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PMGSY - Road to poverty and misery: Realities of Rural Development in India

"Farmers and rural poor have been exploited lin the name of development across the country for which schemes like PMGSY have become roads to misery and further poverty instead of bringing any benefit to the poor mass."

Basudev Mahapatra : June 15, 2008

If you say ‘my village, my country’, you must believe that villages are the tiny units of India. And the happenings and development activities in the villages are just the indicators of what is happening in India.

Let’s talk about my village Kumaranga Sasan that is neither close to any urban set up nor far away from it. Housing the panchayat head quarters, the village is surrounded with cultivable fields as most of the villagers and people living in surrounding villages are agrarian by profession. About three kilometres from the block headquarters, my village is linked to the nearest market town Banpur with a two KM length black road that was always looking for the mercy of local political leaders, MLAs and officials for a patchwork. The narrow road goes through multi-crop agricultural lands till my village and even further.

As I have heard, realising the essentiality of a direct connecting road to the Block Headquarters town Banpur, the great revolutionary poet writer Godavarish Mahapatra, popular statewide as Niakhunta, made it overnight with the help of the villagers. The red mud road became a black one during late seventies and witnessed patchworks twice or thrice during more than last 20 years. When government of India declared its Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY scheme) under ministry of rural development, the villagers always wanted the village road to be a PMGSY one. But the road could not feature in the list because of political interests of leaders. Suddenly, in May 2008, I came to know that the village road is becoming a PMGSY road and construction works have already been started. It was really a matter of joy.

But the joy couldn’t sustain when I got to know that the road is widened by 3-4 feet on both sides and agricultural lands are being grabbed for the purpose without giving any compensation to the landowners who are basically marginal farmers. So about 8 feet of land beside the road is grabbed through out the project that has a minimum length of 2 and half KM that again without any compensation to the farmers.

As I know my village and the peripheral villages very well, most of the people have small piece of land where they grow paddy, Mung and few other vegetables to earn their livelihood. These farmers are going to lose their land and a portion of annual harvest.

When the poor farmers opposed such a land grab without giving any compensation, the local Tahsildar soon came with police force, claimed that government is the virtual owner of land, and threatened people to put them behind bars on instance of further opposition. His behaviour was nothing better than a Gunda with certain power delegated by the government of Orissa. What a behaviour from a public servant!

Again, the project is under the execution area of Block Development Officer. He should have gone for a survey and informed the Rural Development Department of Orissa through the DRDA Project Director and District Collector. But, as a part of their nexus with local MLA - who happens to be the brother of the most influential BJP leader as well as Bhubaneswar MLA, political agents of ruling parties, and some petty village leaders of congress party, the BDO neglected the people and their problems and the Tahsildar intervened as a government sponsored Gunda to see the work progressing and their share of money is safe. The commitment has never been to the development of villages and poor farmers but to the percentage assured by the contractor.

Since most of the people were a bit educated they remained silent being afraid of police action which, I would say, is a curse of education that has stopped people from fighting for their rights by bringing the politician - administrator nexus at the grass-root level to public. The road project would have benefited the contractors, the contract signing authorities, the MLA and political leaders at the Block level and village level, but the question is how the road helped development of rural people and particularly farmers?

Many of the farmers in the locality are losing a greater portion of their farm land due to further expansion of the road. Their livelihood is now at stake as land was their only source. Compensation money would have helped them going for an additional or alternate business to fill the loss. But here again the rural development department of the government acted as a colonial exploiter than a development initiator.

So, the high-sounding development slogans turned into a curse in reality as the benefit of the development is truly fetched by the contractor - Administrator and Political leaders and Brokers at the cost of the poor farmer's livelihood. Is it the development our Government and its Rural Development Department aims at - Killing the poor people for a better survival of people with power and money? This is the question to be seriously thought by our honourable Rural Development Minster as he hails from a village and more particularly from the family of a Farmer. He can better understand the livelihood issues of farmers living in the villages.

The case of my village is a tip of the iceberg. Farmers and rural poor have been exploited like this in the name of development across the country for which schemes like PMGSY have become roads to misery and further poverty instead of bringing any benefit to the poor mass.



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