Grama Jyothy – A Community Movement

By: Vanam Jwala Narasimha Rao 

[The writer is CPRO to Telangana CM]

After meticulous design and planning followed by different stages of implementation of various flagship programs and prestigious schemes like Mission Kakatiya, Drinking Water Project, Haritaharam, Power Projects, Single Window Industrial Policy, Housing for Poor, Land Purchase, Swachh Hyderabad, Aasara pensions, Kalyana Laxmi, Shadi Mubarak etc, Telangana State Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao has conceived yet another unique Community Up-Keeping Program all over the state aiming at development of 10, 000 and odd villages including Tandas. As part of this, every village will receive an amount ranging from Rs. 2 Crores to Rs. 5 Crores. Known as Grama Jyothy, to be formally announced on 15th of August 2015 and to be launched on 17th of August, an amount of Rs. 25, 000 Crores would be spent on integrated and comprehensive development of rural areas in the next five years. It will be a weeklong event up to August 24 when officials and elected public representatives will visit villages to prepare plans for development with the participation of people.

Towards “plan your village and clean your village” concept as part of this and to begin with, the Chief Minister desires that each and every elected representative-MP, MLA, MLC-should adopt one village in their respective constituency and make it a model village. In addition, several district level officers right from Collector, Superintendent of Police down the MRO and MDO etc. in the role of Change Agents will take lead in the village development. They will help in constituting village level committees. The threshold will be up-keeping of the village wherein the village Serpanch will be exposed to Gram Sabha and the entire activity would be made as development centric. Grama Jyothy will be followed by Pattana Jyothy with the same objective in urban areas.

Elaborating the details and towards chalking out an action plan as well as to discuss the modalities of implementation of the programme, a conference of District Collectors, Joint Collectors, Superintendents of Police and Departmental Heads was convened on 30th July 2015 wherein the Chief Minister recalled the days that followed immediately after independence when Jawaharlal Nehru was first Prime Minister of India and SK Dey was India’s first Union Cabinet Minister for cooperation and Panchayat Raj. CM remembered Dey as the one who pioneered and steered community development in independent India and who believed that democracy means grassroots democracy. The Chief Minister touched upon several interesting aspects on Panchayat Raj, community development and cooperative institutions in his remarks in the conference and the need to emulate from that experience.

In India the two most important movements are Panchayat Raj and cooperative. These have been deliberately politicized and subjected to annihilation. Though 73rd Constitutional Amendment enumerates powers and functions of Panchayat Raj Institutions, in most of the states the desired results could not be achieved. It is meaningful to discuss the whole aspect with an objective to bring back the movement. In this context it is appropriate to refer to the Eisenhower-Jawaharlal Nehru meeting in USA during the days of first five year plan and SK Dey’s introduction to Nehru by Eisenhower. Dey was in charge of Rural America affairs at that time and Eisenhower was all praise for his work. After a luncheon discussion with Dey and mentioning that he is proud of him, Nehru invited Dey to return to India and take part in its development. Expressing his reservation on the First Five Year Plan priorities which had emphasis on industrial development, Dey politely deferred his decision to come back to India. He further suggested to Nehru that instead of taking forward the country with support from foreign technical knowhow, he should concentrate on distribution of Lakhs of acres of waste land to rural poor, give top priority for education and literacy and eradicate un-touchability.

On his return from US visit, Nehru called for a full-fledged cabinet meeting first and later Congress Working Committee and All India Congress Committee meetings, where he discussed at length the suggestions of Dey. This paved way for deviation in the subsequent plans. More emphasis on irrigation projects and public sector undertakings started emerging. “Temples of Modern India” was how they were named by Nehru. SK Dey on knowing these developments returned back to India and Nehru made him Member of Rajya Sabha and then as Union Cabinet Minister for Cooperation and Panchayat Raj. Dey’s commitment to developing grassroots democracy prompted Nehru to hand over the reins of Rural Development. As minister his pet project was the Community Development Program. Dey as minister spent considerable amount of time in National Institute of Rural Development in Hyderabad from where he steered Panchayat Raj movement. The first Panchayat Raj was formed in Shadnagar, Mahaboobnagar district by Jawaharlal Nehru on the auspicious day VijayDashami on October 14, 1959.

Against this background and history of community development program in India, sheer politicization has come in its place according to Chief Minister Chandrashekhar Rao. Seven decades of independence has not brought much change in the Panchayat Raj system. Is it possible to bring drastic change in the system with village as a basic unit? Can we imbibe the system with more concerted efforts? Unfortunately Serpanch who should think of his or her village development seldom stays in the village. Mandal Parishath President who has to concentrate on entire mandal area hardly visits even mandal headquarters. ZPTC member should be a link between mandal and Zillah Parishath. There is no proper devolution. Villages like Gangidevipally in Warangal District, Ankapally in Nizamabad District and Mulkanoor in Karimnagar District which excelled in rural and cooperative development should become the models and the best practices for others. When development is possible in these three villages why not others emulate from them?

It is time to take a pledge to do something for the village where we live. Let permanent assets be created. Unfortunately every village, wherever we go, resembles as one which does not belong to anyone. How to overcome this? In what manner we need to involve people? People who as individuals are very strong and as a team and society very week, need to be inculcated the habit of planning their village. CM told the Collectors that they should educate Serpanch, MPTC and ZPTC member and Mandal President about planning and how to plan the expenditure of their budget. They should also be told the benefits of collective strength. This would enable the Serpanch and others to do good job for their villages. Insisting that it should be a people’s program where the Government will only support administratively and financially, the CM told the Collectors and others that if it is otherwise the program would fail.

73rd Amendment also provides for a Gram Sabha in each village exercising such powers and performing such functions at the village level as the Legislature of a State may provide by law. The Chief Minister says that very individual in the village should participate in the Gram Sabha during the week. The Gram Sabha should also take place with the participation of all public representatives. Minister from the district, ZP Chairperson, MP, MLA and MLC should be part of the Gram Sabha. They should draw up plans for development over the next five years after they are discussed widely. Apart from preparation of plans, people should also take part in hygiene and sanitation drive, removal of debris and closure of old wells. Expressing concern over non-development of villages despite spending thousands of crores of rupees, Chief Minister exhorted the people to participate in Grama Jyothy programme actively to bring about complete change and rapid development in villages.

Grama Jyothy belongs to all. It shall not be a mere individual’s effort but shall be a collective effort with participation of all individuals. The villagers ultimately decide the priorities of their village. When the whole village moves anything is possible.

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