The failure of the Gujarat government’s flagship Panchayati Raj scheme to bring the promised cash benefits has put the focus back on the rest of the country.
The government announced the scheme in November 2016, a year after the Gujarat riots, when Modi was chief minister and was re-elected.
A key part of the scheme was the Panchayan and the Gujarat Rural Development Corporation (GRDC), the state’s central planning agency, was created to provide grants to farmers.
This scheme had the potential to bring millions of people into the fold of the state government, but the government decided against it and gave it away to a private company.
“It was not a very good decision,” says Anand Jain, the former chief secretary to the state cabinet, who was appointed by Modi in November 2017 to help run the Pending Scheme.
“But we had an opportunity to implement the scheme.
This was a very positive opportunity.
The scheme was implemented well.
It was well funded.
It brought millions of farmers in the state.”
But then, on January 6, 2017, a bomb exploded in a busy market in Ahmedabad, killing more than 200 people and injuring over 1,000.
At the time, the PND was the largest scheme in India.
“I remember when I heard the news.
It shook me to my core.
It took me by surprise,” Jain says.
“That is when I started thinking, what have we done wrong?”
The government had made several announcements.
It announced a new scheme for the next year and a half, in which it was offering grants of up to Rs 10,000 per annum to farmers, a new Rs 1,500 scheme for those who had paid their debt, a loan repayment scheme for farmers, and a subsidy of Rs 50,000 for those buying new farm equipment.
But Jain was concerned that these schemes were not going to meet the needs of the farmers.
“When we took the reins, we promised to bring all the promises that we made,” he says.
But on February 22, 2017 the government announced that it was giving a huge subsidy to farmers who paid off their debt in December 2016, and this scheme had been extended till March 2017.
The same day, the central government announced another new subsidy of up.50 lakh for the last year and Rs 5.75 lakh for every year thereafter.
But by then, Jain had already paid off his debt and the scheme had already been extended for the year 2018-19.
“We didn’t think we would be given a subsidy for 2019-20.
But in the end, we were given a 20 lakh subsidy,” Jains says.
Jain says the government did not provide any support for farmers who had not paid their dues and had not been in arrears with the central bank.
“The farmers who have not paid off the loan were not given any support,” he adds.
“They were not getting any help.
So they started agitating.
The farmers who were paying off their loans were not being given any help,” Jiles says.
The scheme was extended for 2019 to 2020 and for 2021-22, and the state was supposed to be able to collect its loan payment in 2019-21.
But the state did not have any money to pay it back, and it would not be possible to collect any money if it did not come up to its payments.
“So the government was not happy with the way we were being run,” Jans says.
After two months of agitation, the state took the decision to scrap the scheme altogether and hand the money over to the private company that had paid off its debt.
The state government did this, Jains notes, in a move that did not appear to be in the best interests of the people.
“There was a huge political pressure to scrap it, because it was seen as a big victory by the people and a way of saving face,” he explains.
“If the government had continued with the scheme, it would have brought in a lot of new people.
But they chose to scrap Panchaya Raj.
It is a very poor scheme.
It failed miserably,” he concludes.
While the government claims that the Panderas were not responsible for the explosion, many farmers are blaming them for the failure.
“Panderas are the ones who were behind this tragedy,” says Arun Kumar, who runs a small cooperative in the village of Jodhpur, about 50 km from Ahmedabad.
“And then they were the ones giving away Panchya Raj.
There was no need for them to hand over the money.
It should be a national project.
The Pandera’s have to pay back their loans, and then it is up to the people,” Kumar adds.
Kumar says that the cooperative was only allowed to sell a small amount of vegetables to the public in a month and a day.
“What we are trying to do is to provide food to people who have no choice.
It would be very