The Prime Minister’s adopt-a-village scheme has clearly failed to enthuse MPs, but Union Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar is confident they will soon respond more positively to the initiative.
Tomar said the government is aware that there is perhaps lack of enthusiasm among members of Parliament, including a few Union ministers, for the ‘Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana’ scheme, under which parliamentarians are to "adopt" a village. However, there will be "good response in the second stage".
"It is an ideal scheme and based on the spirit of voluntary service. The Prime Minister has given a vision. Now it is left to the MPs to emulate that vision. It is up to an individual whether this vision suits him or not," Tomar said.
The scheme was launched in 2014, but so far there has been lukewarm response to it, and that has hit the headlines.
In the first phase, over 90 MPs failed to adopt any village while in the second phase in the 2016-17 fiscal over 580 members from both the houses are yet to choose any village.
Under the scheme, the government expects the MPs to select over 6,400 villages by 2024 as "ideal model hamlets" for infrastructure developments.
However, the absence of enthusiasm, especially among Congress MPs, has put a question mark on the future of the scheme.
Tomar said the key objectives of this scheme include development of model villages that are to be called ‘Adarsh grams’ through implementation of various existing plans and certain new initiatives designed on the basis of local context.
"It was also demand-based and need-specific. Some schemes and initiatives may vary from village to village, and at the same time models of local development in one village can be replicated in other villages," he said.
Under the scheme, Lok Sabha MPs are required to choose villages in their constituencies while Rajya Sabha MPs can pick any village from the state they represent.
Official sources have said that some Bharatiya Janata Party MPs, especially from the Rajya Sabha, have "shown keen interest" and even two villages have been adopted by a few individual lawmakers during the last two financial years.
"Our finding is wherever these villages have been adopted by MPs, enthusiasm among the local population has been overwhelming. This makes me hopeful that the scheme will do well in the days to come," Tomar said.
When asked about the Congress’s apprehension that there could be reduction in fund allocation for states in schemes like Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), Tomar said as per the recommendation of the 14th Finance Commission the states are now getting 42 per cent share of funds as against 32 per cent earlier.
He said there would not be any discrimination against any state with regard to the allocation of funds.
Under the PMGSY, between 2011 and 2014, 73 km of roads were built per day, while the current rate is about 100 km of roads every day. "My target is to achieve 133 km a day," Tomar said.
"The progress in work is very good as about 65 per cent of rural habitations had been connected by all-weather roads already and the remaining (35 per cent) too will be connected by March 2019."
On the decision of the government to geo-tag all assets created under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in order to make all ground works and assets online, Tomar said this will enhance transparency and thus bring in more efficiency into the system.
"This has been decided after directives from Prime Minister Narendra Modi that there should be online recording and monitoring of assets to check leakages and for effective mapping of resources," he said.
Around three million assets are created annually across the country under the rural jobs scheme, he said, adding that keeping an online track is much easier than physical verification.
"The idea is to keep a track of these assets and once we know where the assets are and what the gaps are, it will be easier to address the problems. It is more relevant in today’s situation when fund flow for rural India has increased following the 14th Finance Commission recommendations," he said.
He said while budgetary provision for the PMGSY in 2012-13 was around Rs.9,000 crore, the amount increased to Rs.19,000 crore in 2015-16.
He admitted that in some states elected MPs are not getting due importance in finalising schemes under the PMGSY.
"This is a serious matter as members are elected representatives of the people. MPs have raised it in Parliament also. I will instruct the states to ensure that consultation takes place. In fact, there is a mandatory provision that an MP ought to be consulted and even engineers need to take local MPs into confidence," Tomar said.