Nagepur (Uttar Pradesh): In his first Independence Day speech in August 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana. Under the scheme, each parliamentarian was to adopt up to three villages over five years and ensure their holistic development. Introducing the guidelines, he stressed on the participatory nature of the scheme.
On a visit to Nagepur, one of the four villages in Varanasi adopted by the prime minister himself, we found that more than two years later, much has been left to the beneficiaries alone. “Our village being adopted by the prime minister made national and international news, but nothing has happened here, officials come and leave without doing anything,” says Bainath Maur, a resident.
Parashnath Rajbar, the sarpanch of the village, says that 21 areas of development were charted out but most of them remain points on paper. The biggest grouse that the residents of Nagepur have is the lack of a drainage system. Their lanes are waterlogged, breeding insects and illnesses. The same contaminated water seeps into the wells, which are the primary source of water for many. Hand-pumps are the main source of water for the others. The village does not have piped water supply. According to the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) website, 93.5% of the water sources in the village are safe, but residents say that about 30-40% of the hand-pumps, installed under the NRDWP, spout dirty water. For a village at such a high risk of disease, there is no primary health centre or sub health centre either.
Education is yet another parameter of development that Nagepur does not fare well on. The high school in the village only offers classes up to Class 10. The only progress that has been made, according to Maur, is that an anganwadi (child care centre) has been constructed. Apart from the anganwadi, the village also got a statue of Ambedkar under the scheme; we also found that some work was underway for water supply.
The anganwadi, with its bright yellow walls painted with animals and cartoons, is an example of the kind of infrastructure, especially for education, that the village can have if the scheme sees the light of day. While the establishment of an anganwadi cannot be dismissed as a minor change, support systems like health centres and higher secondary schools are imperative for a child’s holistic development.
Electricity connections, an area of development that has been making national and international headlines lately, is also not a reality for everyone in the village. Over 50% of households in the village are yet to be electrified, according to household electrification data under the Saubhagya scheme.
Jayapur, the village Modi had adopted before Nagepur, received free electricity supply from a solar plant. However, authorities reportedly started charging the residents for the connection soon. In Nagepur too, a solar plant has been set up – but did it leave residents better off? Maur, on whose land part of the plant was installed, has not been fully compensated for the land or given enough remuneration for taking care of the plant. “I have received Rs 65,000 so far, although I have incurred expenses worth Rs 1,95,000,” he says. While the use of a renewable resource like solar energy to generate electricity is a commendable step, it is of little use if it leaves intended beneficiaries worse off.
We also found that there is no building for the panchayat to function out of. The panchayat plays a central role in the implementation of the Adarsh Gram Yojana, and in the development of any village. It is where the village comes together to discuss important social and developmental issues and take decisions. But if there is no panchayat building to begin with, how can the community even convene?
There have been reports of the scheme not having worked from different parts of the state and the country. The main reason being reported is the non-availability of a special fund for the scheme. MPs are expected to mobilise funds under existing rural development schemes like the MGNREGA and NRDWP. Corporate money, through CSR funds, can also be used, and these funds have been used in the adopted villages of Varanasi. In Nagepur, HDFC bank is the principal partner, along with civil society organisation Sahbhagi Shikshan Kendra, which is supported by the CSR initiative of the bank.
The other source of funds is the MPLADS (Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme). But an RTI on the use of this fund in the adopted villages of Varanasi found that the fund has not been used towards developmental work in these villages till date.
MPs are also expected to use their “political capital” to make existing schemes function better. Surely the prime minister’s political capital is unparalleled. Why has it not trickled down to Nagepur, then?
Video by Video Volunteers
Alankrita Anand is a member of the Video Volunteers editorial team.