All is not well in the two villages adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi under his flagship rural development project, the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna. Both lie in Modi’s constituency of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
The sarpanch of Jayapur village, which Modi adopted last November, said that the infrastructure erected hastily during the village’s first few months in the spotlight was falling apart. In Nagepur village, which Modi adopted in February, the sarpanch has accused the prime minister’s representative of trying to fool villagers.
Poor quality construction
“For several months after being adopted by the Prime Minister, Jayapur seemed to remain the focal point of the district administration,” said sarpanch Narayan Patel. “Work began on village roads, a large number of toilets were fitted under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and solar lamps were installed to provide light.”
But in less than two years, most of these projects have crumbled. The village roads have developed potholes as they were paved in a hurry, and the condition of most toilets is so bad that they are not fit for use.
“Not more than 20% of over 400 toilets built in the village are usable, and a large number of villagers are still defecating in the open,” said Rajnath Mishra, a retired agricultural scientist, who lives in Jayapur village. “It’s the same situation with solar lamps and other projects that came under Modi’s name.”
Jayapur has also seen a power tussle between its elected local body representatives and a new village committee formed at the behest of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which tried to subsume the powers of the sarpanch.
The situation worsened last October, when, just as the preparation for the panchayat elections began, the committee sought to replicate in Jayapur Gujarat’s Samras village concept, under which a village chooses its sarpanch by drawing lots instead of through elections.
Narayan Patel refused to obey the committee’s diktat and filed his nomination for the panchayat election. “Though I won, these people continued to conspire against me,” he said.
The division is now so deep that the atmosphere in Jayapur village has been completely vitiated.
On July 1, Patel and his sons were arrested in connection with an altercation between two groups of villagers in which two people were injured, and got bail only three weeks later.
Patel said neither he nor his sons were near the site of the fight, which took place on May 27. “Even though none of my family members were present at the spot, my rivals put the names of me and my two sons in the FIR,” he said.
“You can see the result,” said Patel. “They implicated me and my two sons in a brawl we had nothing to do with…All this is happening because they could not defeat me in the election.”
But Arvind Kumar Singh, the coordinator of the RSS-backed committee, said Patel and his sons were responsible for the brawl. “Why is he making a fuss?” asked Singh. “If he is innocent, he will get discharged by the court.”
Retired agricultural scientist Mishra also points to the fact that agriculture has declined in the village after Modi took it under his wing.
“Till two years back this village was known for its innovative farming,” said Mishra. “But once it was adopted by Modi and expectations went up, agriculture became a casualty. Many young farmers saw in this drama a way to make quick money. They became contractors and started neglecting agriculture.”
He added: “Now the situation is so bad that a large number of fields are lying fallow in the village.”
Aware of the problems in Jayapur, the residents of Nagepur village are being vigilant.
But months after Modi adopted this village, Parasnath Rajbhar, its sarpanch, accused CR Patil – the MP from Navsari in Gujarat, who is considered to be extremely close to Modi and is his representative in the village – of bypassing elected officials.
“Soon after Nagepur was adopted, CR Patil came to the village and promised to build 435 toilets,” said Rajbhar. “But instead of getting the work done through the elected representatives, he started getting fiber toilets installed through some members of the Bharatiya Janata Party."
Rajbhar added: “I was told to certify the completed works.”
Tension started building between the sarpanch and Patil within months.
“Two months ago, they asked me to certify the installation of 153 toilets, but I refused,” said Rajbhar. “Nearly one-third of them are only pits with no structure above them. Most other toilets are also not usable because the structures over pits are very weak, and villagers fear if they go inside they would fall on them. Why should I be responsible for the mess these people have created?”
With the sarpanch digging his heels in, all work related to the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna in Nagepur is on hold and seems unlikely to restart anytime soon.
“Around mid-July, CR Patil came and talked to me,” said Rajbhar. “I told him that as the sarpanch of the village I cannot certify something that is not good in quality. He promised to look into the matter. But nothing has happened so far.”