Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced early last year with much fanfare that he had adopted a fourth village in his Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency for all round development. Seeking to lead by example, he had exhorted all the 790 MPs of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to do the same.
Curiously, however, the Prime Minister does not seem to have utilised even a paisa of his MPLAD fund on any of the four villages adopted by him. Each Member of Parliament can identify projects worth Rupees five Crore every year under the MPLAD scheme in his or her constituency. But if a RTI reply is to be believed, a lot of work may have been done in the villages adopted by the PM but not a paisa from his allotted fund has been used.
On October 11, 2014, the PM had launched the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) with the objective of creating model villages in different parts of the country with special focus on enabling every poor household to come out of poverty. The guidelines said that each MP, both from the Lok Sabha (545 MPs) and the Rajya Sabha (245 MPs, including the nominated MPs) would identify a Gram Sabha to be taken up immediately and two Gram Sabhas a little later for development as Adarsh Grams by March 2019.
Sometime in 2018, the Prime Minister announced that three villages were too little for him and that he had adopted a fourth village, urging fellow MPs to do the same. After adopting Jayapur, Nagepur and Kakarhia villages, the PM also adopted Domari village on the banks of Ganga as model villages for holistic development.
This prompted the Union Rural Development ministry in May last year to amend its guidelines by stating that, “The MP, if he/she so desires, may take up more than three Gram Panchayats for development as Adarsh Grams by 2019.”
This was a rather ambitious move for a scheme that has seen only modest progress with a total of 1448 villages being adopted so far, against the 2370 villages which should have been adopted by March 2019, given that there are 790 MPs in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha together and each of them is supposed to adopt three villages by March next year. “PM chose to lead by example, and hopes that other MPs would follow him,” an official of Rural Development ministry had then remarked.
However, in reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query posed by Anuj Verma from Kannauj, the District Rural Development department of Varanasi stated on June 30, 2018 that “No work has been undertaken in any of the four villages from the Prime Minister’s MPLADS funds.”
Anuj Verma had asked: “Kindly give the following information concerning the villages adopted by the Prime Minister: (a) The date on which each of the villages were adopted; details of development work undertaken from the Prime Minister’s MPLADS funds.”
The accompanying column stated: “Reply: So far four villages have been adopted by the Prime Minister in Varanasi district under the SAGY scheme whose names and dates of adoption are as follows:
1. Jayapur: 07.11.2014;
2. Nagepur: 16.02.2016;
3. Kakhariya: 23.10.2017
4. Domri: 06.04.2018.
B. No work has been done in the above-mentioned villages from the Prime Minister’s MPLADS scheme.
The signatory to this information is Director Projects, District Rural Development Authority, Varanasi.
Not many MPs took the Prime Minister’s initiative seriously and according to one news report, only four other BJP MPs, Udit Raj from Delhi, Chandu Lal Sahu from Chhattisgarh, Ravindra Khushwaha and Hari Narayan Rajbhar from Uttar Pradesh, came forward to adopt a fourth village as well in their respective constituencies.
Even the initial directive of the Prime Minister to adopt three villages has not yet been fully complied with and of the 790 only 202 MPs, according to the latest figures, adopted three villages, besides the five MPs who have adopted four villages.
These 202 MPs included Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, BJP leader Bhupender Yadav, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and important BJP allies such as ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
Interestingly, leaders of the Congress party such as AK Antony and Motilal Vora too have adopted three villages apiece under the scheme. In West Bengal only two MPs one from BJP, Babul Supriyo and the other Bijoy Chandra Burman from Trinamool Congress adopted three villages.