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Controversial Andhra village volunteer system to be changed

More than 2.60 lakh volunteers were appointed in August 2019 with a monthly honorarium of Rs 5,000. Each volunteer was entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the delivery of government benefits to 50 beneficiaries.

News Arena Network - Amaravati - UPDATED: July 9, 2024, 06:05 AM - 4 mins read

Controversial Andhra village volunteer system to be changed


The controversial village volunteer system, introduced by the previous YSR Congress government in Andhra Pradesh, is likely to undergo a complete overhaul.

 

The new NDA government, headed by Telugu Desam Party president and Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, is contemplating changes to make the system politically neutral while retaining the services of the village and ward volunteers who are tasked with ensuring smooth delivery of the benefits of welfare schemes to the doorsteps of people.  

 

More than 2.60 lakh volunteers were appointed in August 2019 with a monthly honorarium of Rs 5,000. Each volunteer was entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the delivery of government benefits to 50 beneficiaries. While village volunteers operate in rural areas, ward volunteers do their job in urban areas.

 

However, with the majority of these volunteers being appointed on the recommendation of the YSRCP leaders, they have virtually turned into “foot soldiers” for the YSRCP. Since the volunteers are working at the grassroots, they have built up the profiles of the voters at the micro-level over the last four and a half years.

 

At a meeting of the village and ward volunteers held before the elections, YSRCP president and former chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy described them as “brand ambassadors” of his government and asked them to become star campaigners for the ruling party for bringing it back to power for a second successive term.

 

He also asked the volunteers to play a key role in YSRCP victory in the forthcoming elections by effectively countering the misleading election promises of the TDP and its allies. He asked them to spread the message that a vote for the opposition would wind up the welfare schemes.

 

On March 30, after the Election Commission barred volunteers from the distribution of pensions to various categories of pensioners at their doorstep, more than 60,000 volunteers resigned from their posts during the elections and took part in the campaign on behalf of the YSRCP.

 

The YSRCP accused the opposition parties, particularly the TDP, of depriving the old people of their pensions, by complaining to the EC against volunteers.

 

However, The TDP president announced that his party was not against the volunteers’ system per se but was only opposing the way some of the volunteers were acting as YSRCP party workers.

 

Naidu announced during the electioneering that if TDP was voted to power, he would continue the volunteers’ system but see that it would have no political affiliation. He also promised to enhance the remuneration being given to the volunteers from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 per month.

 

It has been a month since the TDP-led NDA came to power in Andhra Pradesh, but uncertainty prevailed over the status of volunteers across the state, as the Naidu government has not taken any immediate decision on continuing their services.

 

Those who had resigned and worked for the YSRCP in the elections have been left jobless, those who did not resign, too, are uncertain about their fate.

 

The Minister for Social Welfare Bala Veeranjaneya Swamy, said the government would take a policy decision soon on utilising the services of village and ward volunteers. “We shall appoint an official committee to study the system and make appropriate changes,” he said.

 

The government is reportedly thinking of cutting down the number of volunteers from 2.60 lakh to around 1.50 lakh and utilising their services effectively.

 

“ Now, each volunteer will be asked to look after 100 beneficiaries. Alternatively, there will be only five volunteers in each gram panchayat,” the sources said.

 

There are also plans to recruit the village volunteers on a three-year contract, and depending on their performance, extend their services or recruit fresh candidates in their place. “This will give a sense of accountability for the volunteers,” the official quoted above said.

 

The government might also rename the volunteers as “gram sevak” in the villages and “ward sevak” in the urban areas.

Related Tags:#Andhra Pradesh
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