Starting Sunday, the Maharashtra government is embarking on a novel rural development scheme to reach out to nearly 3,000 villages in the state with poor human development indicators. Partnering with ten corporates, the Village Social Transformation (VST) scheme envisages village-level rural development fellows (RDFs) working in close association with village gram sabhas and gram panchayats to collect basic data, understand their needs and then help a village achieve the goals set for it at the end of the consultation process. The first batch of 100 fellows, graduates with 60 plus percentage scores selected through an interview process, get a week’s training on how to collect data, at the government administrative training institute Yashada in Pune. They will then visit the “ideal villages” being developed by corporate partners in eight districts to begin with, understand how the work is being done there and then proceed to the villages they will be assigned for the job.
The fellows selected on the basis of their commitment and inclination to work in difficult areas will get a stipend of Rs 30,000 per month along with insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh for health and Rs 5 lakh in case of accident. Ramnath Subramaniam, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Village Social Development Foundation (VSDF), a specially created government body, said: “We have selected 180 fellows in the first stage from among 3,500 applicants desirous of working in difficult areas. We will take the figure to 1,000 by March next year. With each fellow covering at least three villages, we hope to cover 3,000 most backward and needy villages in the state over the next three years.”
“The government will first provide Rs 10 lakh for a demonstrative project to be carried out at each of the villages and will then roll out bigger funds after successful completion of that project on the basis of the demand from villages about further items on their own agenda of development. These will be in addition to the already existing government schemes,” he said. The eight districts where the project is being implemented in the first phase are Gadchiroli, Amravati, Wardha, Yavatmal, Palghar, Nandurbar, Raigad and Aurangabad.
The scheme aims to raise social development indices of the villages to national best levels. For example, in the tribal belt of Dharni in Melghat region of Amravati district, always in the news for malnutrition deaths, the scheme aims to lift indices on poverty, doubling monthly farm income, literacy and learning, and infant mortality rate from the current 67 per cent, 8,000-10,000, 41 per cent and 32 respectively to 7 per cent, 18,000-20,000, 71 per cent and 12 respectively. The ten corporates partners in the project are Reliance, Axis Foundation, JSW, Deutsche Bank, Tata Trusts, Mahindra, Swades Foundation, Videocon, HDFC Bank and Hindustan Unilever Limited.
“Partners will contribute at least Rs 10 crore each and the government will pump in another Rs 100 crore. Religious trusts like Siddihivinayak and Shirdi will also chip in with some good amounts.The corporate partners will help by sharing the experience of their good work in some of the villages through CSR activities with the foundation fellows,” Subramaniam said. The foundation will have a government council with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis as Chairman and his principal secretary Pravin Sinh Pardeshi as Mentor. Actual implementation will be done by an executive council headed by CEO Subramaniam. Fadnavis will address the first batch of 100 RDFs at Yashda on Sunday to flag off the programme.