Mera Gaon Mera Desh
Last year on August 15, Narendra Modi, the first ever Prime Minister to be born after Independence gave a historic speech at the Red Fort, one that left the entire country engulfed in a sense of euphoria. The speech still continues to inspire and captivate the minds of all citizens. Every word he spoke resonated with his vision for our future, action for present connected with our glorious past.
The PM articulated his vision as ‘Pradhan Sevak’ to realise our country’s vast potential. The PM is acutely aware that nation building is has its roots in the village. In his words, “If we have to build a nation, we should start from the village.” The PM urged every member of Parliament to be an agent of change in rural areas by participating in Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) and adopt a village to improve its quality of life thereby establishing a model village.
Thereafter, the SAGY was officially launched by the PM on October 11, 2014 commemorating Loknayak Jaiprakash Narayan’s birth anniversary. Being a city MP, I adopted Charoti, a tribal village with a population of 4,700 situated in Palghar district in Maharashtra. I chose this because Over 60% of population here lives below poverty line. I wanted to make a difference where it matters the most.
My family comes from a backward region of Marathwada in Maharashtra so I have seen poverty and a lack of basic amenities from close. I am the first member of my family to be born and brought up in Mumbai. Even as a child, I visited many villages and saw the reality of rural India, socio-economic conditions, the life people led. I saw it my native village too. So, very early on in life, I truly understood the actual urban-rural divide. The PM’s SAGY dream gave me an opportunity to actually do something worthwhile for rural India.
Barely 70-80 kms from Mumbaithe country’s financial capital and one of the leading world cities, Charoti reminds me of a village featured in Bimal Roy’s classic Do Bigha Zameen. Here I saw how the villagers had to struggle even for the basic necessities of life. I was faced with the harsh reality of the haves and have-nots. The facilities that we the urban citizens take them for granted were glaringly absent in Charoti. It also made me realise that a sense of entitlement of basic facilities sharply varies from urban areas to rural areas. The villagers’ lack of awareness regarding the government schemes and initiatives further compounded the problem of under-development.
A lot of my time initially was spent in understanding Charoti’s demographic profile, socio-economic conditions and identifying the problems and challenges that prevented its progress.I summoned a meeting in the village where after a long time all the villagers and concerned officials gathered together on one platform. After listening to their demands and grievances, it was apparent to me that almost all the issues were related to Zila Parishad and Gram Panchayat who are responsible for providing basic facilities and undertaking development activities.
The SAGY, as envisioned by the PM, is an opportunity for me to demonstrate how the government machinery can be efficiently utilized in uplifting the lives of the villagers thereby empowering them with urban amenities. I want to share three examples of development that I personally supervised and collaborated on with Gram Panchayat members.
During my visits to Charoti, I met Manki Harichandra Dhapshi and his family who, much to my amazement never had an electricity connection in their house. Electricity was a luxury for them. Thereafter, I ensured that four solar home lighting lamps were provided to the family. They were thrilled! Their joy at getting electricity made me happy. The darkness they had to live with it for a long time in their house was now replaced with a ray of light.
Then there was Vilas Ganpat Matera who had no toilet facility in his house. he wasn’t the only one; over 160 households in Charoti lacked toilet facilities. The women, in particular, face a lot of hardships due to the absence of toilets—their health suffers and the social inconvenience of using the fields as a toilet makes them hesitant to eat well or drink water. As a woman MP I could empathise with them. I am personally determined to implement Swacch Bharat Abhiyan in Charoti. All toilet facilities will be constructed within few months. As a matter of fact, 80 toilets are expected to be ready by the end of May, 2015.
The village is spread out in ten blocks with four schools. There is a lot of enthusiasm for children to learn. But the dropout rates are high due to connectivity issues between two blocks separated by water bodies, lack of toilet facilities in the schools, drinking water facilities and poor attendance of the teachers. We have already commenced a work order to build a crossover bridge and cycle distribution for students will start after the school reopens. And a workshop for teachers.This will ensure the will to learn and dropout rates will be reduced considerably in the village.
A series of measures have been undertaken to boost the quality of life in Charoti. I want to instill a sense of adventure in the minds of children by encouraging them to undertake sporting activities so a basketball court will be set up in Charoti. Skill development initiatives in the village are being planned in the form of the customised training and development programme for the youth and a proposal to set up a garment stitching unit exclusively for women. For this purpose, a computer centre will be established in Charoti through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives for which course material will be provided for the same.A library will be set up to encourage children to develop reading habits.
Children who want to study further will be identified and sent to tribal schools where they will be provided free education till grade 12. The main school in Charoti has been painted where seven solar street lights have been installed recently after several years of darkness. For safety and security, 49 areas in the village have been identified to install solar street lighting facilities. 150 households have been identified for provision of solar home lighting lamps so that this Diwali they won’t be celebrating in the dark.
In order to increase awareness about state and government schemes in Charoti, I prepared a brochure in Marathi language summarizing their details and benefits.In Maharashtra for the first time with all the stakeholders a detailed survey is being conducted and a village development plan is ready which includes infrastructure, water, sanitation, education, healthcare, electricity, sports facilities, etc. The plan will be uploaded on my website on the first week of June.
In India there are 6,40,930 villages. On the other hand there are 43,662 villages in the state of Maharashtra. The success on one model village can have a multiplier effect all over the district, state and the country. Model villages can inspire other villages to emulate their model of local development and standards of living can be enhanced significantly in a short period of time.
SAGY can bridge the urban-rural divide. In fact, smart city can acquire a new dimension if SAGY enables better connectivity between villages and a city. It is disheartening to note that Charoti, so close to Mumbai, is unable to reap the benefits of the city’s economic growth. I intend to correct this anomaly.
The experience while visiting the village and interacting with the people of Charoti has been very humbling for me at a personal level. Millions of people in our country are unable to subsist themselves with basic needs. This has strengthened my resolve to remove the sorrows and bring more smiles on the faces of the people of Charoti.
This young nation blessed to have world’s largest youth population of 36 crore is aspiring to be a superpower. The youth does not only live in urban areas. Majority of the youngsters reside in rural areas. Their future is also this nation’s future. They equally deserve to be empowered.
Through SAGY the objective of nation building has been firmly embedded. I am sure all of us MPs can play the role of a catalyst to enable holistic development of villages in India. With sheer determination and commitment, MPs in collaboration with government officials can transform the fortunes of the village.