Task cut out: Cutting across party lines, six of the seven Rajya Sabha members representing Punjab have adopted a village each that they plan to develop and empower. Hindustan Times shares their reasons for choosing their model village and how they plan to resolve important issues such as safe drinking water, electricity supply to all households, construction of roads and streets, proper sewage disposal and better schools.
Set for total makeover
Naresh Gujral 66
Party: Shiromani Akali Dal
Village adopted: Dheena, 2 km from Jalandhar Cantt, represented by SAD MLA Pargat Singh.
Why: Gujral says 70% of Dheena’s population belongs to the Scheduled Castes. Before selecting Dheena, his team surveyed six villages and found Dheena the most economically backward. “As the scheme focuses on all-round infrastructure development along with emphasis on gender equality, women’s empowerment, social justice and cleanliness will be my priorities. Piped drinking water, electricity supply to all households, telecom and broadband connectivity, including CCTVs in public areas, will make Dheena a role model for other villages,” he says.
Wishlist: Sarpanch Balwant Rai, 45, who is a postgraduate in political science, is grateful but quick to put up the village wishlist. “Nearly 300 residents of our village don’t have a toilet in their house. We need a proper drainage system. Villagers want a dispensary and the only middle school should be maintained and upgraded. We have no place for the panchayat either,” he says.
Underprivileged to privileged
Ashwani Kumar 62
Village adopted: Hardo Bathwala (Gurdaspur)
Population: 3,500 (estimated)
Why: Kumar says he chose Hardo Bathwala because it’s one of the most backward villages of Gurdaspur assembly segment. Most residents are labourers. “I want to ensure its overall development through the Adarsh Gram scheme,” he says.
Wishlist: Sarpanch Darshna Devi says her village needs clean drinking water and proper sewage disposal. “The three ‘chappars’ (ponds) of the village need cleaning up at the earliest. Villagers want pucca roads and streetlights. We will work for proper sanitation,” she says.
Biogas to power change
Avinash Rai Khanna 54
Village adopted: Adamwal, 5 km from Hoshiarpur
Why: Khanna says he chose the village on the outskirts of Hoshiarpur city because it lacks basic amenities. “This village has a population of different castes and communities. The panchayat members have a positive approach and the zeal to work,” he says. His plans include setting up biogas units to make the village self-reliant in cooking gas besides making it cow dung-free. He wants to promote solar energy to save fuel and reduce expenditure. “I hope to make the village litigation-free by solving all disputes at the panchayat level,” he adds.
Wishlist: Sarpanch Satvir Singh says there is an urgent need for a sewage and drainage system in the village. Streets need to be recarpeted, the high school upgraded and a community centre built.
Development over politics
Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa 78
Party: Shiromani Akali Dal
Village adopted: Gulhari, 75 km from Sangrur
Population: 3,300 (estimated)
Why: Dhindsa chose Gulhari as he got the highest number of votes from the village in the May elections. The village of Chaudharys or Jats, where Haryanvi culture is apparent, has remained a victim of political negligence. The village falls in the Lehragaga assembly segment, which is represented by former Punjab chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. “This village is backward and needs intervention to ensure safe drinking water, construction of streets, sewage disposal and upgraded schools,” he says.
Wishlist: Though the villagers have a long list of demands, sarpanch Palli Ram, 40, says the MP should take immediate steps for the appointment of teachers in the government middle school. A separate building for the anganwadi, separate school for girls, the appointment of doctors in the community health centre besides cleaning of village ponds are on the wishlist.
Sanitation and women empowerment
Ambika Soni 72
Village adopted: Ghanauli, 10 km from Rupnagar on national highway 21
Why: Soni says she chose Ghanauli for the strong presence of Çongress cadres who can work for her there. Developing link roads, rural sanitation and micro financing to empower women will be her priorities.
Wishlist: Ghanauli sarpanch Jaspal Kaur was surprised to hear of Soni’s choice but was quick to add the villagers’ wishlist: “We lack sewage disposal and sanitation here. Link roads need a revamp.”
Problems aplenty, solutions awaited
Balwinder Singh Bhunder 70
Party: Shiromani Akali Dal
Village adopted: Kot Dharmu, 13 km from Mansa town.
Why: Bhunder says Kot Dharmu has problems that are common to all villages. “But we will set an example by solving these problems and show the way to others,” he adds.
Wishlist: Akali-backed sarpanch Chaminder Singh says, “We need to construct new roads. There are plenty of problems, including the sewerage system. We hope our problems will be solved now.”
Kamaldeep Singh Brar
Undecided but already on the job
Manohar Singh Gill 78
Village adopted: Not yet decided.
Why: Gill, a former union minister, says, “I have already been working for education, particularly girls’ schools, in the Tarn Taran area. My MP local area development fund is mostly meant for villages and their uplift.” Though he recounts his achievements in detail, he hasn’t set sights on adopting any one village under the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana yet.