After India attained freedom, Mahatma Gandhi said: "In such a state (where swaraj is achieved) everyone is his own ruler. He rules himself in such a manner that he is never a hindrance to his neighbour." He summarised the core principle like this: "It is Swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves."The concept of Gram Swaraj is not political; it touches all aspects of life: cultural, social, economic and ecological. It provides an ideal non-violent social order, in which self-sufficient, self-reliant and self-governing villages function independently in vital matters leading to the holistic development of the villages.”
Keeping this concept in mind the Andhra Pradesh government established the Village/Ward Secretariats with the intention that the administration and government services should reach out to all the people. Unlike anywhere else in the country around 35 government departments are providing 500 different types of services to the people across the State. People who once ran pillar-to-post for various services to the district administrative centers for any kind of government service are now getting these services in their hometown... and at their doorstep.
From pensions to home loans, the Village/ Ward Secretariats are playing a key role in implementing the government's welfare schemes to the people based on their eligibility. This is not only saves time but also money and exemplifies the true principles of the Gandhian philosophy of Grama Swarajya of governance at the grass-root level !
M. Ramachandra Rao a pension beneficiary staying in the, 30th ward division in Kakinada, said that the Ward Secretariat serving the 30th division in Kakinada was built near Upputeru Vagu three years ago. Around 909 families in its vicinity are benefitted from the services provided by the Secretariat. The Secretariat plays a vital role in providing various welfare schemes as and when required. Not only that, various government services are being provided in a very short time.
Satyaveni a beneficiary of EBC Scheme, said that the residents are happy that the benefits of the welfare schemes are provided directly to their homes since the Secretariat system came into being. " Earlier we would have to run around various government offices for days to get the welfare scheme benefits. But now that has changed and our work gets done very easily without the need to pay bribes or wait for hours," she said.
Kakinada has a population of over 3 lakhs and there are 101 Ward Secretariats set up to serve people. The 30th Division Ward Secretariat has a total of 10 employees working for the people, said Chandramouli an Administration Secretary at the 30th Division Ward Secretariat. Talking about the Secretariat system, Srinivas a Welfare Secretary at the 30th Division Secretariat, says that they get professional satisfaction after working for the community. The Volunteers in each Secretariat go to the houses allotted to them and collect the details of the beneficiaries and hand over the welfare benefits of the schemes to them.
The Village/Ward Secretariat system has been gaining strength after its inception by Chief Minister YS. Jagan Mohan Reddy in 2019 in commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who firmly believed that the country would develop on the lines of Grama Swarajya.
Andhra Pradesh became a role model for other States in the country by setting up Village and Ward Secretariats which has been seen as a major step towards decentralisation of administration. The system has gained huge popularity among people and the fact that many States are studying the Secretariat system is proof of its success. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also recently praised the system during one of his speeches. Chief Minister YS Jagan has made the Secretariat system available to the people, realizing the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi Grama Swaraj, said Ragireddy Arun Kumar, Corporator of the 30th Division.
Thousands of Village/Ward Secretariats across the State have become a bridge between the government and the people. The system has become crucial in the implementation of government schemes. As per Chief Minister YS Jagan’s endeavor of decentralisation, hundreds of government services are being made available in a short period of time in line with his ideas.
Padugupadu Secretariat, Kovur, Nellore District
In another case study, Padugupadu is the first secretariat in the village in the Kovur constituency of the Nellore district. There are seven secretariat staff and 17 volunteers working for the welfare of 949 families in the Padugupadu village. The governance has changed remarkably after the advent of the Secretariat system, said Syed Munir a resident of Padugupadu.
Srinivasulu an Educational Welfare Assistant said that the Village/ward secretariats are working for the eradication of poverty without any scope for corruption, discrimination, or political interference and are making a huge difference in the lives of the people. Surekha, a Volunteer here said that there has been a significant change in the lives of the people after the establishment of the Secretariat system. People need not wait for their pension amount for days together like in the past. Now Volunteers appear in front of the beneficiary's home by six o'clock in the morning on the first day of each month and deliver the amount to their doorstep she said.
The Volunteer system was introduced by the government with a lot of forethought and vision for the benefit of the public. Another Volunteer named Vijay Kumar stated that as Volunteers of the Secretariat system they have gained respect in the society. During the COVID pandemic, people were saved from financial crisis thanks to the Volunteers who came and delivered financial assistance, rice, and ration to the people during that difficult phase which was truly commendable.
Mypadu Gate Venkat Reddy Nagar Secretariat in Nellore
There are ten Secretariat employees and 19 volunteers serving in the Mypadu Gate Secretariat where more than a thousand families are under its purview. Subhadhramma a beneficiary, who had earlier struggled to get a death certificate, says that now with the Secretariat system work gets completed very fast without the hassle of having to give money to anyone, she gushed.
Another Volunteer named Kanchi Lokesh, said that since YS Jagan has been in power for three years, around thirty welfare schemes were introduced and have become popular. Each scheme has its own uniqueness. There are plans for students from KG to PG, BCs,SCs, STs and minorities have been given financial assistance through various schemes, those in the fields of education, medicine, and agriculture are also being benefitted through various plans and are being pushed out of financial difficulties and thus paving the way for their development, he said.
The Gram Ward Secretariats are constantly working to ensure that none of these schemes are misused and reach only the deserving and Volunteers are happy to be a part of this great democratic exercise. Nimmala Aruna, another Volunteer said that we consider families within our purview like our own families. It's not just us, our bonding is such that families also consider us (Volunteers) as their extended family members. It’s a kind of humane bond that we have fostered in the community over the past three years, she said.
Satish the Ward Administration Secretary previously worked in a software company. After the notification for the Village/ Ward Secretariat was announced he applied, was selected for the job, and is now rendering services in his own place. Similarly Priyanka a Welfare Secretary wanted o work as a teacher, but changed her mind and secured a job as a Ward Secretariat and is extremely happy working with the government.
More than 1.26 lakh employees, (which is termed as the first of its kind in the country in terms of numbers in a single recruitment drive), were appointed to the Village and Ward Secretariats that too within four months of the YS Jagan's government taking charge of the State. “You should not treat this as a government job, but as a movement to bring in change and transparency in the governance, which the previous government completely ignored,” YS Jagan said, while calling upon the Ward/Village Secretariat recruits to show commitment, bring in best practices and root out corruption.
And true to YS Jagan’s call three years later, around 2.8 lakh Village/Ward Volunteers are taking governance to the doorsteps of the people…
Also Watch: 3 Years Of AP CM YS Jagan | AP Village/Ward Secretariat System