SAGY is an initiative by the Central Government of India in which honourable Members of Parliament adopt a Gram Panchayat and develop it into a model village or “Adarsh Gram.” As a SPARC (Supporting Parliamentarians in Analysis and Research in Constituency) Associate to honourable Member of Parliament Mr. Anurag Thakur from the parliamentary constituency of Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh, I am working towards developing the Anu Gram Panchayat as an “Adarsh Gram.”
I attended my first Gram Sabha of the Anu Gram Panchayat recently with great excitement and expectations. All the heads of the various line departments, including the Additional Deputy Commissioner, were present to conduct an exercise to determine the needs of the the Gram Sabha residents. As I heard the demands made by the residents with attention, I noted that most were limited to construction or repair of roads, drains, street lights, and water-pipes etc. It was interesting to see that the people in the Gram Sabha hardly raised issues of health facilities, educational quality or employment. Meanwhile, I also observed that the government officials were mostly trying to make sure that the facilities provided by their respective departments were available to the residents, the focus being only on access. The guidelines issued on SAGY by the Central Government, on the other hand, emphasized the holistic development of the Gram Panchayat including the human, social, personal and economic dimensions of village life. While heading back to the rest house after the Gram Sabha, I realized that all of us —the stakeholders— had different perceptions of what a model village should look like.
I then organised an interactive session with the elected representatives of the Gram Panchayat the very next day to bridge the perception gap. A good discussion on the needs of the Gram Panchayat and the various provisions of the SAGY scheme was the first step in bringing us on the same page. For the next four days, I walked across all the seven wards spread across the four villages of the Gram Panchayat holding interactive public discussions on the concept of Adarsh Gram with the help of the local leaders of the wards.
The interactions helped me see many different aspects and aspirations of the lives of the residents of this Gram Panchayat. For some, an Adarsh Gram meant all-weather good quality roads while for others, especially children, it meant having access to a sports facility. Many youth desired mentoring and regular educational events in the village. On a different note, few women raised the issue of gender equality. I realized that in a multi-stakeholder enterprise such as this, one has to contend with multiple view-points, often in conflict with each other. Rather than highlighting these differences, the key lies in bridging the communication and perception gaps among all the stakeholders for the sake of efficiency and harmony. Working to bridge these gaps is our first step towards making Anu an Adarsh Gram.
Written by Piyush Prakash, SPARC Associate, Swaniti Initiative