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MPs wonder: Where are the villages in ‘urbanised’ Mumbai?

PM Narendra Modi had announced scheme under which parliamentarians would adopt a village in their constituencies.

Gajanan Kirtikar, BJP MP from the Mumbai North West constituency, Gajanan Kirtikar, BJP MP from the Mumbai North West constituency.

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on August 15 announced a scheme under which parliamentarians would adopt a village in their constituencies, MPs from Mumbai, all from the Shiv Sena-BJP combine, are confused and at a loss to understand how to implement the scheme.

Their argument is that Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, is a completely urbanised and a highly developed region. The city has a heritage of 189 gaothans and 32 koliwadas, but even these are well developed, some MPs say, with the biggest issue surrounding them being redevelopment. Adopting a village elsewhere will be fraught with jurisdiction problems and lack of clarity on funding outside their constituencies, the MPs feel.

Gajanan Kirtikar, Shiv Sena MP from the Mumbai North West constituency, “We are confused about how the model villages scheme is to be implemented in urban areas. We don’t have villages here. Even the gaothans of Mumbai cannot be compared to villages. Our problems are slums, but a permanent solution to that can only be redevelopment, which is a whole different issue.”

He added that the scheme is difficult to be implemented even for an MP from a primarily rural district, which has 200-300 villages. “If he selects one village and focuses his attention on developing it as a model village, others may feel neglected and this might not work in the MP’s favour from the election point of view,” Kirtikar said.

Speaking from the ramparts of Delhi’s historic Red Fort, the prime minister had included in his Independence Day speech the announcement of a ‘Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana.’ Under this scheme, every MP is to select one village with a population of three thousand to 5,000 in his constituency and make it a model village by 2016, working on the conditions of health, cleanliness, atmosphere and greenery. After 2016, the MPs are to select two more villages and develop them as model villages before the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Modi said MPs in urban areas can adopt any village of their choice.

Rahul Shewale, Shiv Sena MP from Mumbai South Central, said, “If we pick a village in someone else’s constituency, it may lead to jurisdiction clashes. There are many gaothans and koliwadas in my constituency, but the city’s civic body has a scheme for the development and maintenance of basic parameters in gaothans. We have developed the Trombay gaothan area under that scheme.” Shewale said he hopes there is more clarity on the scheme once the Centre rolls out the blueprint in October.

Arvind Sawant, Shiv Sena MP from Mumbai South, also said he was waiting for the Centre to spell out the parameters for the development of villages, and whether the parliamentarians have to use their local area development funds, or if additional funds will be made available.

“Existing rules do not permit an MP to use more than Rs 10 lakh on the development of any area outside his or her constituency, so if urban MPs are to select any village of their choice the existing rules will need to be amended.”

BJP’s Gopal Shetty, MP from Mumbai North, said the situation of Mumbai is different as the city is fairly developed, and MPs under this scheme can look for betterment of the basic amenities in their constituency. “Since Mumbai’s situation is different, I will look at developing basic amenities in existing urban villages in my constituency such as Malwani,” Shetty said. Malwani is a settlement in Malad that used to once be a village but has now metamorphosed into a cluster of low-rise buildings, slums and cottage

BJP MP Kirit Somaiya of the Mumbai North-east constituency, regarding slums as the urban equivalent of villages, is looking to adhere to the PM’s directive through the creation of a model slum in Mumbai.

“My team is researching to see which small slum can be used for developing a model. It may not be possible to adopt a village outside our constituency as by law, MP funds must be used within the boundaries of our own constituencies. Practically speaking, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine has won in almost all constituencies in Maharashtra and the party presence in these areas is strong. There will be a robust implementation of the scheme here leaving little need to adopt another village in another MP’s jurisdiction.”

Meanwhile, BJP MP from North-Central constituency, Poonam Mahajan, has said she looks forward to adopting a village outside the urban area of Mumbai, but is waiting for further clarification on implementation from the Centre. Mahajan says she is already involved in developmental work in her own native village in Osmanabad and a village on the outskirts of Mumbai. “By October, the Centre should work out the nitty gritties of how to implement the plan, which includes the technicality of MP fund usage outside the constituency. When we get more clarity, we will plan our execution. I look forward to working in small villages outside Mumbai.”


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