Skip to main content

RTI campaigner uncovers failure of Gujarat govt's welfare schemes for the rural poor

By Our Representative
The right to information (RTI)) helpline, run by Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, recently got a strange query. One Devjibhai asked Pankti Jog, who handles the helpline, that there were four widows in his house, yet no one got any support under the housing scheme. “Did you ask officials in the panchayat has any department whether their forms were rejected, and what reason did they give you?” Jog asked him. After all, the Gujarat government had been giving full page advertisements about its great achievements under housing schemes.
“Yes, I did inquire about it. But I did not get any answer but nobody listens”, Devjibhai replied.
Devjibhai is the not the only person who inquired at the helpline about housing and other welfare schemes. "Those who inquire  generally say that they are dissatisfied with the working of the panchayat department. This is quite contrary to the state government claims about big achievements through programmes like Garib Kalyan mela, housing schemes, Vay Vandana yojana etc.", she says.
"I asked many government officials, who keep calling me on helpline for RTI guidance about what the reality was. Many of them would reply that they work less, but propagate more about their achievements,” she said, adding, "There are of course a few government officials who even deny that people in the rural areas are dissatisfied with the failure of the state government to implement rural development schemes. They even blame rural population for being greedy, wanting to take undue advantage of government schemes."
Jog's perusal into the expenses by the panchayat department during the last financial year, 2012-13, which ended in March 2013, showed that the budget estimate for Sardar Awas yojana was Rs 354.67 crore. When the guidelines were revised, the allocations were increased, and the additional allocation was made taking the total allocation to Rs 743.16 crore. Yet, interestingly, till February 2013, only 13.06 per cent of the target was achieved with an expenditure of 47.35 per cent.
For the housing of Halpatis (a community of agriculture labourers from South Gujarat, who are categorized as scheduled tribes), Rs 35 crore was estimated in the budget. But it remained unspent till February 2013. For land acquisition and infrastructural facilities for rural housing, a budget allocation of Rs 16 crore was earmarked. Of this, 56 per cent of the amount was spent. Other budget heads, like “year-marked for tribal area, purchase of vehicles”, also show an expense below 50 per cent.
Of course, expenses under certain other scheme were quite impressive. These included the Sarvoday yojana, the Panchvati yojana, the Tirthgam yojana and others, some of which showed around 75 per cent of expenditure. The Tirthgam-Pavan Gam yojana aims at providing extra funds for village infrastructure in those villages where no crimes are registered in the past five years. This was revised later to three years in order to increase the number of eligible villages. The scheme talks about “promoting” communal harmony at the village level.
"I tried looking at one of the colourful books, published by the Gujarat government, seeking to propagate the scheme. It shows pictures of temples. I kept searching for any picture of a mosque, or a church, or a dargah in order to at least provide a symbol of harmony between different religions. But I couldn’t find one", she comments in a writeup sent to www.counterview.net.
"Does that mean the villages do not have disputes? Or does it mean the disputes have not been registered? Are the rights of minorities, Dalits, and women being respected in these villages? Or are figures related to human rights violations deliberately not made public to hide real state of affairs? After all, we keep getting complaints from women about their case not being registered in police stations", .she wonders.
"There is Samras yojana, under which if a panchayat is elected unopposed, it can avail of major benefits. Does the government have any mechanism where villagers can record their voice against the pressure that may be exerted to make villages Samaras in order to ensure such benefits? Who monitors violation of rights in these panchayats, anyway?", she asks.
She says, "The Panchavati yojana is like the Vanikaran yojana, for the creation of a recreation park. It talks about how Lord Ram when, during His vanavas, enjoyed dense forests and the diversity of nature. A lumpsum amount is given to the panchayat for this. I wonder whether the officials who are architects of these schemes were asked to use a particular social symbol or personality to name the project. Or, are they aware of Gods or saints from any other religions, in case they wish to link it with particular religious symbols?"
She comments, "I realized that the schemes that have incentives for panchayat are promptly implemented. Be it Samaras yojana, or Panchvati, or Tirth-Gam. This is because the panchayat has interest in implementing them and do a follow-up. Interestingly, there are no clear guidelines about where and how this money should be utilized."
She regrets, "However, schemes offering individual benefits, like Indira Awas yojna, Sardar Awas yojna, widow pension, and so on are simply neglected. There may be several reasons for this. The first reason is, these schemes are from the socially and economically marginalized persons. In implementing these schemes, the panchayats would not get any incentives. The capacity of the communities to follow-up, argue, and register grievances is low."
"After all, it requires a plot of land to be allotted to make a house. Allotment of plots for housing requires proactive efforts by the village, the block or the district administration. There is shortage of land, there are issues of encroachments by big farmers, mining in wasteland, industries demanding wasteland, and so on", she comments. "On the other hand, getting lumpsum amount during felicitations gets huge political mileage and publicity, and the panchayats can then influence village voters, too."
Referring to a few examples in this context, she said, "Bharatbhai Ghughal and Bhanjibhai Jogel are agriculture labourers. They used RTI last year to expose huge corruption in housing schemes. The current rates of bribe go up to Rs 10,000 for a benefit of Rs 45,000. That is around 22 per cent! When they cross-checked, they found that considerable number of beneficiaries were blood relations of sarpanches or other panchayat members. In fact, the beneficiaries’ list had several names getting benefit several times over, and their houses were getting bigger every year, while there were many in the village without any house."

Comments

TRENDING

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad "declared support" to two-nation theory in 1937, followed by Jinnah three years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Hindutva founders, not Congress, were actual 'proponents' of two-nation theory

By Shamsul Islam*
No other organization, in the present world, can beat Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in double-speak. In fact, what George Orwell termed as "doublespeak" would be an understatement in the case of RSS. The latest proof of this nasty case was provided by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah, de facto Prime Minister and senior RSS leader in the Lok Sabha (akin to the House of Commons in England) on December 9, 2019.

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

Ships recycling Bill 'allows' India to be turned into a landfill for foreign hazardous waste

Counterview Desk
In a letter to M Venkaiah Naidu, chairman, Rajya Sabha, senior activist Gopal Krishna of the Toxics Watch Alliance has said that the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 should be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change to "safeguard country’s maritime environment from harmful and hazardous wastes and materials".

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Post-Balakot, danger that events might spiral out of control is 'greater, not less'

By Tapan Bose*
The fear of war in South Asia is increasing. Tensions are escalating between India and Pakistan after the Indian defence minister's announcement in August this year that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. According to some experts who are watching the situation the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.