Back to basics: Mahatma Gandhi once said India lives in its villages. Sixty-seven years after Independence, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, it was a step in empowering villages by integrating the efforts of political leaders and the people. Hindustan Times caught up with MPs of the region to find out their plans for their adopted villages. We feature Lok Sabha MPs from Punjab today.
‘Adarsh bahu’ hopes to win hearts
Harsimrat Kaur Badal 48
Party: Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)
Village adopted: Mann in Lambi assembly constituency, represented by Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who is her father-in-law. Mann is 50 km from Bathinda city and about the same distance from Muktsar.
Population: 5,500 (estimated)
Why the village was chosen: Harsimrat says, “I wanted to make this village a model for the rest of Bathinda constituency. It is an ideal village with a sizeable population. I’ll demonstrate how we can nurture the rest of the villages.” Her choice has, however, raised eyebrows because the village falls in the chief minister’s constituency of Lambi and is barely 2 km from his native Badal village.
Politics behind decision: Mann village is also known for its opposition to the Badal family.
Perhaps adopting it to make it an ‘adarsh’ (model) village is an attempt to win over residents and assuage their hurt. Mann had hit the headlines after Congress and Akali workers clashed at the village polling booth during the zila parishad elections on May 19, 2013. 150 natives were booked and they all happened to be Congress supporters. The MP has adopted Mann village over more neglected ones in Mansa and Bathinda districts. Villages in Lambi have always received maximum grants from the Punjab government on the directions of the chief minister, who has held the maximum number of his ‘sangat darshan’ or public meetings there.
Not the first choice: It is learnt that a village called Warring Khera near the border with Haryana and Rajasthan was selected. Its sarpanch was even informed about the selection over phone but the decision was changed at the last minute.
Villagers’ wishlist: The Akali sarpanch of Mann village, Teja Singh, says: “We are very happy as MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal has selected our village to be developed as an ‘adarsh gram’ (model village). We will not let her down. We will work under her guidance and set an example for the other villages.” Any wishlist? It seems it’s been answered with the selection.
Kamaldeep Singh Brar
Capt pays back ‘model village’
Capt Amarinder Singh 72
Village adopted: Dhaul Kalan, 15 km from Amritsar
Population: 3,200 (estimated)
Why: Capt Amarinder Singh contested a hard-fought election against BJP’s Arun Jaitley in May. Dhaul Kalan, Capt Singh, later found played a significant role in his victory. “Among all the villages in the constituency, I got the maximum votes here. In fact, 80% of the votes polled were in my favour. How could I choose any other village?” says Congress MP. Another reason why Dhaul Kalan found pride of place with Capt Singh was that being a village of Congress sympathisers, it has not got any development grant by the SAD-BJP government.
Villagers’ wishlist: Sarpanch Dilsher Singh admits that for the past eight years, Dhaul Kalan has had a Congress-backed sarpanch. “The state government did not spend a single paisa from development funds for our village. Whatever little we got was due to the efforts of local Congress MLA Sukhbinder Sarkaria,” he says, adding that hardly any development has taken place. The sarpanch wants that the waterlogging issue be solved by laying storm water pipes. Sewage disposal should be modernised. The middle school should be upgraded and roads repaired.
Bhagwant rewards Benra’s loyalty
Bhagwant Mann 41
Party: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)
Village adopted: Benra, 30 km from Sangrur town
Why: Bhagwant Mann believes that all villages in his constituency need special attention by the government but he has chosen Benra because it is located in the heart of his Lok Sabha constituency. “I’ve visited Benra several times, before and after the elections. Being a big village, my priority will be to work for its upgrade. The government high school needs to be upgraded and so do the amenities, including streetlights,” he says.
Political reasons: Another factor that could have worked in Benra’s favour is that Mann got at least 2,000 votes of the 4,000 in this village in the Lok Sabha elections. Located on the Sangrur-Ludhiana road, Benra falls in the Dhuri assembly constituency, represented by Arvind Khanna of the Congress.
Villagers’ wishlist: Sarpanch Amarjeet Singh echoes the MP when he says, “Upgrading the high school and streetlights are our priorities. We also need a better sewerage disposal system and construction of a marriage palace.” The villagers also want an overbridge near the school on the busy Ludhiana-Sangrur road. Some even demand that the MP should pay their outstanding electricity bills!
Eye on the SC votebank
Prem Singh Chandumajra 64
Constituency: Anandpur Sahib
Village adopted: Daun, 6km from SAS Nagar
Population: 4,000 (estimated)
Why: Chandumajra says he has chosen to develop Daun as a model village as it is rooted in history yet it lacks basic amenities. “Thousands come here to celebrate Maghi Mela. Besides, it is connected with Guru Amardas and saint-soldier Baba Kharak Singh. The village lacks amenities such as potable water” he says, adding, “Daun will stand out.”
Political reason: The village has a substantial population of SCs and the MP did well from there. The village has a higher literacy rate at 85.38% as compared to Punjab’s 75.84%.
Wishlist: Sarpanch Avtar Singh says, “From drinking water supply to sanitation and from schools to the dispensary, we are hopeful that our MP will upgrade facilities here.”