“Rs 40 crores were spent on the visit of 36 central ministers, who were supposed to assess development of Rs 3 lakh”
The much hyped third edition of Back to Village programme has apparently evoked ‘disappointment’ and ‘dissatisfaction’ among the stakeholders, who have blatantly ‘rejected and boycotted’ the programme, terming it a ‘festival of hollow promises’.
Under this programme, rolled out on October 2, government officials were supposed to visit the villages to address the growing disconnect between people and the official machinery amid the pandemic, besides to assess the progress of the decisions taken up during Back to Village 1 and 2.
Sarpanchs and other elected panchayat members from different districts of Jammu and Kashmir have raised their voice against the third phase of ‘Back To Village’ programme, claiming that the officials have not backed their promises, made in the two prior editions and this year the officials have adopted unjustified behavior towards them.
A member of the panchayat in South Kashmir told The Typewriter that it was not at all useful to participate in the previous two editions. “The problems as well as the areas of scope of development, we had discussed with the officials are yet to be acted upon. They are only toying around with us”, member emphasized and added that if their problems are not heard and solved in this edition, he will not participate in any such programme in future.
Elected members of various panchayats in North Kashmir stated that the previous two editions of this programme came a cropper, as none of their grievances have been addressed till now.
“The roads in our village are shabby and the entire area has been reeling under severe shortage of drinking water. Issues were taken up with the officials during the Back to Village-I programme, but none of it has been addressed as of now,” said various sarpanches, adding that the officials during their visit took note of many issues, but nothing had happened thus far. They said that the government failed to even take feedback before launching another practice of ‘fooling’ public. They termed it an ‘exercise in futility’.
A member from one of the panchayats in Nagrota accused the government of wasting money on such programmes, maintaining that the system still works on ‘commission’ basis.
“There was a precedence of sharing certain percentage as commission with the Members of Legislative Assembly and Ministers, as told by the officers, but now since the Union Territory has been controlled by Lieutenant Governor, where does that share of percentage goes,” asked member, adding that this B2V programme was supposed to be handholding support to the rural population, but considering the approach and outcome of previous two editions, it should have been named as “Break the hands of the Village Population”.
He stated that two years back, this programme was launched with much fanfare, but even after two years, the same things are repeated and the same files are out in public.
“We have already detailed our grievances twice and now they want us to report it again third time. If we had expressed certain observations regarding health department or say education department, the files should have been submitted to the respective departments, but you can see the mockery of system, these files are biting dust in BDO office,” said member, adding that a meager amount of Rs 3 Lakh was granted for his village in the name of development, “But, Rs 40 crores were spent on the visit of 36 central ministers, who were supposed to assess development of Rs 3 lakh,” alleged the member.
He maintained that there is a zero development on the ground level, be that under previous governments or under this dispensation. “We are wretched with the approach of government officers towards our grievances. We do not want major works in the village, but there are certain basic works like revival of ration cards and these officials have even failed to deliver it as well,” said member, adding that these officers, including deputy commissioners are reluctant to work for the welfare of the people.
“For instance, they give ration at the rate of Rs 13 per kilogram, which supposed to be Rs 3 per kilogram,” said member, adding that there is no accountability among such officers.
He claimed that the money is being wasted on the programmes like Back to Village. “I am making it quite apparent that we are going to boycott this programme in future,” member said, adding that these officials are pushing villages to more backwardness.
“What is the fun of carrying such programmes, if things have to be confined to papers only,” he questioned.
Similarly, Pargwal block panchayats castigated the government for launching a programme to hoodwink and fool poor villagers.
“In the previous two editions of B2V, we have not been benefited in any way. We raised several issues during last two editions, but nothing has been done to this date,” elected members of Pargwal said and added that they have already boycotted this ‘irrelevant’ exercise, which is nothing more than ‘money minting exercise’ for government officials, because nothing productive has been done before and after it.
Members of the panchayat also questioned their accountability. “Why they are not accountable about their performance in last two years. These officers are fleecing money”, they said.
However, members of Kana charkar panchayat stated that nothing has been done during last two phases. “We are sure that third phase shall also pass without any development. These officers are befooling gullible population and every issue rose in the last two years and this year shall be confined to files and papers only,” Sarpanch told The Typewriter, adding that the officials of these 21 departments have never seen the villages after conclusion of previous two editions of B2V.
Majalta Panchayat has also boycotted B2V, claiming that the officers on visit try to suppress public and were not allowed to raise issues.
“Back to Village is mere an eye wash. On ground, it has no applicability and is total failure. The majority of the issues they had brought to the notice of the officials remain unaddressed,” said members.
Many representatives and stakeholders believe that the motive behind the move is to create an impression that the things are hunky-dory in Jammu and Kashmir. “The real intention of the government is not to give an ear to the grievances of people at the grassroots as they claim, but to try and portray that ‘normalcy’ has returned here,” said members.
It is pertinent to mention that Back to Village is inspired from Nepal, wherein it was launched in 1967-1975, as a national campaign aimed at bringing development, limited to the urban centers, to the rural populace which comprises the majority of the total population there.
Despite repeated attempts, Government spokesperson, Rohit Kansal was unavailable for comments.