When I heard about Government sponsored Back to Villageprogramme, I was not excited at all. In past also several such programmes wereheld especially around year 2006 -2007 when Ghulam Nabi Azad the then CM haddirected DCs and District officers to hold public durbars at tehsil level everymonth. The officers through a Government order were directed to make a nighthalt at the tehsil headquarter, but that programme didn't succeed at all. When Showkat Ahmad Bhat a Lecturer posted inGovernment Girls Higher Secondary School Charar e Sharief reached my villageGopalpora Chadoora on June 20th early morning , I initially thought theofficer's visit to our village would be a futile exercise as he was neitherfrom any administrative background nor he had enough experience about issuesrelated to rural development. But after participating in the informal sessionmeant for prominent citizens in the local Panchayat office, I developedinterest in this whole exercise. The Visiting Officer was very well versed withvillage governance, politics and rural development schemes. I believe he haddone a rigorous home-work before coming to Gopalpora. The best thing I observedin the morning 1st day meeting was better participation of local women,Anganwadi workers and Asha workers.
Two day Back to Village programme had been conceived in avery good fashion. I must congratulate the officers who have devised theprogramme by creating an activity chart for the Visiting Officer. This ishelping the officer to reach out and discuss all the issues pertaining tovillage development without wasting any time. As per the schedule the visitingofficer along with his supporting staff were supposed to hold an informalEvening Interaction with respected citizens and elders of the area. I requestedthe visiting team to have the said meeting in my house. It was very muchinteractive and energized meeting which we had hardly experienced. People whohad not been so vocal in past also raised their voice and put forward variousdemands before the Visiting Officer.
Day 2nd of Back to Village progarmme began with Deh Majlis(Gram Sabha) on June 21st . The meeting started at sharp 8 am and many peoplehad assembled around the Panchayat building at 7:30 am only. When the officialfrom Rural Development Department (RDD) read out the village plan preparedearlier, the participants raised hue and cry. They alleged that that plan wasarbitrary and was not prepared in consultation with people (Gram Sabha)? Theofficials of rural development department argued that people don't come tomeetings of Gram Sabha. But many participants including myself didn't agreewith the officials as we were never intimated about the same in past ? Isuggested for creating a whatsapp group so that in future people are intimatedabout Gram Sabha through group messaging. This suggestion was appreciated by everyone. There was indeed exchangeof hot words in this Mini Parliament, but it was a practical illustration ofparticipatory governance and rights of people which they hardly utilize. Thisactually leads to corruption in schemes like NREGA & PMAY.
If people start believing Back to Village programme willensure huge funding and execution of mega developmental works in villages, Imust tell them humbly that this won't happen. Visiting Officers are given along wish list by people which has a financial implication of at least Rs 1crore in each village. In J&K we have around 4500 village panchayats. CanGovernment afford to allocate Rs 4500 Crores or more to these villages ? Theparticipation in this programme is actually meant to ensure better governanceand transparency plus creating a village social audit . This is what welack. The kind of enthusiasm people areshowing in Back to Village programme must be capitalized. This can only happenwhen the campaign will continue even after June 27th . I would suggest suchmeetings in village be held once inevery month