In election year, Chhattisgarh CM’s grassroots level outreach

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Raipur, March 31 (IANS) Satyanand Pradhan, a Chhattisgarh teacher, was struggling to walk after he broke his leg in a 2017 accident. With a limp, he made several rounds of a local revenue office to get the title of a piece of land bought months ago registered under his name.

He kept visiting the office but officials kept it delaying on one or the other pretext.

As his five-month struggle seemed endless, Chief Minister Raman Singh paid a prevoously unannounced visit to Pradhan’s village Khairkhuta.

The visit was part of the Chief Minister’s “Lok Suraj Abhiyan” — which his officers explained was a grassroots level outreach, hearing from people them about their problems and taking developmental intiatives to the last person in the row.

Samadhan Shivir or redressal camps are part of the initiative.

An anguished and frustrated, Pradhan narrated his “woeful tale” to the Chief Minister at Khairkhuta in Mahasamund district.

Raman Singh instantly ordered the redressal of Pradhan’s problem.

The teacher is among thousands who have benefited from the Chief Minister’s outreach programme in a state that also faces major security challenge from the Maoists.

The campaign has taken him to remote areas of the state with people from panchayat to block and district levels narrate their own problems or those related to developmet schemes of the state as well as central government.

Raman Singh, on one such visit, told IANS that the programme aimed at improving governance and getting direct feedback on various welfare measures taken by the state and central governments.

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“There can’t be a best way of social audit. It lays the foundation for policy making, course correction and also helps in administrative oversight.

“The idea is to bring all levels of government together in villages and cities to interact with people, get feedbacks so that policy formulation in the future is as full-proof as possible in satiating the needs of the people,” the BJP’s longest serving Chief Minister said.

No prior announcement about scheduled visits is made. A district collector is informed a day before. The top district officer then sends out the message to others and an announcement is made to the public on the morning of the day of the Chief Minister’s visit.

Also accompanying him is Chief Secretary Ajay Singh and his personal secretary and one or two more officers from his office.

People are gathered in a “chaupal” style meeting. All officers of district line departments are called. Villagers seeking solutions to their problems related to governance speak up one by one. The concerned department is ordered to hear them out and, if possible, solve the problem instantly.

The grassroots level outreach comes ahead of state assembly elections due this year in which Raman Singh will seeking a successive fourth term in office

Officials said the initiative targeted at delivering development to people and bringing governance at their door-steps.

According to the officials, the Chief Minister had received over 30 lakh applications, including grievances and demands, in January this year. Some of them were frivolous but the genuine ones were sorted out.

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They said 98 per cent of these cases have been solved under the Lok Suraj Abhiyan

launched on March 11 and that concluded on Saturday. He has covered all the 27 districts of the state in the last 20 days.

In the last leg of the programme, Raman Singh visited Mohla in Rajnandgaon, Kheltukdi in Kabirdham and Mura in Raipur.

Some of the common enqueries the Chief Minister makes are about if people are getting good quality rice, salt and chana (gram) from their ration shops.

“Does it open regularly? If you feel any discrepancy tell me right now. I am here to address these issues.”

During the course of the visit, concerned officials publicly announce the details of complaints received by them along with the action taken in each case. They also share the details of status of implementation of schemes.

On some occasions, Raman Singh didn’t even hesitate to warn erring officials.

“Some issues should be solved on humanitarian grounds. If you feel any official is not hearing your concerns, you tell me right now. I will take corrective steps,” he said, asking one official to solve the issues of the villagers by the end of camp at Khairkhuta.

The complaints the Chief Minister received during his visits were mostly related to ration cards, housing schemes, MNREGA and poor electricty supply.

The Chief Minister also makes a small address, selling to his potential voters various development projects of the central as well as the state government.

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At one meeting, he asked people to raise their hands if they were getting benefits of Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, ODF status under Swachh Bharat Mission and others like state’s health smart card.

Then there is a review meeting with district officials about the implementation of these schemes.

Raman Singh also distributed LPG cylinders, charan padukas (slippers) and even tractors to some beneficieries on the spot.

The Chief Minister said during his visits he found that number of complaints were reducing while the demands of the people were growing.

The Chief Minister told IANS that many of the schemes have covered over 90 per cent of the people of the state and “we will try to sort out the rest of the issues in the next two-months”.

Political analysts in the state say the move was to fight “anti-incumbency” against Raman Singh who became Chief Minister in 2003 and has been undefeated since.

“Through this move, the Chief Minister gauges public mood and targets to end anti-incumbency against his government,” Ravi Bhui, a senior journalist in Raipur, told IANS.

Subhash Jain, a businessmen in Mahasamund told IANS: “This is the DNA of Raman Singh’s success. He reaches to any village in a role of nayak (hero) and leaves the place after satisfying everyone. This is such a programme which should be adopted by all the chief ministers.”

(Brajendra Nath Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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