Institutionalize back to village programme
A first-of-its-kind grassroots level rural outreach programme, Back to Village, was organized by the J&K government in two phases last year. The programme was held between June 20-27-2019 and November 25-30-2019 with the central theme of delivering “Good Governance and Development at people’s doorstep”. It was aimed at ensuring participatory and decentralized planning, thereby initiating developmental activities as per the wishes of people.
Focussed on empowering Panchayats halqas of the erstwhile State, the Back to Village programme directed development efforts, in rural areas, through community participation to deliver the mission of equitable development. Designated officers reached out to people in all Panchayat halqas and Gram Sabhas were held to assess their development needs. The participants were informed about welfare schemes and their feedback was sought for taking up socio-economic transformation of rural areas. 4500 senior government officers were spread out across rural areas, one officer for every Panchayat, to ensure Panchayati Raj Institutions are stabilized and made functional. The officers spent 2 days and a night in a Gram Panchayat. They took overall assessment of public services delivery and panchayat functioning – level of awareness, participation level in planning and involvement level of Sarpanchs, Panchs.
During the course of the programme, detailed discussions were held on flagship programmes and individual beneficiary oriented schemes. The officials reviewed the bottlenecks in implementation of schemes. They identified five main areas of economic potential and five major problems confronting the people in every Gram Panchayat. Also, seven urgent public demands were prioritized including major complaints regarding development deficit, gaps in service delivery.
Two economic schemes were also introduced during Back to Village programme aimed at economic upliftment of farmers and financial stability of unorganized sector workers. The landholding farmer families, under PM Kisan Yojana– a Central Sector scheme – were provided direct income support of Rs. 6,000 per year. This amount was transferred directly into their bank accounts in three equal instalments of Rs 2,000 each. A voluntary and contributory pension scheme, under Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan (PM- SYM), was introduced for the unorganized sector workers having monthly income of Rs 15,000 per month or less and belonging to the age group of 18-40 years.
According to official sources, “Each subscriber under the PM-SYM is assured to receive minimum pension of Rs 3000 per month after attaining the age of 60 years. The pension scheme will operate on 50:50 basis where prescribed age-specific contribution shall be made by the beneficiary and the matching contribution by the Central Government. The subscriber contribution ranges between Rs 55 and Rs 200 per month depending upon age.”
The way Back to Village programme was conducted created an encouraging environment for the participants and the open-air meetings increased their comfortability and confidence level. The people gained access to government machinery and welfare schemes in the most convenient way. The programme gave the inhabitants of rural areas a much-needed sense of empowerment, agency and ownership; of being able to devise and implement the development plans, in collaboration with the administration, for their respective areas. The flagship programme has sufficiently realized new possibilities, as never before, for the development process in rural areas. The follow-up action plan based upon the instruction “assessment of progress in decisions taken by the administration”, which was introduced during the second phase of back to Village, has set a significant precedence for good governance delivery.
It goes without saying that development is an evergoing and ever-changing process — that is to say, the idea of development envisaged by Back to Village programme needs to be institutionalized so that it does not become a missed opportunity.