Jamshedpur: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday made a strong pitch for strengthening democracy at the grassroots level as he asked the gram panchayats to play active role in developmental activities, taking advantage of the immense resources and schemes of his government.
On the 'Panchayat Day', he said the country's progress depends hugely on the development of villages and emphasised the need for bridging the gulf between cities and rural areas by ensuring that all modern day facilities reach even the far off places.
While laying thrust on progress of rural areas, with particular focus on farmers, women-folk and child care, Modi said he wants to leave a legacy after his five-year tenure which would be talked about in terms of exceptional achievement in the years to come.
"We need to strengthen panchayats. The gram sabhas are as important as Parliament," he said addressing a programme on the culmination of 10-day 'Gram Uday Se Bharat Uday' campaign in the tribal-dominated state of Jharkhand.
"We have to work shoulder-to-shoulder to fulfill the dreams," Modi said, underlining the need for cooperation between gram panchayats and the central government.
Pitching for progress of villages, he asked the village heads to take a lead in undertaking developmental activities, including infrastructure development, construction of toilets to ensure end to open defecation, ensuring proper healthcare to prevent child birth mortality and provision of better education to ensure there is no school dropouts.
"Earlier there was shortage of funds. Now there are lot of finances available...There is no dearth of funds. There is no dearth of schemes. But there is a need for dedication by those who work at the grassroots level," Modi said.
"Be aware, remain alert. Lead from the front. Then officers will also do their work," he told the village heads.
In this context, he particularly emphasised the role of women panchayat representatives, who constitute 40 per cent of
the 30 lakh representatives.
"Ensure that open defecation of our mothers and sisters is brought to an end. Ensure construction of toilets. Take a pledge in this regard. There is nothing more shameful than our mothers and sisters defecating in the open," Modi told the women representatives of panchayats.
Asking the women representatives to take a lead in bringing about changes in social lives, he said they should see to it that there is proper utilisation of funds.
The women representatives also look into the aspects like child nutrition and pregnancy-related issues, he said.
He suggested that each village should take up one task each year like ensuring all farmers get crop insurance, ensuring preservation of water, ensuring digitalisation, and ensuring adequate attention to children.
Noting a huge mismatch in facilities available in cities and villages, Modi said, "We have to bridge this gulf... If electricity is available in cities, should it not be available in villages? If cities have good roads, should the villages also not have good roads?... After so many years of Independence, the gap between cities and villages is only increasing."
He said his government has provided adequate funds in this year's budget for development of villages.
"The country has reposed faith in me for five years. I want to leave a legacy.. People should talk later that I did this for the villages. I will do something which will in reality be a foundation (for progress)," the Prime Minister said.
Talking about the programmes launched by his government for development of rural areas, he mentioned the scheme for electrification of all the remaining 18000 villages in 1000 days from August 15 last year when he announced it.
Regarding this, he asked the gram panchayats to be alert to see whether work on this project is being done properly.
"Sometimes it is said that electricity has reached a particular village. But then media reports that only the pole has reached the village. I want to tell the villagers to be alert so that no wrong information is given to me. If you stay alert, it will reduce my concerns," he told the village heads and asked "Won't you share my concerns?"
He then referred to the practice of cooking using wood, saying by this method a woman consumes fumes equal to 400 cigarettes in a day.
"Imagine what would be happening to the health of that mother who cooks. This is happening in the 21st century. Will we let our mothers die like this while cooking food for us? We have to rid her of this," Modi said.
He said the government plans to give LPG connections to five crore households in three years and asked village heads to see whether the benefits reach the intended people.
Describing his government as one which "lives and dies for the farmers", he noted that recently a programme had been launched under which agriculturists can directly sell their produce through an E-portal to get the best price.
He asked the village heads to see if there are any "shortcomings" in it since it is in the initial stages.
He also asked the village bodies to show awareness towards digitalisation of rural areas, a task undertaken by his government.
Modi said he had decided to hold the Panchayat Day function in Jamshedpur rather than Delhi because he believes that "the country is big and Delhi is not the country".
Earlier, he noted that such functions used to be held in Delhi "but we decided to take the government out of Delhi, in the midst of the people."
In this context, he invoked Mahatma Gandhi, saying he used to say that "India lives in the villages".
"I urge you, neither you have to stop, nor be tired," the Prime Minister told the gram panchayats, particularly their heads.
The Union Budget has been hailed as it was the first time that it focused on villages and farmers, Modi said.
"If the representatives of the villages take pledge that with people's confidence in them, they could develop villages in five years, people will remember them for years," he said.
Observing that around 40 per cent of the 30 lakh representatives of Panchayats are women, the Prime Minister asked them to lead the change in villages.
"The voters did their duty. Now it is the turn of Panchayat representatives," Modi said.
He said Budget was there for midday meals and let the representatives ensure that children get good food and do not suffer from malnourishment.
Pointing out at BPL women suffer problems during child delivery, Modi asked panchayat representatives to launch an awareness campaign so that deliveries are done in hospitals and both the mother and the child are safe.
He asked the representatives to ensure that every child goes to school and is given the pulse polio drops.
Contending that nothing had happened during 60 years after Independence, he said now lakhs of rupees are sent to villages for development works.
The representatives should also help farmers through "Per Drop More Crop" scheme and make them aware of using lift irrigation, sprinklers, modern technology, bee keeping, fisheries and other things.
"Active panchayats could attract officials coming to them as the officials too have to achieve their targets," Modi said and greeted officials and leaders, who went to villages and created an atmosphere of work despite the heat wave.