The National Conference on Panchayati Raj and Rural Development is being held at the Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar. Over 5000 delegates representing 26 states and 4 Union Territories have joined the Conference. Shri Modi thanked the delegates and said that this Conference is like a ‘Mini-Rural India.’ He added that the idea of this conference came because of the celebrations of 50 years of Panchayati Raj. On the occasion Shri Modi paid tributes to Sardar Patel and Shri Balwantrai Mehta, the former Chief Minister of Gujarat who left a great mark in institutionalizing Panchayati Raj in India. Shri Modi expressed confidence that experts will effectively brainstorm during this Conference on ways to strengthen Panchayati Raj and Rural Development.
Recalling the vision of Mahatma Gandhi, the Chief Minister said, “Mahatma Gandhi spoke of Gram Rajya and Gram Swarajya. He spoke of health, education in villages, he dreamt of freedom from all social evils and he spoke of jobs. Had we implemented Gandhi ji’s vision in letter and spirit our villages would have gone far ahead of our cities. And if we implement it even today, no will think of going to the cities, everyone will stay in the villages.”
Shri Modi gave a comprehensive address on the steps taken by the Gujarat Government for strengthening Panchayati Raj and Rural Development. Talking about de-centralization Shri Modi said that the State Government empowered village Panchayats to take decisions upto Rs. 5 lakh on their own without seeking permissions from the higher authorities. Likewise, he gave the example of the Tribal Communities, that have touched many lives in the villages dominated by Tribal Communities. He also talked about the importance of community participation in the development of villages and gave the example of the Gujarat Government’s efforts of building schools in quake-affected Kutch to restore normalcy.
The Chief Minister talked about the Samras Gram Yojana. He said, “I became Chief Minister on 7th October 2001 and I addressed my first press conference on 11th October 2001, which was Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan’s birth anniversary. I announced two decisions- the strengthening of the Gram Sabha and the Samras Gram Yojana.” He explained that unlike in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, Panchayat Elections tend to bitterly divide villages, which is why the idea of Samras Gram Yojana originated. Recalling the mindless criticism Shri Modi said, “When we announced Samras Gram Yojana, I remember there were lot of critics who were criticizing it. They also called it undemocratic. But, with the blessings of Almighty I stuck to my stand. We said, if 51-49 is democracy, 60-40 is democracy, 80-20 is democracy why is 100-0 not democracy?” Shri Modi spoke on the women controlled Samras Grams and expressed joy at the manner in which women have become equal and active towards the development of village.
Shri Modi also talked about the Pavan Gram and Tirth Gram initiatives of the Gujarat Government. He spoke about the E-Gram Vishwa Gram Yojana and called for the integration of technology with the development journey of the villages of Gujarat. Shri Modi affirmed that Gujarat has also started the concept of animal hostels and urged the delegates to visit the animal hostel near Gandhinagar. Shri Modi shed light on the Jyotigram Yojana and also congratulated the MP Government for the Atal Jyoti Abhiyan.
The Chief Minister pointed that emphasis must be given on the cleanliness of the villages. He said, “Once I gave a slogan- Pehle Shauchalaya, Badme Devalaya (First sanitation facilities and then temples),” and spoke about the importance of creating adequate sanitation facilities for the people. Shri Modi affirmed that in the past the manufacturing sector was only reduced to the cities but this needs to change and industries, particularly cottage industries must spread to the villages. He opined that the key lay in value addition. Shri Modi further said that those revenue laws that are archaic must be changed. The Chief Minister called for infrastructural additions in rural areas.
Shri Modi gave the message that true reform is the reform of the villages and not big money or big companies. He said that the aspirations of the people of the villages are growing and it is for the government and society at large to understand and fulfill them.
Earlier, Panchayat Minister Shri Bhupendrasinh Chudasama spoke on the occasion. Development Commissioner (Panchayati Raj) in the MP Government Dr. Aruna Sharma (IAS) also spoke on the occasion. Shri Modi felicitated Sarpanchs form various parts of the country and released three book, even in the e-book format. The books Shri Modi released are, ‘Gram Vikas Se Desh Vikas- Gujarat Ke Anubhav’, ‘Anokhi Pehel’ and ‘Mahila Sashaktikaran.’ Chief Secretary Shri Varesh Sinha was present on the occasion. A short video film on Sardar Patel Statue of Unity was played on the occasion.