Mahatma Gandhi was a strong believer in the importance of local self-government and believed that every village must be strongly empowered to deal with local issues. Today, Gujarat is taking concrete steps towards fulfilling Bapu’s dream by making local self-government more effective. Under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modi, the Gujarat Government has ushered in a paradigm shift in the development of the state’s villages.
Sometimes, village elections can be acrimonious and the ensuing bitterness can lead to impediments in development works. In order to prevent such obstacles the government identified a need to build a consensus around development. The Government of Gujarat, with its motto of ‘Sauno Saath, Sauno Vikas,’ understands the importance of teamwork and consensus well. As an extension of its philosophy, the Government of Gujarat launched the Samras Gram Yojana.
Under this initiative, villages, which select a Sarpanch by consensus, receive monetary rewards and encouragement. Samras Villages receive Rs. 1.5 lakh and those villages with all-women Panchayat are awarded Rs. 3 lakh. Further, Rs 5 lakh are awarded to villages, with more than five thousand population that have all-women Panchayat. In 2012, there were almost 3700 Samras villages in the state and they received monetary benefits worth Rs.2306.4 lakh from the government. Samras villages have proven to be a boon for the Rural Development of Gujarat, for, when the entire village reposes confidence on a unanimously selected panchayat, the elected body is more reliable and functions with greater enthusiasm. When a local body is elected with such a consensus, even the level of responsibility towards delivering good governance at the village level recieves an impetus.
During his speech at a felicitation of Samras villages, Shri Modi stressed upon the need to complement the entire village for its ability to agree on a candidate. He said, “There must be other, equally strong candidates in a village. However, for the development of the village, faith is reposed in a single candidate. The entire village should be praised for this.”
The shift towards Samras villages points towards a broader consensus among the people, a consensus on development. The Government of Gujarat under the visionary leadership of Shri Modi has brought about this change in attitude. Be it the Jyotigram Yojana, Garib Kalyan Mela, Krishi Mahotsav or the Aapno Taluko Vibrant Taluko (ATVT) Initiative the government of Gujarat has made concrete efforts to improve the rural economy and the living standards of people residing in villages.
Government efforts have transformed general rhetoric, especially when it comes to rural development. Earlier, when a Sarpanch spent even 1 lakh rupees on development works, the village discussed it for generations. Today, the Government regularly allocates 2-3 lakhs Rs to villages for development works. Moreover, under the ATVT Initiative, almost 800-1000 cr have been sanctioned for Talukas across Gujarat.
Speaking at functions to felicitate the Samras villages Shri Modi highlighted this change, “Earlier villages elected rich people as village-heads because they could provide adequate hospitality to visitors. Development was never an issue during the election of a sarpanch. Now to manage the village administration one has to look after quite a few development related activities and one has to dedicate time. I feel that now that sarpanch are chosen through consensus they will be able to do this effectively.”
Additionally, the Samras Gram Yojana has fostered women’s leadership in villages. There are many villages, which, not only have a woman sarpanch, but all the members of the Panchayat are women. Speaking about this encouraging development Shri Modi said, “The responsibility of managing the village has been bestowed on all-women samras gram panchayats in several places. Women can take better care of general hygiene, schoolchildren’s education, nourishment, tree plantation and improved environment. They can manage funds in a better manner. Sakhi Mandals in several villages have also shown the way to get rid of debts. Transparency will come naturally to village administration.”
At an event, Shri Modi had said that Gujarat has showcased the ‘Samras Gram Panchayat concept of ‘governance through consensus’ as a finer and more successful model of democracy at the grassroots level. Shri Modi predicted that this model would ensure overall development of the villages, he said, “One has to just visualize how it would look like with no place for bickering in villages. I congratulate the people opting for such a novel model of self-governance and I am confidence that this method would change the face of villages in five years.”
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