Last week, fellow parliamentarian Tathagata Satpathy wrote on the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) and chose to call it a “flawed scheme, that looks good on paper but whose implementation is flawed” (‘Adarsh Milligram Yojana’, ‘Poke Me’, ET, July 11). Since he has written so decisively about the flaws in “implementation” of SAGY, a rejoinder is in order to set the record straight on why putting SAGY into action is no rocket science. All that it perhaps takes from us is sincere commitment.
In comparison to a Lok Sabha MP, it may indeed be easier for a Rajya Sabha MP to adopt and allocate funds under SAGY. But to state that it is aHerculean task for a Lok Sabha MP to implement SAGY is also incorrect. For instance, when an MP from the Lok Sabha claims that he finds it impossible to pick a few villages out of thousand-odd ones in his constituency and is left asking “on what basis” he should pick a village for adoption, the answer is not that difficult. What better basis for adopting a village than choosing, say, ‘the least developed village’ and transforming it into a ‘model village’?
The outcry that the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) funds are too little for the execution of SAGY because there are so many assembly segments within one parliamentary constituency is again hollow. As per the official website of the MPLADS, in the financial year 2014-15, the government had released Rs 2,147.50 crore for all the members of the current Lok Sabha. Even though a year has passed, 75 per cent of the funds — Rs 1,659.88 crore — remain unspent.
Many MPs have been unable to recommend more than 50 per cent of their MPLADS funds that were meant to be utilised in the past year. Drawing from my personal experience, I provided for three reverse osmosis water treatment plants, an underground drainage system, a digital community centre and a dozen roads in my adopted villages under the MPLADS, and was still left with enough money to fund more than 20 projects in the rest of the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.
One of the key reasons why villages have lagged behind is not because there are no schemes for their development. It is because these schemes have not been effectively implemented. The idea behind SAGY is to use the leadership skills of MPs to ensure that at least around 800 adopted villages every year are given guaranteed access to the existing centraland state-sponsored schemes for which funds are already available with the district administration.
For example, my adopted village, Pedhamyanavanilanka, is a coastal village in Andhra Pradesh that gets submerged in water every monsoon. At the time I was conducting the ‘need assessment’ survey there to pencil down its top priorities, an obvious demand from the villagers was for the construction of an elevated bridge to ensure that the village is not cut off from rest of the world.
It did not require me to generate additional funds for implementation of this project. The proposal for such a construction was already covered under the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) scheme. All I had to do was to ensure that the project was expeditiously implemented.
There are dozens of centrally sponsored schemes — the Pradhanmantri Grameen Sadak Yojana, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employee Guarantee Act (MNREGA), the Jan Dhan Yojana, the Indira Awaas Yojana, the Pradhanmantri Jeevanjyoti Beema Yojana, the Atal Pension Yojana and others — which can be readily implemented in the adopted villages without having to mobilise additional funds. Then there are activities like promoting the culture of cleanliness and hygiene, gender neutrality, retention of children in school, etc, that have no financial bearing at all.
The least convincing claim against SAGY is that it is an “armchair” scheme “imposed” on the people. SAGY requires that its development plan is designed by individual members of the village in a gram sabha. Can such a scheme be called an “armchair” scheme? Under SAGY, MPs have to take up issues that are given priority by the villagers. Is this an “imposition”? It is, in fact, the closest that any administration has come to the people in designing, implementing and evaluating a scheme.
The prime minister’s vision for SAGY is simple and yet game-changing. If around 800 parliamentarians adopt a village every year, by 2019, more than 4,000 villages will be transformed into model villages. Without putting an ounce of extra burden on the taxpayer and by effective utilisation of presently underutilised local area funds, SAGY would transform the lives of more than 2.5 crore people in rural India. This, by no measure, will be an ordinary feat.
The writer is Union minister of state for commerce and industry, and for finance and corporate affairs. Inputs from Akshay Labroo