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

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Union budget 'mum' on relief to marginalised communities facing climate change impact

Counterview Desk  ActionAid, an international advocacy group which claims to work for a world without poverty, patriarchy and injustice, has wondered if the Union budget 2023-24, which is being acclaimed for providing succour to the middle classes, has anything to offer to the India's poor. In a statement, it said, while the budget may have "prioritised inclusive development", the financial outlay for ensuring it "does not show the zeal as hoped." Stating that the Finance Minister said Rs 35,000 crore revenue would have to be "forgone" due to a reduction in personal income taxes, "fiscal prudence is not enough to expand public employment, social security, welfare, education and health expenditures considerably." "The need of the hour is to raise revenues through the reduction of revenues forgone and innovative mechanisms such as wealth tax on super accumulation of wealth", it added. Text: The Union Budget 2023 has given significant

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Lack of welfare schemes, BSF curbs force West Bengal farmers to migrate far away

Counteview Desk  In a representation to the National Human Rights Commission chairperson, a senior West Bengal based activist has complained that villagers living near the border with Bangladesh are forced to migrate to as far away as Mumbai and Kerala because of lack of government sensitivity towards their welfare in original villages. Giving specific instances, Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, if the Border Security Force (BSF) had not put any restriction on agricultural activities, and if villages had properly implemented welfare schemes, these people would never migrate to other States. Text: I want to attract your immediate attention to the inhumane condition of the migrated workers of Gobra village, Swarupnagar Block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal to seek your urgent intervention to protect the rights of these people. Gobra is a village situated near the Indo-Bangladesh Border where the border fencing is about 500 meters i

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen