For the villages in Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad district, where
local body elections are usually followed by long periods of
violence between opposing groups, the idea of "Ekta Villages"
(Harmony Villages) has struck a positive cord.
Floated by Ghaziabad's chief development officer Ajay Shankar
Pandey, the concept has caught the attention of village leaders
who are now ready to see the bigger picture and willing to bury
the hatchet to bring peace and harmony between groups.
"In every election there are winners and losers. In our villages
the election rivalry and differences are perpetuated in violence.
It often triggers even chain murders," Pandey told IANS. "This
affects the pace of development as a lot of energy is frittered
away in group wars rising from bruised egos," he said.
Pandey added: "We are trying to bring the friends and foes
together and make them realise that the focus should be
development of the village and not promotion of their false
According to him, the idea is simple - to take both the election
winner and the loser on board every village development project
and direct the schemes through them. It is a win-win situation,
Pandey said, because the projects, which usually get stalled
because of the hurdles put up by the opposition groups, progress
smoothly as the opposition leader also becomes part of the
Pandey said: " 'Harmony Village' lays emphasis on wholesome
development of the state in which winners and losers of the
village panchayat (council) elections would work together to carry
forward the development works."
"The block development officers (BDOs) will provide identity cards
to the winning candidates and his closest rival if they agree to
join hands to direct the planned development projects of the
village," Pandey explained.
While the winner will be designated "Kushal Pradhan" (proficient
chief) the opposition leader will be named "Vikash Salahkar"
"The BDOs will give priority to these "pradhans" who would pledge
to keep away from violence in the best interest of their village
and set a new target for fast development," Pandey said.
Both the pradhans would be given special badges. The development
advisor would be invited for every meeting and would be made part
of the project from its conceptual stage.
Even if they disagree on some aspects of the project, it would be
recorded. The development advisor will be kept abreast of every
development regarding the project.
According to Pandey, the concept has received remarkable response.
The elected village heads are now confident that their projects,
which were usually stalled by the opposition, can now take off,
"Village pradhans and runner-up candidates of the panchayat
elections are now lining up to join their hands to becoming part
of Harmony Village in Ghaziabad, according to the official.
More than 405 villages from eight blocks of Ghaziabad have pledged
to join the scheme.
Kanauja, Bhaupur, Jalabad, Ataur, Kazimpur, Aabidpur, Manki,
Samser, Bahadurpur, Firoz Mohanpur are some villages which have
come forward and given sworn affidavits, he said.
Heads from other villages have also approached the CDO to know
more about the concept.
Phire Ram, Mathurapur village pradhan, has offered to take his
election rival on board in each development work in the village.
"We are happy to be part of the Harmony Village scheme. The
opposition leader also commands support in the village and has
also agreed to cooperate. It is too early to predict the outcome,
but we are positive about it," Ram said.
Kamla Devi, who lost in the election, said: "Though I am a runner
up and generally the opposition is treated with suspicion, we will
work together and things will improve for the villagers."
Council elections in villages are fiercely contested. The recent
panchayat elections saw each candidate spending huge amounts of
money to woo the voters by supplying free liquor and meat and hold
feasts for weeks together.
Violence and even the killing of political foes have been common
in Ghaziabad as in other parts of western Uttar Pradesh.
The new experiment, Pandey hopes, would help check political
killings and accelerate the developmental process in the
"I am quite positive about its success. More then 80 percent
village panchayat members have shown willingness to become part of
the "Harmony Villages", he said.
The state government agencies are closely monitoring the progress
of the experiment.
"If successful, we will take this to other districts," an official
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at email@example.com)