In 2016, Rajya Sabha MP and former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, adopted Puttamraju Kandriga village in Andhra Pradesh, paving the way for its transformation from a sleepy and dusty village of just 399 people, to a developed one with concrete roads, underground sewage system, a playground, community hall and 24-hour water and power supply. The following year, he adopted the Donja village in Osmanabad, Marathwada, sanctioning over Rs 4 crore from his MPLADS funds for the development of a new school building, concrete roads, sewage line and water supply to bring potable water to households.
These two are among the villages that have seen some development courtesy the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) scheme announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was first elected in 2014.
However, not all the villages under the PM’s flagship programme have become success stories. In fact, as per a recent audit conducted by the Rural Development Ministry, SAGY has not made any perceptible impact or had the desired effect.
The study was conducted as part of the fifth Common Review Mission (CRM) that the Centre constituted to conduct independent assessments of various Government schemes. The 31-member CRM team, which comprises of retired bureaucrats, academicians and research organisations, visited 120 villages across 21 districts in eight states.
What the scheme entails
SAGY was officially launched on October 11, 2014, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of independence activist and political leader, Jaiprakash Narayan. Under the Yojana, MPs are responsible for developing the socio-economic infrastructure of one village in their constituency by 2016, two more by 2019 and establishing at least five more model villages by 2024.
While a Lok Sabha MP can choose a gram panchayat from within their constituency, a Rajya Sabha MP chooses a gram panchayat from the rural area of the state that they are elected from. Nominated MPs can choose a gram panchayat from the rural parts of any district in the country.
The Development Plan places special emphasis on enabling poor households to come out of poverty, and MPs are expected to engage with community members, and the corporate and voluntary sectors to facilitate development. Along with a focus on physical and institutional development, the Yojana also calls for development across areas such as education, livelihood, health, gender parity, sanitation and environment.
When PM Modi announced the idea of the Yojana in his Independence Day speech in 2014, it was touted as a path-breaking scheme that would guide 1,475 gram panchayats across the country on the path of time-bound holistic development. The idea behind the scheme was to create model villages across the country which would then inspire neighbouring villages to develop theirs as well.
However, this has not worked out.
In 2014, PM Modi adopted the village of Jayapur in his constituency of Varanasi, which set the tone for a series of developments, including building new roads, installation of solar panels and provision of piped water and toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission. This was followed by Nagepur, located around 10 km from Jayapur, which he adopted in 2016 and Kakrahia village in mid-2017.
As per a 2018 report by The Quint, while infrastructure facilities including banks, post office, an anganwadi and water pipes, were developed, health and education were not given much focus in Jayapur. The village does not have a working hospital or a school for girls. The local school also only offers classes until Standard 5. A report by The Wire also states that the village of Nagepur does not have a piped water supply or a proper drainage system.
Inequitable development and funding concerns
One of the biggest issues about the scheme is the lack of funds allocated to it. MPs have to mobilise funds through existing schemes such as National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP), MGNREGA and the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS).
While some MPs have been able to rope in corporates to take up development activities as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), a majority of the lawmakers have found the absence of an allocated budget to be a hurdle. Further, many are also worried that by picking one village over the other, they might face problems with other villages in their constituency, as per reports.
Another reason why the Yojana has failed to succeed is indifference - two-thirds of Lok Sabha MPs are yet to adopt a village to develop. The scheme started off well, as per reports 703 MPs had adopted villages under Phase 1 of SAGY. However, this number went down to 497 in Phase 2 and further to 301 in Phase-3.
As per the Ministry of Rural Development, only 252 Members of Parliament have adopted villages under Phase- 4 of the scheme, this is as opposed to a total house strength of 790 members, both elected and nominated.
The development has also not been equitable - while some villages have seen positive transformation since being adopted, others remain neglected.
The report by the CRM team has helped throw light on the various schemes announced by the Government and the ground realities on their implementation.