Two ‘Model’ Villages in PM Modi’s Varanasi and a Race Against Time
By the year 2019, three villages in Varanasi will meet the ‘model’, or ‘adarsh’ village status; Or at least that is what was promised when they were adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In November 2014, a month after the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana was launched, the first village, Jayapur in Varanasi district, was adopted. This was followed by the Nagepur village in the same district in March 2016. The third village, Kakrahia, was adopted in mid-July 2017.
So how are these villages in the PM’s home constituency faring? The Quint visited Jayapur and Nagepur villages to check if the goals outlined had tick marks against them.
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Was the Deadline to Develop Jayapur by 2016 Met?
The Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana vows holistic development of the villages, with a focus on physical and institutional infrastructure. The scheme also calls for integrated development across the sectors of agriculture, health, education, sanitation, environment and livelihood.
Of the three villages, Jayapur was scheduled to attain the ‘model village’ tag by 2016.
The entry to the village is marked by a bus stop. There are posters of PM Modi everywhere. Locals here are used to the presence of media personnel, who have been regular visitors to Jayapur ever since the PM adopted the village.
As per official sources, Jayapur has a population of 4,200, who live in approximately 650 houses in the area. Some of these houses are home to up to three or four families. The Quint asked residents about the standards of basic amenities like health, education and sanitation to understand whether life at the village had really changed. "After Modi adopted the village, two banks were constructed. Now, we don't need to travel to adjacent villages for bank work. We have a post office here, too. The village gets electricity through solar panels and Jal Nigam (water board) pipes are currently being laid," Shiv Prakash, a 48-year-old farmer, told The Quint.
The 550-odd government-constructed toilets in the village are used by all – save for a few washrooms that were under repair.
However, some areas leave much to be desired. Jayapur is yet to get a working hospital, a school for girls, a co-educational school above Class 5 and a drainage system. Parents here say they are reluctant to send their children to the existing primary school, while the only aanganwadi in the village is in a state of disrepair.
Prakash, who has two children, says he sends his 10-year-old daughter to an English-medium private school closer to the city. “A school for girls was set up here almost three years ago, but it isn’t functional. Women have been using the classrooms to run the charkha there instead,” he says.
At the school, women sit in a grid-like fashion in big empty rooms, constantly moving their muscles to the motion of the charkha.
We spoke to a young woman, Ankita Singh, who said she manages the making of the khadi cloth at the school-turned-workshop. "Since the school is not yet functional, the village head gave the space to the women. Around 80 women work here for six hours a day and make around Rs 2,000 a month," she says.
The aanganwadi, which is in the same compound as the school, has broken windows and a dilapidated toilet. The sight of broken glass in four places of a one-room aanganwadi that is full of children is a worrying sight.
The only relief is the presence of Rekha Devi, who has been teaching in the village for nine years now. She watches the children to make sure they don’t injure themselves on the glass. "We really needed an aanganwadi here. Thankfully, this was built. Otherwise we used to teach either at people’s homes, and sometimes outside their homes too," she says.
Rekha alleges that the windows and tiles of the aanganwadi are damaged by fellow villagers. This has been happening for three years now, she says. “The damage is done time and again by people of higher castes as we are primarily a Scheduled Caste village. They are jealous that we have all these benefits,” she alleges.
Rekha says they've complained to the authorities, who, in turn, ask the villagers to take care of the situation. "We come here to teach,” she says, adding, “they can't expect us to sleep here at night, right?"
When asked about the drainage system in the village, she says: "The Jal Nigam has begun work here, but the village doesn't have a drainage system. Once there is water here, where will all of it drain out to? Something needs to be done quickly".
The Quint asked Jayapur village head, Narayan Patel, about the condition of the school. Patel said the girls’ school was not fit for use because they were waiting for five more rooms to be constructed. When asked why construction had been delayed, he said: "The company that made the five rooms has been given an estimate. When five more rooms are constructed, the school will start within the year."
When asked about the other problems like Jayapur’s lack of a working hospital, or a co-ed school for those above Class 5, he said: "Needs are innumerable. A lot has been done, but despite this, there is a lot of work still left to do”.
Patel is a BJP worker; his home is plastered with photos of BJP leaders, including one of him posing with the PM.
While Jayapur has fallen short of meeting all the goals outlined in the scheme by its 2016 deadline, it cannot be denied that some progress has been made.
In Nagepur Village, Women Cry for Means to Earn
Our next stop was Nagepur village, 15 kilometers away. The village, adopted in March 2016, is home to about 4,200 people who belong to the Scheduled Caste, officials claim. A spotless community space, marked with a bronze statue of BR Ambedkar, greets visitors to Nagepur.
When asked, locals confirmed that they were making use of the toilets that have been built by the government in the village. A bus stop and an aanganwadi were constructed in the village, locals said, adding that a Jal Nigam tank was currently under construction.
When asked about the facilities in the area, locals spoke about the lack of a school for students beyond Class 5. "Kids are dropping out after Class 5 as the village does not have a school," says Rashmi Verma, a 32-year-old who teaches at the only school in Nagepur.
Another resident lamented the lack of employment opportunities.
Poonam, who asks us to guess her age, is visibly upset as she talks about her unemployment woes. “Four women came here in 2016 and 2017 and took down our name, village, Aadhaar number and mobile number. They said they will give us work to make pickles and papads or give us sewing machines,” she says. “So what will women do to survive here until then? Women ask for work, but we aren’t given any,” says the mother of four.
"Men are forced to go to the city to make Rs 250-300 a day as there is no work here," she says. "I often travel to the city for work. There are no other options," confirms 33-year-old Vinod Kumar.
While the homes in the village are electrified, previous efforts to introduce solar energy to the residents have failed to bear fruit. In the green fields across the road from the settlements, the residents point to a bit of land where a solar energy firm had set up a plant in 2016. "The solar company came here and stayed for about 10 months. The person on whose land the solar plant was built on, had asked to be paid in exchange for the use of his land. But the company refused to pay. After 10 months, they packed up and left. The land is worth Rs 15 lakh."
The lack of a hospital in the village is another major concern. "They said the hospital will be constructed, but the work has not even begun. Everyone goes to a government hospital five kilometers away from here," a resident says.
When asked about the residents’ complaints, Panchayat head, Paras Natraj, told The Quint: "We need a school for children to study beyond Class 5. We need a hospital in Nagepur and we need drainage systems. “I have written letters to the PMO, but haven’t gotten a response yet. They came and saw some land for the hospital six months ago, but there hasn't been a follow-up since,” he alleges.
When asked about employment opportunities for women, he said there was a room close to the village bank where work like sewing and cooking is taught. "Everyone in the village knows about it. My job is done, whether or not they use these facilities. I can't help it," the head says.
Work Done, but Not Fast Enough
After visiting both villages, The Quint headed to Varanasi city to speak to BJP Varanasi district in-charge, Hansraj Vishwakarma, who BJP workers say is the official in charge of the implementation of the central government scheme in the area.
On being asked about the aanganwadi in Jayapur being repeatedly attacked, he responded: "Every village and society has its issues. We tried to speak to the people about not damaging the aanganwadi. But it was broken down due to politics during the elections".
When asked about the three-year delay in fixing the damaged aanganwadi, he said: "Budget is the problem. We asked for funds through letters to various people". When asked for copies of these letters, Vishwakarma said he did not have any. When asked about the delay in the construction of a school for girls, he said he was not aware of the issue and that he would conduct an inquiry and get back to us. This article will be updated with his response.
The Quint also asked Vishwakarma about the problems of unemployment that plague Nagepur residents like Poonam. "We will fix the issues that the locals have. We will write letters to administration and ensure benefits reach them," he said.
The Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana promises, among other things, access to basic amenities and opportunity to the residents of these villages. Despite visible progress in terms of infrastructural development, in the form of banks, post offices, water pipes and aanganwadis, both Nagepur and Jayapur have many more boxes to tick before they can rightfully claim the 'adarsh village’ tags – more so for Jayapur, which is well past its 2016 deadline.
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