By George Joseph
New Delhi,(IANS) Rural Development Minister C P Joshi, often rated as an "underperformer" by the media, says it is a "small section of the westernised urban elite and the English media that are criticising him without any basis" and he is satisfied that the "rural development schemes are creating awareness and hope among the poor as desired" by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
"I am from a humble rural background, son of an ordinary teacher. I am new to Delhi, this being my first term as a parliament member. I do not know what some of the city elite or sections of the media want through their criticism", Joshi said in an exclusive interview with IANS at his residence here.
"Constitutionally, I am accountable to the people of India. Politically, I am answerable to my leader Sonia Gandhi (Congress president). I am confident on both these counts." Joshi, 60, a former minister in Rajasthan and ex-Congress chief of the state, said.
According to him, much of the criticism in sections of the English media was "one-sided and without ascertianing any facts from me". Asked about the "zero marks" rating awarded to his ministerial performance by sections of the media, Joshi said : "Let me wait for the marks of the poor and rural people of the country".
Saying that he was aware of the "huge responsibility assigned to him " by his leader ( Sonia), Joshi said : "Do you think that I am unaware that leaders and people are not watching my performance?".
Is he still obsessed with Rajasthan politics and ignoring his ministries?
"You can check the records. I am either in Delhi office or on tour to various states Monday to Friday. Delhi politicians, including ministers, are usually either in their states on Fridays. I remain here," Joshi said.
He felt the re-naming of the rural employment scheme as "Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (Mahatma Gandhi NREGA)" has been a major achievement of his tenure. Whether they are leaders of political parties or ordinary people or policymakers, they all say the new name of the scheme has given the rural folk an "identification and attachment" to the father of the nation (Mahatma Gandhi).
The minister said the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA has widened its scope to include marginal farmers and other weaker sections. The updated report on the progress of the scheme has been made available online for public review as required by the Prime Minister's Office.
Regarding Panchayati Raj, Joshi said the "process of devolution of power in a 63-year-old system" is a task met with traditonal resistance. But leaders of various parties, who rule different states, are all "with me in the basic issue of power to the grassroots " he claimed.
"The biggest factor of rural development and Panchayat Raj schemes are they are creating a new awareness and hope among the poor. That is what UPA and Soniaji want", Joshi told IANS.
He said steps were taken to eliminate corruption in the NREGA. It has been ensured that all schemes would be paid through banks and post offices. The administrative expenses limit has been fixed at six percent. It will ensure improved social audit, grievance and redressal and information technology infrastructure.
Joshi said the successful implementation of the MG NREGA was a" challenge and opportunity for the federal politics of the country". Pointing out that the centre is ruled by the UPA while different states are ruled by the NDA, the Left and other parties, he said the scheme will succeed only if the states cooperated with the centre.
"We all have to rise above party considerations and consider the MG NREGA and other programmes as national developmental schemes" Joshi said.