivering effective governance to grassroots level. In fact, water conservation and the promise of delivering piped water to every household by 2024 can only be possible with the support from village level administration.

Let’s see, how Modi government’s approach has been in enabling Panchayats at village level to play their role.

Mission Antyodaya- Livelihood Opportunities at Grassroots

Mission Antyodaya seeks to converge government interventions through various schemes, treating Gram Panchayats as the basic units of planning. Through convergence of all government programmes across Ministries and Departments, an effort is being made to diversify livelihoods and to eradicate poverty at the household-level. Strengthening of agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry activities are the prime focus areas and the priority has been given to the expansion of Self-Help Groups (SHGs).

Here are some numbers related to SHG and rural entrepreneurship under Deendayal Antodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission, which gives the picture of poverty alleviation.

  • Between April 2014 and November 2018, more than 3 crore rural poor women have been mobilized into 26.9 lakh Self Help Group (SHGs) across the country. Cumulatively, more than 5.63 crore women have been mobilized into more than 49.7 lakh SHGs.
  • About 3,050 SHG members have been deployed as Banking Correspondents Agents (BCAs) to provide last mile financial services including deposit, credit, remittance, disbursement of old age pensions and scholarships, payment of MGNREGA wages and enrolment under insurance and pension schemes.
  • During April 2014 to November 2018, about 3 lakh additional women farmers have been covered under Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana bringing the total coverage to 35.92 lakh women farmers under the project.
  • Development of 7028 Custom Hiring Centre/ Community Managed Tool Banks across multiple States in the same period.
  • About 30,352 enterprises have been supported under Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Programme.

Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA)

This is being implemented for 4 years from 2018-19 to 2021-22 with total outlay of Rs 7,255.50 crore. The scheme comprises Central share of Rs 4,500 crore and State share of Rs 2,755.50 crore. The objective of RGSA is to help more than 2.55 lakh Panchayati Raj Institutions to develop governance capabilities to deliver on Sustainable Development Goals through inclusive local governance with focus on optimum utilisation of available resources.

The first phase of Gram Swaraj Abhiyan was organised from 14th April to 05th May, 2018 which aimed at saturation of eligible households/persons would be made under seven flagship pro-poor programmes in 21,058 identified villages. The second phase conducted between 1st June to 15th August 2018 in 117 aspirational districts. Let’s just check the progress of two programmes to have some sense of the impact.

  • In the first phase, 8,10,147 connections were targeted under UJJWALA and met effectively. In the second phase, 40,56,906 connections were targeted under UJJWALA and the target was met.
  • The first phase targeted opening of 21,21,011 Jan Dhan accounts and able to achieve the number 20,77,408. In the second phase, exceeding the target of 46,20,452 accounts total number of 52,76,662 Jan Dhan accounts were opened.
Implementation of E-governance

It is a well-known fact that only 59 Gram Panchayats were connected through Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) under UPA and Modi government in its first five years took it to the 1.23 lakh GPs. There is a continuation of earlier policy such as e-Panchayat Mission Mode Project (MMP).  Under e-Panchayat MMP, a suite of Core Common Software Applications, namely Panchayat Enterprise Suite (PES) has been developed to address various aspects of Panchayats’ functioning including planning, budgeting, implementation, accounting, monitoring, social audit and delivery of citizen services like issue of certificates, licences etc.

On the one hand it resulted in the transparency of administration and on the other hand, since the OFCs reached the GPs, it has eased the lives of people in the rural side ending the hassles of travelling to towns in order to get documents and booking tickets etc.

Provision under Fourteenth Finance Commission

Under Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC), grants to the tune of Rs 2,00,292 crore for the period from 2015 to 2020 have been allocated to Gram Panchayats. The Ministry of Panchayati Raj had rolled out People’s Plan Campaign ‘Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas’ from 2nd October to 31st December, 2018 successfully for formulation of evidence-based Gram Panchayat Development Plan by the GPs.

Conclusion

Development of villages through Panchayats has been the prime focus of Prime Minister Modi’s developmental agenda. He had asked the Member of Parliaments to identify Gram Panchayats under Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana to develop it. In 2018, on the occasion of Panchayat Raj Day he had addressed the representatives of Panchayati Raj from across the country at Mandla in Madhya Pradesh and asked them to focus on Jan Dhan, Van Dhan and Gobar Dhan, and to ensure that people have Jan Dhan accounts and insurance coverage under the government schemes. Thus, the line ‘India lives in villages’ has not remained in speeches but the specific policies are working on the grounds to transform the lives.

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