Compared to some of his Congress colleagues, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is in a unique position. While Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath and Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot are under constant pressure from their state’s BJP units, Baghel has the luxury of not having to keep an eternal vigil on his political rivals. This reflects political realities-despite the Congress’s national slump, it won 68 of Chhattisgarh’s 90 Assembly seats in December last year. However, with the BJP’s pan-India win in the Lok Sabha elections-winning nine of Chhattisgarh’s 11 Lok Sabha seats-the state Congress government has been looking to consolidate its Assembly win.
In February this year, just weeks after taking office, the chief minister announced a new initiative, the Suraaji Gaon Yojana (the well-governed village mission). Based on four principles-narwa, garwa, ghurwa and badi, Chhattisgarhi words that loosely translate to rivulets, livestock, manure and home-cultivation-the yojana is aimed at improving the state’s agricultural infrastructure and resource management. Chhattisgarh is predominantly rural, with more than two-thirds of the population dependent on agricultural earnings, and the state government no doubt hopes the yojana will bring both economic and political windfalls.
Post the Lok Sabha elections, work has begun in earnest. A steering committee has been constituted to oversee the initiative, since it involves multiple government departments. Headed by the state’s Chief Secretary, Sunil Kumar Kujur, other committee members include the principal secretaries of the rural development, water resources, animal husbandry, agriculture and forestry departments. “We have begun working on the program, and have taken up livestock management in the first phase,” says chief secretary Kujur.
In an interview with India Today last month, chief minister Baghel had this to say: “We want to make our villages self-sufficient. The ‘narwa, garwa, ghurwa, badi’ programme is a step in that direction. For example, agriculture in Chhattisgarh is facing a crisis owing to [the large population of] stray cattle. To solve this, we have identified panchayats where, under the first phase of the programme, gauthans (cow shelters) will be made.” Stray cattle not only cause damage to crops, but have also been blamed for accidents on the state’s rural roads. Under the programme, a total of 1,446 gauthans-about 10 in each of the state’s blocks-are to be established.