Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, along with Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, on Saturday kickstarted the second phase of Punjab’s Smart Village Campaign (SVC) with the virtual launch of a Rs 2775 crore campaign to power the state’s complete rural transformation.While Rahul launched the campaign from New Delhi, the Chief Minister and a host of Punjab ministers, officials and Sarpanches, joined in from a total of 1500 digital locations, paving the way for execution of 48910 works across the state.Expressing happiness on Rahul being a part of the momentous occasion, the Chief Minister said the scheme would lead to the creation of enormous rural infrastructure to raise the living standard and quality of life by capitalising on technological advances, as part of his government’s Rural Transformation Strategy. He assured of adequate allocation for the schemes to be undertaken under the second phase, which has been kickstarted on the successful culmination of Phase I, which was launched in 2019 for the execution of 19,132 works at a cost of Rs. 835 crores.Underlining the importance of villages to keep the nation’s foundations strong, Rahul said any weakening of the rural structure would impede the nation’s progress. He stressed the need to strengthen these foundations for a better India, pointing out that protecting the villages and the people living there would help protect the cities and the country. The Congress MP appreciated the work being done by the Captain Amarinder government to improve the rural infrastructure. The money being spent in villages is the sweat and blood of the people of the state, and every penny of this money should reach the beneficiaries without corruption obstructing the process, he said.The Congress, said Rahul, believed in working at the grassroots and Congress governments start programmes only after taking the views of the Panchayats into accounts. Since the schemes under SVC have been envisaged after deliberations at the ground level, they will deliver the desired results, he said.
Captain Amarinder said the 1st phase of the campaign had focused on core areas like Renovation of ponds, street lights, parks, Gymnasiums, Community Halls, Drinking Water Supply, Model Anganwadi Centers, Smart Schools and Solid Waste Management, thus making villages in Punjab self-sustaining by providing enabling environments.For the second phase, adequate funds had already been transferred to all 13,264 Gram Panchayats in Punjab, the Chief Minister said, adding that his government intends to give assistance to those house-owners who are living in houses having temporary roofs. The intention is “Har ghar pakki chhat” i.e. to provide the rural poor with better housing facility. While doing so, focus shall be on ‘inclusive’ growth, i.e. to include households such as Women Headed Households, persons with disabilities, critically ill persons, families of martyrs, scheduled castes, etc, he said.In addition, 750 Stadiums are being taken up for development in Rural Areas for 2020-21. For this purpose, a target of minimum of 5 Stadiums per block has been allotted for this purpose. New designs of 4 acres, 2 acres and 1 acre playgrounds have been developed.Captain Amarinder further said that as a part of 550th Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji, 550 plants per village i.e. 77 lakh saplings had been planted and around 22000 Van Mitras had been appointed to nurture and maintain them. As a result, the overall green cover of the State had increased by 11363 hectares since 2017.Listing some of the path-breaking and people friendly initiatives of his government, the Chief Minister said 15.32 lakh jobs/employment opportunities had been given to youth under ‘Ghar Ghar Rozgar’ programme, while 1 lakh government jobs would be provided by 2020-22. He pointed out that his government had recently provided 33% reservation for women in direct recruitment in Government jobs as a major step towards empowerment of women.
Referring to Mahatma Gandhi Sarbat Vikas Yojana launched by the state government, Captain Amarinder said that nearly 11.05 Lakh persons had been provided relief/benefits to ensure inclusive growth of the distressed sections of the society.Speaking on the occasion, the Rural Development & Panchayats Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa lauded the Panchayats for taking keen interest in the execution of development schemes under SVC in a time-bound manner. This, he said, had encouraged the state government to provide a 3-fold hike in the capital outlay in the 2nd phase.Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said though Punjab was passing through financial crisis, the development tempo, in both rural and urban sectors, continued to be high.PPCC President Sunil Jakhar said the Smart Village Campaign would go a long way in transforming the rural scenario in line with the dream of Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Jakhar also complimented the Chief Minister for ensuring 50% reservation in PRIs and Urban Local Bodies.
Punjab Youth Congress President Barinder Singh Dhillon lambasted the Chief Minister’s detractors, asserting, ‘‘You can take Captain Amarinder out of Punjab, but you can’t take Punjab out of Captain Amarinder.’’Meanwhile, five sarpanches - Buta Singh from village Pilkhani and Harbhajan Singh from village Mahadipur in district Patiala, Rupinder Kaur from village Patton and Jagtar Singh of village Bakarpur in the district SAS Nagar (Mohali) and Satnam Kaur from village Hawara Kalan in district Fatehgarh Sahib - interacted with Captain Amarinder Singh and gave inputs about the ongoing development works in their villages.The programme was attended by all State Cabinet Ministers, Congress MPs, MLAs and key officials including Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan, Chief Principal Secretary to CM Suresh Kumar, Principal Secretary to CM Tejveer Singh and Principal Secretary Rural Development & Panchayats Seema Jain from various locations through video conferencing.