In October 2014, in classic Narendra Modi style, with epic fanfare, a scheme was launched called the ‘Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana’ (SAGY). The idea was that every Member of Parliament would be asked to adopt a village in their constituency and develop it as a model village. This would then become a blueprint for developing other villages.
Here’s what the ‘about’ section of the SAGY website says: “The goal is to develop three Adarsh Grams by March 2019, of which one would be achieved by 2016. Thereafter, five such Adarsh Grams (one per year) will be selected and developed by 2024.”
It’s April 2019, so the question worth asking right now is: Whatever happened to the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana?
A forgotten scheme with a forgotten website
The first logical thing we need to do—to find out what is happening even—is head over to the official website of the scheme: http://saanjhi.gov.in. Which I did. Turns out, it doesn’t work. Only the Home, About and CSR page open while the others— namely Guidelines, Circulars, Message, Report and Media—which are actually vitally important to get information on how the scheme is doing, draw a blank.
The message page shows… this:
Oh well. Time to use some awesome jugaad skills to make this work. So I tried manually entering the website URL with an addition in the end to http://saanjhi.gov.in/media.aspx and boom. Success.
The last update is this report from November 2014. It’s about PM’s visit and his plan to adopt Jayapur village in his constituency of Varanasi under this scheme. Fascinating stuff. The officials didn’t even bother updating the website to reflect the fact that PM Modi has adopted two more villages apart from Jayapur.
So, the next step here is to dig deep and find out what happened to these villages adopted by the PM.
PM adopted villages and their state of affairs
Mint did a story in March 2017 that talks about how Jayapur saw a flurry of activity when the village was adopted. They got new roads, solar electricity provisions, toilets and piped water. But that was short-lived owing to a lack of administrative follow-up. The bathrooms built under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan started crumbling, people started selling solar panels that were installed and unemployment continues to be the reigning issue in the village. Even the piped water system has failed.
Following Jayapur, PM Modi adopted two more villages in 2016. One of them was Nagepur. Journalists from The Quint presented a report in October 2018 on the state of this village.
In Nagepur, a solar plant was supposed to be set up but, after 10 months of negotiations, the private company which was supposed to set up the plant refused to pay for the land and left. There is no school for kids above Class 5 and there isn’t a hospital nearby, adding to the woes of the people there. Unemployment, yet again, seems to be a major issue people are complaining about.
There is little information about how the third village is doing. Alright, let’s not solely criticise our Prime Minister’s visionary plans. Let’s look at how other Members of Parliament (MP) have been doing.
How are other MPs doing?
One news item which was splashed across the board was the adoption of a village by Sachin Tendulkar. He adopted Puttamraju Kandriga in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh and the story here is quite different. Turns out, he has done a fabulous job of developing this village according to this report.
In 2017, he went on to adopt Donja in Osmanabad, Maharashtra, under SAGY. But Sachin, unfortunately, seems to be the outlier here. Unlike him, other MPs don’t seem very taken in by SAGY and it has generally received a mild response. In the first phase of the scheme, 703 out of 786 MPs adopted villages. The adoption saw a downward trend after that. In phase 2, 466 MPs identified villages while in phase 3, the number drastically dropped to only 172 MPs. Clearly, there is a definite trend of MPs losing interest in this much-publicised scheme.
It would be worth mentioning here that of these, the governing BJP has a total of 341 MPs in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha combined. Of course, the total number of occupied seats has kept changing because of retirements, resignations and deaths, but even when you take that into consideration, the participation in the later stages of SAGY is quite disappointing. At the very least, efforts should have been made to get BJP MPs to be diligent about these adoptions.
So why is this scheme failing? Why are MPs losing interest? The answer to that might be in the way this scheme was designed and how it works.
Funding, administrative and perception woes
One would assume that if the government launches a scheme, there would be some funding attached to it. Say you are an MP who adopts a village and you want to develop a fish rearing pond—just like master blaster Tendulkar did—so you’d need funds to do that. Where does the money for your projects come from? Logically, it should be given to you as part of this scheme. But nope. The MPs who adopt villages under the SAGY scheme are supposed to fund projects in their adopted villages using their Members of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) Funds.
Sachin, according to the report mentioned earlier, spent around ₹3.6 crore from his MPLAD funds and the Andhra Pradesh government chipped in with ₹4.5 crore separately. An MP gets ₹5 crore a year as MPLAD funds and this is one village we are talking about. Some constituencies have an upward of 3,000 villages. As an MP, picking just eight villages (till 2024) and spending a chunk of your annual development money on those is just plain bad politics. It’ll lead to widespread resentment among constituents from other villages because they are quite aware that MPs can spend money from their funds to develop projects across the constituency. The MPLAD funds need to be spread out throughout the constituency to keep people happy and voting for you.
The reluctance to adopt might also stem from the fact that there is little administrative follow-up after villages are identified. The PM might have diligently chosen three villages, meticulously planned out projects there according to what his constituents need and made efforts to turn his adopted villages into model villages. But it all depends on how well the follow-up from the state government of Uttar Pradesh is to implement these multiple projects. If the state government stops showing interest in these model villages, MPs will also lose interest in adopting and transforming more villages.
The SAGY might have been launched with epic fanfare but because of poor planning and just plain ill-thought-out policy framework, it’s failing miserably. No matter how much more money you throw at it now, it will not work.
The website of this scheme kinda proves my point.
This is the first piece in a series looking at some of the top schemes and programmes launched by the current Bharatiya Janata Party government and how they have fared.