Bureaucracy & BJP mix in ‘propaganda’

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New Delhi, June 2: The Narendra Modi Government is conducting what some bureaucrats view as a “sophisticated propaganda drive” in partnership with BJP cadres to convince villagers that the Prime Minister is personally following up on 7 key schemes he had launched.
Several hundred teams of 2 Central Government officials each had been tasked to tour villages across India in April-May to monitor the implementation of these 7 schemes under a recently launched feedback-seeking programme called the Gram Swaraj Abhijan.
In village after village, BJP workers met these teams and “volunteered” to accompany and assist them in their task, senior Central Government officials have told The Telegraph.
These cadres informed the villagers during the tour that Modi had himself sent the officials from Delhi because of his “personal concern” for their welfare, they added.
“We were surprised to see BJP workers at every site we visited. It seems they knew about our visits in advance. We couldn’t have resisted their presence,” said a Delhi-based official who recently visited a north Indian state on the mission.
The teams have been tasked to collect feedback from the villagers on the Ujjwala Yojana, Saubhagya Yojana, Ujala Yojana, Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Mission Indradhanush.
These schemes seek to provide gas connections, electricity connections, bulbs, bank accounts, life insurance plans and vaccination against childhood diseases.
It was on April 7 that the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, which is under the Prime Minister, had written to the Secretaries of all the Ministries to lend their officials for the drive, held in thousands of villages in 86 select districts between April 14 and May 5.
It again sent a letter last week to all the Ministries, saying the drive was being extended to another 29 districts and asking them to depute their officials for the purpose.
“It has now been decided to extend the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan to about 45,000 villages with populations above 1,000 in 115 aspirational (backward) districts… by 15th August 2018,” said the letter by PK Tripathi, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Personnel.
The second phase will be held from June 1 to August 15 and cover 4,208 villages in Bengal and Karnataka, which were left out of the first phase because the Election Commission’s model code of conduct was in force. Assembly polls were held in Karnataka and panchayat elections in Bengal this month.
Each team of 2 officials visits 30 to 40 villages. The Government pays for their air tickets, board and lodgings, the officials said.
BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao defended the drive: “Officers who have gone as part of this programme are doing this as a public duty. Ensuring that the developmental benefits reach the masses is part of development work. If any officer has said that this is not their mandate, they seem completely oblivious of their duty.”
Rao defended the participation of the BJP workers. “The BJP workers who are getting involved at the grassroots level to ensure that the developmental benefits reach the masses are only acting as agents of community change. That is what is expected of every political organisation. Our workers are not involved in the selection of the beneficiaries, they act only as catalysts,” he said. (Courtesy: TT)