Large promises

Prime Minister Vajpayee is terribly interested in rural development these days. On his birthday he inaugurated Swajaldhara, a nation-wide water conservation programme, and promised a drought-stricken rural populace that every village would have water by 2004. In December 2002 he addressed and heard out a rare gathering of panchayat leaders in Delhi. There, he promised to amend the Panchayati Raj Act, enabling central funds to be directly routed to village panchayats. Moreover, he has met district rural development agency chief executives. State rural development ministers have been asked to update him on programmes. There is a plan to call a meeting of chief ministers, to ask them to take rural growth more seriously

 
Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015

-- Atal Behari Vajpayee, India's Prime Minister (pm), is terribly interested in rural development. On his birthday he inaugurated Swajaldhara, a nation-wide water conservation programme, and promised a drought-stricken rural populace that every village would have water by 2004. In December 2002 he addressed and heard out a rare gathering of panchayat leaders in Delhi. There, he promised to amend the Panchayati Raj Act, enabling central funds to be directly routed to village panchayats. Moreover, he has met district rural development agency (drda) chief executives. State rural development ministers have been asked to update him on programmes. There is a plan to call a meeting of chief ministers, to ask them to take rural growth more seriously.

Such abundantly evident interest is seriously welcome. It envisions a magnificent rural revival. Such political will, emanating from the Centre, is sure to trickle down to -- inspire -- all levels of government. And the timing is perfect: 2004 is an election year.

Consider the National Highway Development Project (nhdp), another item in the pm's package of dreams. The Prime Minister's Office (pmo) supervises it. The project faces no bureaucratic hurdles and is running ahead of schedule. It is also doubly unique: nhdp implies a completely revamped governance system, and charts a new way of ensuring development. Replacing the current system of endless co-ordination among different ministries, state departments and drda functionaries, nhdp signifies a style of development that is over-centralised and exclusively pmo-run. Henceforth, rural growth will be nothing less than a prime ministerial predilection.

The onus of implementation is now entirely upon the pm. He cannot afford to be lax. Certainly, he cannot afford to dilute his determination. For instance, he promised to get the Panchayati Raj Act amended in the winter session of Parliament, the one just gone by. It didn't happen. This has put Swajaldhara -- whose funding process connects Centre and panchayats, and so requires the Act to be amended -- on shaky ground. Such slips are unfortunate. Cynics will smirk in a told-you-so way. Intellectual terrorists are sure to seize the opportunity and point, or shake, an accusing finger at the nation's de facto leader. Rural development has many new miles to go, and cannot be put to sleep. The pm has large promises to keep.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.