A ground report from Prime Minister Modi’s adopted village is a story of an experiment gone right.
#ABillionVotes – Right on the edge of Jayapur in Varanasi, is an experiment in Indian politics. You can compare this to the most high-profile constituencies in India to this area which is called ‘Modiji Ka Atal Nagar’.
— News18 (@CNNnews18) April 24, 2019
In October 2014, Prime Minister Modi launched ‘Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana’ a rural development programme under which members of parliament ‘adopt’ villages and work towards the development of the villages. Under this scheme, each MP is required to choose one village each from the constituency that they represent, except their own village or the village of their in-laws and fix parameters and make it a model village. Under that scheme, Prime Minister Modi first adopted Jayapur, a village on the outskirts f his constituency, Varanasi.
The above report by CNNNews18 shows that over 400 toilets, 16 bio-toilets have been built, banks and ATM services have been made possible over 100 streetlights have been installed and electricity is available 24 hours. In the video, it can be seen that potable water is available from even the roadside tap, something that is not possible even in big urban cities. There has been an insurance cover for 2,500 people in the village and new classrooms are constructed in primary schools.
In Jayapur, one ‘Atal Nagar’ is also developed where the vanvasis (forest dwellers) are given pakka homes to live. Efforts are made to provide modern facilities to the poor people in the village. A Mumbai-based food processing company has contributed towards the development of ‘Atal Nagar’. Atal Nagar has 24 hour water, literacy classes, temple, garden and solar lights installed. Cottage industries are also set up to help people with employment. A resident of Atal Nagar says that he lived in a hut before PM Modi built these houses for them.
In contrasts to this, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had initially criticised the Yojana when it was launched. “Simply adopting a village is not enough, empower people, “Rahul Gandhi had said soon after the scheme was launched. However, Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi reluctantly adopted a village each in Amethi and Rae Bareli. While Sonia Gandhi adopted one ‘Udwa’ village from Jagatpur block in Rae Bareli, Rahul Gandhi has adopted ‘Deeh’ village in Jagdishpur block in Amethi. Jagdishpur was ‘industrialised’ during his father Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure as the Prime Minister.
Rahul Gandhi visited Jagdishpur,his adopted village under Sansad Aadarsh Gram Yojana and interacted with people there pic.twitter.com/4SXHDnjpsV
— Congress (@INCIndia) December 3, 2014
However, despite ‘adopting’ the villages, the MPs of these parliamentary constituencies seem to have taken them for granted. A report from 2017 during the Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections shows the dismal state of the village. In April 2017, only 19 out of the 608 households who live in Sonia Gandhi’s adopted village had a toilet. Others have to go to farms to relieve themselves. The women have to make this trip before dawn. 40 Kms away from the city Rae Bareli, Udwa had fragile tin-roofed houses where one even has to bend to enter the house. “Villagers say she has hardly visited, neither has any Congress leader inquired about their requirements,” the report from 2017 read. A report from April 3, 2018 reads that in Udwa village, the school students were found cleaning classrooms with brooms even as teachers sat there. The toilets were locked and opened only when students needed to use. There was no running water and it looked as if it was not cleaned since months.
Similar is the fate of the Jagdishpur village adopted by Rahul Gandhi. A primary school in Jagdishpur had only one teacher present. Principal’s room was filled with sacks of ration food and classrooms had heaps of coal. Students roamed about as their food was cooked in their classrooms. Nothing seems to have changed in all these years. A report from 2015 about Jagdishpur states how Rahul was critical of the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana and made sure the villagers who were pining their hopes on him for some development work knew that he is not really interested. “People were angry, there was some loose talk of burning his effigy but we shushed that up,” a farmer had said when Rahul Gandhi had dismissed the scheme after adopting the village as tokenism.
According to a news portal website ‘UttarPradesh.org’, till March 2018, the only sign of development in Rahul Gandhi’s adopted village is a water tank. That too had not started functioning till a year back. The village head had reportedly said that despite completion of almost four years of adoption of the village, there was nothing that was done for the village that sets them apart from the other villages. The hospital was at least 10 km away from the village and no work was undertaken for banks and higher educational institutes. He said that if Rahul Gandhi were to try even a little bit, the village could have undergone a transformation.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Modi in October 2018 adopted a fourth village under the scheme. After adopting Jayapur, PM Modi went on to adopt Nagapur, Kakarhia and Domari village. Similarly, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Rural Development Minister N S Tomar have each adopted three villages. BJP allies Ram Vilas Paswan and Harsimrat Kaur Badal have also adopted three villages each in their respective constituencies.