An Invisible Factor: Building a Model Village

Aditya Deshmukh

One of the CWC officers asked, “What are the places we have to visit?” The answer given by volunteer from Hiware Bazar stunned me for a minute. “You can’t see the unity of our village in any of the buildings. We have transformed these barren lands through mere unity. If you want to see any lifeless structures, please visit the tourist places.”

It was typical gaming scenario when I entered the model village. Trees on side of roads, a well-built primary healthcare center, a veterinary clinic, primary as well as secondary school and concrete roads connecting all these was memorizing me the scenario of PC games in which you have to build a town. Cherry upon this sweet cake was the Gram-Sansad building. It was truly full-filing the purpose of increasing the public participation in the democracy, by attractive infrastructure and facilities satisfying the needs of common villager.

hiware-bazaar-panchayat

An eye-catching building of Gram Panchayat

What made Hiware Bazar a model village can also make any village, town or nation a model for all. It’s independent of Geo-political or social boundaries. Someone might argue that money or schemes would bring in the so called ‘development’. Of course, it will be an important factor but money or schemes would not completely assure development. Otherwise, all corporate honchos or political leaders who can arrange money and schemes respectively would have developed their villages into model villages. Unfortunately we have only a few of them.

In discussions with representatives from other villages, a volunteer said, “We both have same schemes. We also get same funding as you, but the approach towards it is different. When you get single rupee from government, you think how much subsidy or how much of it will we get. On the other hand, we start with what problems do we have and how the value of a single rupee can be maximized to solve these problems for whole village. We spend every single penny only after rigorous discussion in Gram Sansad. This increases the effective value of that one rupee.” Point to be noted here is the planning procedure. Problem based expenditure has helped this village in improving the overall life standards.

According to the volunteer, “if we approach development as enforced through different schemes on someone, people will feel alienated. It will be difficult to gain confidence of the villagers and every decision will be seen under suspicion. Contrary to it, we approach development as a tool to solve problems of villagers.”

Another interesting fact that shows unity is that this village has not experienced the Gram-panchayat elections for last 25 years! According to the volunteer, “we don’t say that we are happy because we don’t have elections nor you are unhappy because you have elections. We just manage to keep away the side-effect of elections by doing this. At the same time, we try to maximize our voting for other elections without involving our Sarpanch or any of the post holders in campaigning. Gram-Sabha appeals for the vote and not for the vote to specific candidate. Sarpanch is decided by discussion and so are other Panchayat members. This gives confidence to Panchayat for decision making.”

Finally, I experienced the sequential effects of improvement in water supply. It has started a chain of development. The village has effectively trapped flowing water through small hills, which used to get wasted earlier. Soil as well as water has been conserved due to large number of trenches across the slopes. To realize the effect, we went to 150-200 feet above normal village level and got water in first stroke of hand-pump. This work was done through public participation, another indicator of unity. The man behind this change – the ex-Sarpanch – said, “We could not have managed to do this without the support from people. So, we have to keep public informed about Panchayat’s expenditure and keep them involved in development programs.”

A solar pump plus hand-pump at a prominence inside village boundary

A solar pump plus hand-pump at a prominence inside village boundary

Finally, I concluded my visit with a satisfied heart and full enthusiasm to create another model village.

 

Aditya Deshmukh is a student at BITS Pilani and a campus ambassador for Vision India Foundation. Soon, he will join a Member of Parliament to build a model village in Madhya Pradesh.

Budget Shows Government Lacks Experience in Higher Education and R&D

Dr Anand Bulusu

I think India is not yet ready with innovating technological industry. Hence we don’t have much interest from industries for sponsored research and planned R&D manpower development. Industries mostly import equipment and are satisfied working in that mode. MNCs (especially in Microelectronics) do a lot of R&D, sponsor a lot of PhDs. However, they do it mostly in their home countries since they have familiarity and primary interest there. What is the solution? We must develop tech entrepreneurs in a big way in this country at several levels. It should be small entrepreneurs as well as big corporations (for example, motivate companies such as Tata/Wipro/Reliance to form a big Microelectronics coalition). There should be some tax sops and some special zones or tech parks near IITs/IISc planned to let this happen. Another area is CSR: CSR funds should be made open for sponsored research. At least a part of CSR should be allowed in sponsored research.

The other side is IITs: Funds for old IITs has been cut by 20% and the government is asking IITs to pay enhanced PhD scholarship (the extra cost) through “internal” funds. I think the government should realize that only recently a more than 50% increase in student strength has taken place in old IITs due to government interference in IITs. This is leading to both resource and faculty crunch in a very bad way. The government may not like to give funds without strings. Fine! However, they should give ample money (no cuts in funds!) to IITs with a target. Funds could be revised based on the targets achieved by each IIT in the coming 5 years. However, cutting funds suddenly is not a wise move and shows that the government lacks experience in higher education and R&D domain. The targets could be: How many PhDs do you produce? How many of your MTech and BTech students join PhD program? How many instances of technology transfer to industry would take place in the coming 5 years? How many instances of good socio-technical contribution would be seen in the next 5 years? How many tech start-ups start from your institute in the coming 5 years? etc.

On an average, an IIT faculty spends a much longer time in teaching and evaluation (especially evaluation) compared to faculty members in any premier institute all over the world. He just doesn’t have the kind of time required to do original research; whatever good research happens in IITs is despite and in spite the circumstances and is due to a high individual commitment. Handling such a large number of students just doesn’t allow good research. Good US universities handle many more students. However, they have a good Teaching Assistant (TA) system. Each faculty member is assisted by a team of highly trained TAs. Evaluation is mostly handled by TAs in these US universities. Something must be done to attract young PhDs from US in a big way to IITs. Each IIT should get a Performance Related Incentive (PRI) component in salaries, evaluated separately for each institute based on the 5 year targets achieved by it. In the 7th pay commission, instead of increasing salary, the government should think of increasing it in the form of PRI evaluated separately for each institute.

Dr Bulusu is an associate professor at IIT Roorkee and a member of the advisory board of VIF.

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Attending Budget Session Live in the Parliament

Ashish Singh

As every citizen of India, I always wanted to see our temple of democracy, the Parliament of India. Finally I got the opportunity to visit the parliament on the most awaited budget day of 2015-16, through my regional MP Shri Ganesh Singh ji (MP SATNA).

The big hall of Lok Sabha was same as I had seen in the television. As I entered the hall, I suddenly got so excited on seeing the Hon’ble Prime minister of India sitting very silently on the right corner of first bench. For me as common citizen of India, it is a dream come true to see our Prime Minister at such close vicinity. After sometime our finance minister started reading the union budget for this year. Everyone in the visitor’s lobby became silent and listened to the budget very profoundly.

This budget was very special as government within a nine month proved that it is going in the right direction as Indian economy has turned around dramatically in the last nine months with the real GDP growth expected to accelerate to 7.4% making India the fastest growing economy in the world. I got to see Government in action and witness Parliamentary budget session of 15-16. The first budget of NDA Govt. led by Mr Modi was visionary and will give mileage to the economic growth of the nation. The main focus of the budget was to make our country investment friendly through several policies.

I personally liked the following policies in this budget:

(1) Monetization of Gold: As India is the largest consumer of gold in the world, it is a very good idea to put gold directly into the economy of the nation as the government will release the sovereign gold bond. The bonds will carry a fixed interest rate, and will be redeemable in cash pegged to the face value of gold at the time of maturity. The government will also print gold coins which will carry the face of Ashoka Chakra- a symbol depicting India’s highest peacetime military decoration, which will motivate several people to buy this coin.

(2) Tax Policies: Finally the government has promised efforts on various fronts to implement GST from next year. Direct tax exemptions were not given to the middle class but a wavier by promoting health insurances. Government has planned to give tax benefits through many pension schemes (i.e Atal Pension Yojana etc.) to make the citizens self-dependent after retirement from their job. Increment in service tax is a bitter news for middle class as it will increase the rate of common commodities. On the other hand, deduction in corporate tax for the coming four years will make our nation investment friendly.

(3). MNREGA: There was big buzz in the news that the new government will banish the MNREGA scheme or will deduct its budget. But this government has increased the budget of MNREGA by 5K crores and provides job security for most suppressed BPL people and rural people of the nation. Rural people will have economic security through this temporary work.

(4)Mudra Bank: Setting up of Mudra bank will help in building an entrepreneur friendly environment. It will help to set up more small scale firms or startups which will further create many jobs. In the Mudra Bank, priorities will be given to SC/ST and OBC enterprises. It will put these sections of the society in main stream business world.

(5)Agriculture: India is an agriculture based economy. Our nation’s 62% population is involved in this sector. Hence there was a strong need to boost this sector. The government has taken a positive step to put 8.5 lakh crores for the farmers to take loans from the bank.

(6) Team India vision: It really sounds good that the budget has targeted to provide all basic needs (i.e. housing, drinking water, electricity & sanitation) to all the citizens by 2022, marking 75 years of India’s independence. India will celebrate 2022 as amrut mahotsava. I wish that the government will be able to fulfil this target and make India a developed nation by 2022.

Overall budget was promising. India is a nation which has the largest young population in the whole world. It is a big challenge for this government to provide them jobs and create a business friendly environment. Hopefully this budget will be able to fill the gaps.

Ashish is a 2nd year student at IIT Delhi and a campus ambassador at Vision India Foundation.

Comments on the Union Budget 2015

Shobhit Mathur, Executive Director, VIF

The Union Budget presented on Feb 28th was highly awaited as it was the first full budget to be presented by the Narendra Modi government. It promised to indicate the direction of the Economic Policy from the new government which came to power with a historic mandate.
Though there were no big bang announcements made, the Budget was overall positively accepted by all sections of the society because of a series of practical steps announced. Personally for me, the following 3 provisions stood out:
  1. Monetizing Domestic Gold Stock: Indians hold about 11% of the World’s gold.It is considered as an unproductive asset. The finance minister should be commended for unlocking this potential through the Sovereign Gold Bonds. This will move domestic investments from gold to financial assets.
  2. The JAM Trinity: The budget has not reduced any subsidies but has instead focused on targeting them better and reducing leakages. The JAM (Jan Dhan, Adhaar, Mobile) trinity will help in ensuring that the last person gets the benefit of the subsidies. It was the foresight of the Prime Minister to launch the missing link i.e. Jan Dhan Yojana on the Independence Day and make sure that it is executed well.
  3. Commitment to Cooperative Federalism: The Prime Minister has shown commitment to Cooperative Federalism through the setting up of NITI Aayog, increase in devolution of resources to the states and now committing on April 1st 2016 as the date for the much awaited GST. The service taxes have been moved up accordingly to the eventual rate of GST.
Overall the budget is high on vision, and now the focus shifts to the execution.

 

100 days: Journey so far

Vision India Foundation was launched on 6th November 2014 by Shri Suresh Prabhu and Dr R Balasubramaniam at IIT Delhi. As we complete 100 days, we want to share our journey so far.

We started as an initiative by alumni and faculty members of different IITs. Now we are represented at 20 different institutes of repute around the world through our campus ambassadors. The ambassadors come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from political science to technology, from economics to business administration. Through the ambassadors, Vision India Foundation engages young passionate individuals in the process of nation-building. We do this through events, fellowships, workshops, discussion groups, and more.

Our fellowships are an opportunity to work with high-impact policy makers. For the fellowships, we are working with a state government, two parliamentarians, an academic, two grassroots organizations and a social enterprise. The projects are spread over six Indian states. They cover varied focus areas like e-governance, rural development, legal reforms, and much more.

In addition to the upcoming projects mentioned above, two people from our team have already started working full-time with Andhra Pradesh government and Vinod Khanna, Hon’ble Member of Parliament Lok Sabha.

We have opened the online applications for our fellowships and motivated people from all over the country are applying. It is indeed a very difficult process to select best from the highly deserving applications that we have received. We are also organizing a summer school in public policy, titled ‘Policy BootCamp’. The details will be available on our website soon. The BootCamp will be an intensive residential program and will be first-of-its-kind in the world.

We thank all our team members, supporters and well-wishers who have encouraged us in this journey. We believe that in the years to come, we will bring some concrete turning-points in the story of India.