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Hopes of harmony unite Ghaziabad villages

Thursday May 05, 2011 09:58:50 AM, Brij Khandelwal, IANS

Ghaziabad: For the villages in Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad district, where local body elections are usually followed by long periods of violence between opposing groups, the idea of "Ekta Villages" (Harmony Villages) has struck a positive cord.

Floated by Ghaziabad's chief development officer Ajay Shankar Pandey, the concept has caught the attention of village leaders who are now ready to see the bigger picture and willing to bury the hatchet to bring peace and harmony between groups.

"In every election there are winners and losers. In our villages the election rivalry and differences are perpetuated in violence. It often triggers even chain murders," Pandey told IANS. "This affects the pace of development as a lot of energy is frittered away in group wars rising from bruised egos," he said.

Pandey added: "We are trying to bring the friends and foes together and make them realise that the focus should be development of the village and not promotion of their false pride."

According to him, the idea is simple - to take both the election winner and the loser on board every village development project and direct the schemes through them. It is a win-win situation, Pandey said, because the projects, which usually get stalled because of the hurdles put up by the opposition groups, progress smoothly as the opposition leader also becomes part of the proceedings.

Pandey said: " 'Harmony Village' lays emphasis on wholesome development of the state in which winners and losers of the village panchayat (council) elections would work together to carry forward the development works."

"The block development officers (BDOs) will provide identity cards to the winning candidates and his closest rival if they agree to join hands to direct the planned development projects of the village," Pandey explained.

While the winner will be designated "Kushal Pradhan" (proficient chief) the opposition leader will be named "Vikash Salahkar" (development advisor).

"The BDOs will give priority to these "pradhans" who would pledge to keep away from violence in the best interest of their village and set a new target for fast development," Pandey said.

Both the pradhans would be given special badges. The development advisor would be invited for every meeting and would be made part of the project from its conceptual stage.

Even if they disagree on some aspects of the project, it would be recorded. The development advisor will be kept abreast of every development regarding the project.

According to Pandey, the concept has received remarkable response.

The elected village heads are now confident that their projects, which were usually stalled by the opposition, can now take off, said Pandey.

"Village pradhans and runner-up candidates of the panchayat elections are now lining up to join their hands to becoming part of Harmony Village in Ghaziabad, according to the official.

More than 405 villages from eight blocks of Ghaziabad have pledged to join the scheme.

Kanauja, Bhaupur, Jalabad, Ataur, Kazimpur, Aabidpur, Manki, Samser, Bahadurpur, Firoz Mohanpur are some villages which have come forward and given sworn affidavits, he said.

Heads from other villages have also approached the CDO to know more about the concept.

Phire Ram, Mathurapur village pradhan, has offered to take his election rival on board in each development work in the village.

"We are happy to be part of the Harmony Village scheme. The opposition leader also commands support in the village and has also agreed to cooperate. It is too early to predict the outcome, but we are positive about it," Ram said.

Kamla Devi, who lost in the election, said: "Though I am a runner up and generally the opposition is treated with suspicion, we will work together and things will improve for the villagers."

Council elections in villages are fiercely contested. The recent panchayat elections saw each candidate spending huge amounts of money to woo the voters by supplying free liquor and meat and hold feasts for weeks together.

Violence and even the killing of political foes have been common in Ghaziabad as in other parts of western Uttar Pradesh.

The new experiment, Pandey hopes, would help check political killings and accelerate the developmental process in the countryside.

"I am quite positive about its success. More then 80 percent village panchayat members have shown willingness to become part of the "Harmony Villages", he said.

The state government agencies are closely monitoring the progress of the experiment.

"If successful, we will take this to other districts," an official said.

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at







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