New Delhi: Playing the role originally meant for only BJP party workers, for 22 days beginning April 14, nearly 1,000 senior “class 1 central government officers” of the rank of director, deputy director, deputy secretary and under secretary would also be made to travel to over 20,000 villages spread across 509 districts in 28 states by the Narendra Modi government to spread the message about the work done by it under its Gram Swaraj Abhiyan programme.
Officers to go door-to-door
The involvement of government servants in the exercise has raised many eyebrows as this was ideally supposed to have been carried out by BJP party workers. Talking to The Wire, a senior officer said: “The officials would be required to spend these days in villages and go door-to-door spreading word about seven central schemes.”
The district administration in all these states have been involved and would be making arrangements for the stay of the central officers. Preparatory meetings for the programme have already been held in almost all the districts.
Incidentally, the Prime Minister’s handle had tweeted about the scheme on March 24.
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) March 25, 2018
Subsequently, the BJP had on April 11 announced its decision to participate in the campaign “to make Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s appeal of making role and motive of “Gram Swaraj Abhiyan” nationally successful”.
Government officials roped in for a party exercise
As such, it is not difficult to see that enlisting the support of government officials is most likely unethical. The BJP, in its release, had also stated that “Modi said that except two states where the Model Code of Conduct is in place, all other states will be covered under the campaign. For the empowerment of poor and farmers, BJP’s public representatives will take the campaign among the rural areas of the country through which the dreams of great leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, and Jyotiba Phule will be fulfilled.”
The party had also described the work for the scheme to have been undertaken by the “BJP government” and asserted that it has “continuously working hard to fulfil the dreams of “Gram Swaraj” by leaders such as Dr B.R Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi, in which social justice, education, brotherhood, respect for women, upliftment of poor and villagers and cleanliness can be strengthened”.
Recalling Modi’s words that “to make the campaign of Gram Swaraj Abhiyan nationally successful, all BJP public representatives have to go from people to people and village to village. BJP’s people representatives should ensure that the benefits of government schemes reach women, farmers and poor people of the country”, the party had directed its cadre to participate actively in the programme.
No getting away for senior officers as programmes would be monitored daily
Though their involvement may appear unwarranted, for these senior Central government officials there is no getting away from the programme as it would be closely monitored. According to a ministry note, daily targets would be set by every ministry and department for the day. There would also be a dashboard/ portal for monitoring the achievement of these targets.
The state governments and district administrations have also been roped in to provide the logistics for the programmes. The monitoring would also be done by them on a portal attached to the main Gram Swaraj Abhiyan portal.
All elected representatives also urged to attend
On March 31, the Centre had, through a letter sent by Amarjeet Sinha, the secretary in the Ministry of Rural Development, also specified that elected representatives including members of parliament, legislators, members of the district committees and block presidents would also be required to attend these programmes.
In a follow up letter to chief secretaries of all states and union territories and secretaries in the Government of India among others, Sinha had on April 5 noted that the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan was a special initiative undertaken for 21,058 villages with a large number of poor households.
He had written that as part of the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, a special campaign – titled Sabka Sath Sabka Gaon Sabka Vikas – would be undertaken over April 14 to May 5 and that the idea behind it would be “social harmony”, “reaching out to households of the poor” and “public information”.
‘Thrust on universal coverage of seven programmes’
The thrust, the letter had noted, would be on ensuring “universal coverage” of seven programme – Ujala Yojna, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana-Saubhagya, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna, Pradhan Mantri Jiwan Jyoti Bima Yojna, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojna and Mission Indradhanush.
The letter had also noted that “Prime Minister assigns the highest importance to saturation of seven programmes in 21,058 villages”.
It had gone on to state that “if we are successful in saturating these villages during the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan Campaign, it will give us the confidence to follow similar focussed approached everywhere”.
States also urged to deploy senior officers, women self-help groups
As for the Sabka Sath Sabka Gaon Sabka Vikas programme, it said it was a partnership of local, state and central government and “the intention is to use all the effectiveness and administrative acumen of all levels of the government to achieve this noble objective of saturation within a stipulated time”.
“It is a public management challenge which requires the complete involvement of the community at all levels of government,” the secretary had written, adding that the campaign would also require very systematic monitoring of progress made in these villages.
The Centre had through the letter also urged the states to deploy senior officers to ensure the success of this mission and to involve women self-help groups for it. “This indeed is a societal mission for achieving the seven focussed priorities in 21,058 large villages across the country,” it had stated.