There will be one welfare programme volunteer for every 40 village
households across India in a couple of years. It's a new
government initiative after paucity of gram panchayat
functionaries and gaps in their knowledge caused tardy
implementation of rural development schemes.
Similar to the 'Aam Aadmi Ke Sipahi' (soldiers of the common man)
programme of the Indian Youth Congress started by party leader Rahul Gandhi, the programme entails the creation of Bharat Nirman
Volunteers, who will be village-based cadres.
"The volunteers will be responsible for facilitating delivery of
public services under various government programmes to eligible
rural households. They will also forward requests for services and
grievance applications to gram panchayats and blocks," Niten
Chandra, joint secretary in the ministry of rural development,
He said the initiative, started about three months ago in 40
blocks across the country, was not a budget-driven scheme but "a
time-consuming, hand-holding exercise to develop the human
resource potential in villages".
Chandra said he was hopeful of creating about 10,000 volunteers by
the end of this year.
"We intend to organise a national conference by the beginning of
next year, once it reaches critical mass with about 8,000-10,000
volunteers," Chandra said.
He however added that it will take years before all villages in
the country have Bharat Nirman Volunteers.
"There are 16 crore rural households. It will take a couple of
years for the entire country to be covered," he said.
The guidelines stipulate that each volunteer shall be attached to
a maximum of 40 households in his neighbourhood.
Volunteers have to apply to block or gram panchayats and will be
provided training through state institutes of rural development.
They will be under the charge of a counsellor, who will report to
the block development officer. They will maintain a work diary
which will be used to award them grades. The top 10 percent
volunteers will be given awards at the district and block levels.
Chandra said volunteers will deal with various aspects of rural
development like agriculture, watershed development, health and
family welfare, education, women and child development, roads,
electrification, irrigation, sanitation, broadband connectivity,
banking and environment protection.
Ministry officials said the volunteer programme gets its name from
Bharat Nirman, the government's ambitious plan to boost rural
infrastructure through focus on key areas of water supply,
housing, irrigation, telecommunications, roads and
They said the volunteer programme will be funded from the money
available with block and gram panchayats for Information,
Education and Communication (IEC) under various government
The officials said there were over 200 government schemes
available in a block in a year which entail substantial flow of
funds, but there were gaps in implementation. The rural
development ministry has an outlay of Rs.87,800 crore in this
"Many of the programmes do not get implemented or there are wide
gaps. There are areas of overlap as well. Considering limitations
of the existing government machinery, a village-based cadre of
volunteers can establish closer contact with people," a ministry
official, who did not wish to be identified, told IANS.
He said gram panchayats in most states were poorly equipped with
manpower and the knowledge and understanding about government
schemes was inadequate.
The official said even in the ambitious Mahatma Gandhi National
Rural Employment Guarantee programme, delays had been seen in
allocation of work to eligible rural households and the pace of
several other rural schemes such as Indira Awas Yojana needs to be
According to him, volunteers can play the roles of whistleblowers
and check corruption in the schemes' implementation. They can also
help in creating awareness among small and marginal farmers about
various welfare schemes.
"They can work as rural reporters for community radio stations and
as banking correspondents. They may also assist the banks in
recovery of loans from wilful defaulters and facilitate credit
access to families," he said.
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