Smart Villages: Lending A Rural Flavour To Modi’s Growth Agenda

After unveiling his ambitious ‘100 Smart Cities’ and ‘Digital India’ plans, Prime Minister Narendra Modi—last month launched another audacious scheme Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (Parliamentarian's Model Village Scheme; this is also known as SAGY). This is his strategic move to prepare rural India for the digital age and ensure that benefits of the government’s growth endeavours are effectively percolated to communities residing on the fringes of the mainstream society.

In a nutshell, the scheme aims at creating 2,500 smart villages by 2019—Each MP should ensure that one village is turning into a model village by 2016, followed by two more villages by 2019. After 2019, each MP must develop five model villages during their tenure in their constituencies till 2024. Modi also wants MLAs to join the programme, which will add 7,000 more villages to the ‘smart club’.

The initiative aims at holistic development where model villages are connected to the Internet (all government or administrative documents will be made available in digital form; thus villagers don’t need to travel to other cities to submitting applications to or getting certificates from government bodies) and where all households have access to clean water, sanitation and low-carbon energy. Model villages will be provided basic amenities that are often only available in urban areas, and a social security system. The scheme also has an inherent rider to prevent MPs from misusing it—the selected villages should neither be MPs’ own villages, nor belonging to in-laws or other relatives.


These select villages are expected to reach a certain level of proficiency in terms of development that will help prevent migration of villagers to cities and farmers’ suicide; besides offering jobs to youth at local level. A litany of socially-oriented programmes can be incorporated and implemented under the scheme. It includes developing biogas plant that could make a village self-reliant for fuel requirements; implementing drip irrigation to meet water requirements for crops and providing nutritional food for pregnant women to prevent mortality (maternal or infant).

SAGY comes close on the heels of the plan to develop 100 smart cities which was announced by Modi earlier. Supported by a budget allocation of Rs 7,060 crore, the plan has already elicited euphoric response from the IT sector and according to market research firm IDC, at least Rs 2,000 crore will flow into the IT sector on the back of the ‘smart cities’ initiative.

The smart cities may take inspiration from similar initiatives in developed countries and are likely to be modeled after local projects such as Lavasa smart city, built by HCC near Pune; Electronics City in Bangalore where US-based Cisco Systems is involved in city developmental operations; and Dholera in Gujarat all of which are under different stages of construction and completion. The government has already signed a pact with Japanese government, which will help turn Varanasi into a smart city.


The smart village initiative is also an extension of Modi’s ‘digital India’ plan, which aims to promote digital inclusion with broadband connectivity down to the village level, enabling improved access to services through IT-enabled platforms. The initiative, which is worth Rs 1.13-lakh crore, will not just provide last mile internet connectivity, but also offer better access to government services and enhance development of IT skills among local people, especially youth.

For Modi, who is criticised as pro-business and less-socially oriented, the ‘smart village’ initiative is an opportunity to show that the development model that he envisages is not exclusive of people in the remote villages of the country.

Image: Indiatimes