A revolutionary step towards achieving ‘Gram Swaraj’ dream

Village and ward secretariat system ensures smooth delivery of welfare scheme benefits at the doorstep of people

Taking inspiration from the ‘Gram Swaraj’ championed by Mahatma Gandhi, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy launched revolutionary measures to bring the governance to the doorstep of the people by setting up secretariats in the village and ward level, fulfilling yet another promise he had made in the run-up to the general elections in 2019.

The well-designed move aiming at achieving decentralisation not only ended the ordeal of people running from pillar to post to avail themselves of services such as paying taxes, submitting applications or getting pensions and etc. but also ensured the smooth implementation of various welfare schemes.

The village/ward secretariat system was launched on October 2, 2019 on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The innovative move caught the imagination of the country with several States replicating the system.

Even as critics had claimed several chinks in the system, the effectiveness of the village/ward secretariats in smooth delivery of services at the doorstep of the people stood the test of time, especially during the crucial coronavirus pandemic. “The village/ward secretariat system has been playing a pivotal role in tracing of the primary and secondary contacts, distribution of essential commodities and playing a supportive role to the frontline workers and this has silenced many critics who earlier had raised eyebrows over the efficacy of the system,” says a senior government official.

Robust network

A village/ward volunteer covers 50 households and ensures that the benefits of all welfare schemes reach every genuine beneficiary. The massive village/ward secretariat system and its integration of the service delivery with the district, state and Central administrations was a challenge in the initial days. At present, the State has 15,004 village/ward secretariats, covering more than 13,000 villages, 120 towns and cities. There is a ward secretariat for every 2,000 people in urban areas and a village secretariat for every 4,000 people in rural areas. An officer of the rank of Joint Collector has been appointed to monitor their functioning, and a Divisional Development Officer has also been appointed.

A village secretariat has 11 employees while a ward secretariat has 10, and the robust system has 1.3 lakh employees working full time. Their services would be regularised after two years of probation. Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy has been particular in ensuring uniformity of facilities, and took care that all the offices are computerised.

541 services available

Now, people can avail of 541 services at village/ward secretariats, while the focus is on four basic services—pension, rice cards, YSR Arogyasri and housing schemes. The village and ward secretariats, so far, have received 2.38 crore grievances of which 2.32 crore have been redressed. The technological interface has been optimised with the integration of 15 different internet applications.

The system has been proved to be an effective tool in ensuring the delivery of welfare schemes, says another government official.

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