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Saturation of welfare schemes in villages involving infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, drinking water, financial inclusion, skill development and economic opportunities is expected to be key to the central government’s rural campaign for the 2024 general elections, two people aware of the development said.
The government is optimising use of resources allocated by over 24 central ministries and departments to develop rural areas under the Mission Antyodaya. Outcomes of surveys conducted since 2017-18 help as inputs to prepare development plans at about 2.7 lakh gram panchayats (village councils), they said, requesting anonymity.
“The government is consciously trying to bridge divide between India and Bharat since May 2014,” One of them said. “As a result, about 12 crore households, mainly in villages, now have toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission, 9.6 crore free cooking gas connections are given to poor households under Ujjawala, about 45 crore persons got PM Suraksha Bima and Jeevan Jyoti yojana covers, and more than ₹2.60 lakh crore cash has been transferred to over 11.4 crore farmers under PM Kisan Samman Nidhi.”
The aim is to intensify efforts of inclusion so that no intended beneficiary is left out from these welfare schemes, a second person said. “These schemes will not only help to make India a developed nation by 2047, but also give political dividend to the incumbent,” he added.
Key schemes implemented by the department of rural development with a budget of about ₹1.58 lakh crore in ther year to March includes, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Deendayal Antyodaya Yojna-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Rural and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.
Besides that, other schemes targeted at rural India include Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (PMJAY) with a budget of ₹7,200 crore in 2023-24, ₹70,000 crore Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)/National Rural Drinking Water Mission, and SVAMITVA with a budget of ₹76 crore. Svamitva, a property survey programme, was launched in 2020 to ease registration of documents related to residential properties in rural areas.
Both saturation of schemes and then taking them to the next level is an ongoing exercise, the second person said. For example, DAY-NRLM has mobilised rural women into 8.1 million self-help groups. The government is taking this to the next stage of economic empowerment by forming bigger producer enterprises and providing them capital, technology, branding and marketing support to tap consumer markets.
The Panchayati Raj ministry is determined to create 20 million lakhapati didis (millionaire women entrepreneurs) ahead of the cut off time and meet build 30 million new houses under the PM Awas Yojna.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a vision of empowering women to help them earn at least ₹10,000 every month. Our target is March 2024, but we are confident we can do this much ahead of the cut-off date,” Panchayati Raj minister Giriraj Singh said.
The lakhapati didi scheme piloted by the ministry is aimed at providing skill training to women and connecting them with SHGs to make them financially independent. It was announced by Modi during his Independence Day address. The panchayats or village councils are seen as a key agency to implement rural welfare programmes.
The ministry has been focusing on the implementation of schemes in a timely manner and two focus areas are to fulfil the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) identified by the United Nations and saturation of the Svamitva scheme, Singh said.
“Meeting the SDG goals is one priority area for us and the second is to ensure the saturation of the Svamitva scheme, under which digital mapping of villages and homes is being carried out using drone and technology,” the minister said. Some of the SDGs include eradication of malnutrition and female foeticide; reducing maternal mortality rate; ensuring access to amenities, housing; and skill training and employment opportunities.
After the success of the aspirational district programme catering to about 250 million people in 112 underdeveloped districts, the government launched the aspirational blocks programme for rural India on January 7, which aims to improve governance at the subdistricts to improve quality of life of citizens. It is being implemented in 500 blocks across 329 districts.
Underscoring the importance of inclusive development, Modi on September 30 said: “Resources should be distributed equally with a special focus on the needy areas.”
The government has the institutional mechanism in panchayats to push its rural welfare schemes, the second person said, adding that the ministry is strengthening the system. Empowering Panchayati Raj institutions has been a priority area for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. At its national executive meeting in Goa in 2022, the party passed a resolution to empower these institutions and urged the union government to bring in a new law to ensure effective and speedy devolution of financial and administrative powers to panchayats.
Panchayats have become a part of the democratic system since the 1950s, the resolution said. Taking a swipe at the Congress for not caring to make them effective instruments of grassroots governance and participative developments, the resolution said in most states, elections to panchayats were either not held for years or when held, they were routinely superseded by the bureaucracy to serve partisan ends of the ruling party.
In August, at the Zila Panchayat Members’ Conference, Modi instructed the members of the BJP’s district councils to ensure that the government’s intent of “sabka saath, sabka vikas (development for all)” is not merely a slogan but a guiding principle.
Smriti covers an intersection of politics and governance. Having spent over a decade in journalism, she combines old fashioned leg work with modern story telling tools.
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