Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh completes Lok Suraj drive early in election year
Standing barefoot at the village chaupal, a Baiga woman waited patiently for chief minister Raman Singh to solve her neighbour’s problem.
Jamuna’s wish was simple — a “patta” or title deed for a piece of land for neighbour Phoolmat, who has recently arrived with her five-member family from a nearby hill to live in the village.
More than 200 tribals of Singari village in Kabirdham district of Chhattisgarh had gathered at the chaupal, some out of curiosity to see the chief minister for the first time, and some to air their grievances.
When her turn came, Jamuna walked up to Singh, the state’s chief minister since 2003, and narrated her problem along with Phoolmat. The CM instructed the collector to provide her the patta immediately.
Singh calls this system Lok Suraj or people’s governance, which he claims is the “biggest social audit system” in India. It is an annual exercise since 2005, usually carried out in the middle of the year. But, it was advanced this year and started in January.
In poll-bound Chhattisgarh, this people’s outreach gained pace amid talks of anti-incumbency for the three-time chief minister. Singh spearheaded the campaign, which ended on Sunday.
This year’s Lok Suraj was carried out in three phases. The first involved government officials visiting each gram panchayat to collect suggestions and complaints, and address them by January. This was followed by 1,182 samadhan shivirs or camps to solve problems, where senior officials were tasked with solving slightly bigger issues.
In the final phase, the chief minister visited several villages with senior officials and reviewed the status of his government’s policies and programmes.
According to the state public relations department, Singh travelled 7,000km in 13 days and visited 31 villages across the state. At the chaupals, the aim was to solve problems on the spot.
“The impact of these visits is great. For the people, most of whom are tribals, it is an opportunity to see and meet the CM, and it also keeps us officials on our toes because no one knows which village the CM will visit,” said a senior government official, who didn’t want to be identified.
Official records say more than three million applications were received during this drive and more than 2.9 million were redressed. Among the applications raising problems, the highest at more than a million were of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, the central government’s housing scheme for the poor.
Critics alleged that the BJP government advanced the Lok Suraj this year to use the platform to gather votes. The chief minister responded that the drive helps rectify government policies and programmes.
“For me, the Lok Suraj Abhiyaan is a safety valve. People’s problems are redressed and they get satisfied that the CM himself is redressing it. I travel across the state for the people and help them address their issues, which are very local,” he said.
“We held the Vidhan Sabha session early so that the Abhiyan could be held in March. At present, our party is also running a Jan Sampark Yatra in all 90 constituencies of the state,” he said.
The Congress alleged that the chief minister was misusing government machinery and money for political purpose. “To meet people is acceptable but to use the money and machinery for political gains is unethical. The CM’s Lok Suraj is party work and he should spend party fund for this,” said TS Singhdeo, leader of the opposition in the state assembly.
The chief minister called the Congress’ allegation wrong. “I am travelling around for the people of this state. Each and every citizen knows this well. I don’t have to explain this to the Congress,” Singh said.