Now, Smart Villages!
Mahatma Gandhi had once said, “The soul of India lies in her villages.” You may disagree with the statement, in a new millennium, but the Union Cabinet seems to be holding on to the vision tightly, as it cleared key proposals for rural development, from developing clusters of smart villages to additional employment, under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). Seeking to bridge the rural-urban divide and to ease the very reason, for which many people migrate and contribute to haphazard urban plummet, the government will set up 300 smart rural clusters, by 2019-20, across the country, as the Cabinet approves the Rurban Mission. This year’s Budget made an initial outlay of Rs. 5142.08 crore for the Mission, with a provision for an additional 30% funding, if the requirement be so.
The scheme of the Mission was announced earlier, probably, to replace previous government’s PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) initiative. The present Government felt that the former scheme didn’t work, as the voluntary organizations, were at the core of it.
The Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh was quoted in a related report to be saying that PURA was limited to the private sector and it failed, for having, no government participation and regulation. It was planned to run at 13 places, out of which it could not even take off at 4 and so, a need was felt to initiate the scheme, in this new format. Interestingly, besides U-turns, the Modi government has several faced this criticism of serving the same Scheme, in new format.
Based on harmonious federalism, under the mission, the State Governments would identify the clusters to be developed, as smart. The clusters will be contiguous chunks of Gram Panchayats, with population, of about 25000 to 50000, in plains and at coasts and with population of about 5000 to 15000, in desert, hilly or tribal areas.
In the Budget for 2014-15, the government announced this mission, with the purpose of bridging the rural-urban divide and to reduce distress migration from rural to urban areas. While announcing the scheme, FM Jaitley had cited the example of Gujarat, in this connection and understandably, this mission would follow the often referred to Gujarat Model. Similarly, the preferred mode of delivery would be mainly through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).
The Mission aims to develop these chosen clusters of rural mass, by provisioning of economic activities, developing local skills and promoting local entrepreneurship, on a sturdy base of infrastructural amenities. The Mission would create 300 smart villages, over the next 3 years, across the country, if the current plan works out well.
After the List of 98
A month after the much talked about List of 98 smart cities, now the Centre is planning to discover 300 village clusters, to develop them as smart, under its Rurban Mission. State governments will have to locate and issue notifications for these 300 clusters. However, both the Union and respective state governments will fund the project, with an estimated fund of Rs. 50-55 crore that would be required for every cluster to turn into smart. A critical gap funding of 30% has also been provisioned for.
On a related scheme of Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) that focuses on economic empowerment and employment generation in villages, it has been noted that around 690 Members of Parliament (MPs), have given their consent for adoption of villages under the scheme, while around 10% are still in a dilemma, as in, which village to pick, over the rest. There are also MPs, who belong to purely urban constituencies.
– Manu Priyam