Prof. Ranjan Mohapatra

Prof. Ranjan Mohapatra

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BNVs (Bharat Nirman Volunteers) can strengthen the LINKAGE between SUPPLY and DEMAND sides of the Delivery System

CSR Initiatives of Corporate India can empower BNVs and make a huge DIFFERENCE

Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) of Government of India (GoI) has a budget of Rs. 87,800 crores during financial year 2011-12 for Bharat Nirman. Bharat Nirman has programmes for Irrigation, Roads, Electricity, Housing, Drinking Water and Telephone Connectivity. Department of Rural Development will spend Rs. 74,100 crores, Department of Drinking Water & Sanitation will spend Rs. 11,000 crores and Department of Land Resources will spend Rs. 2,700 crores. These three Departments will implement Bharat Nirman through schemes such as MGNREGA, PMGSY, IAY, NRLM/SGSY, NRDWP, TSC, and IWMP. Additionally, Central and 40 State Govts annually spend Rs. 8,00,000 crores on various welfare and development programmes to uplift the poor of India. This makes a whopping investment of Rs. 8,87,000 cores per year into rural India for the alleviation of poverty and development of the country.

            Then why is India still poor ? Why is India still not a developed country ?

            Gram Panchayat, which is lowest level of hierarchy in Panchayati Raj Institutions, is expected to plan and implement the various welfare schemes and development programmes but they severely lack manpower and equipments to be able to plan and implement these schemes and programmes. More importantly, knowledge and understanding of functionaries of Gram Panchayat is very low, affecting implementation of programmes including mega programmes like MGNREGA, NRHM, NRLM, RTE, etc.

            Indian service delivery system has been traditionally dominated by the supply side (Government machinery) without adequate, contact, communication and engagement with the demand side (Beneficiary). There has been various experiments in the administrative structure through creation of positions like Gramsevak, Gramsevika, Village level worker, Annganwadi and Asha in the recent times. There positions were created for facilitating delivery of services program inputs in the area of agriculture, child, nutrition and health. The effectiveness of all these positions have been questioned and very little effort have been made to improve the performance of these positions.

            The important and common aspect of all these positions is that they work with Salary as the motivation. The involvement of financial incentives, direct or indirect has been creating various administrative problems in recruiting, managing and compensating them. In addition to this, these positions are transferable and the employees prefer to stay close to their native village.

            As we know the contact point between supply side and demand side is very crucial and success of the entire delivery system lies in the effective management of this interface between supply side and demand side.

            During the evaluation of various development programmes, the Government found that the benefits were not reaching to the beneficiaries due to lack of communication between the beneficiaries and the programme implementers.


After long, the Ministry of Rural Development the flagship ministry with highest development budget has appreciated this gap and come out with a scheme for promoting volunteerism for improving the quality of interface between supply side and demand side.


There are 11 Objectives of BNVs such as:

1.         To establish close contact with the rural households who are the stakeholders of government programmes;

2.         To generate awareness about government programmes and the procedures to avail of their benefits among the people;

3.         To encourage legal literacy to enable people to have proper understanding of their rights and obligations under various government programmes particularly, those relating to rural development, agriculture, watershed development, health and family welfare, education, women and child development, infrastructure (including roads, electrification, irrigation, drinking water, sanitation, broadband connectivity, telephones, banking and post offices) and environmental protection;

4.         To support the government administrative machinery and the Panchayati Raj Institutions in performance of their duties, particularly in implementation of the Citizen's Charter;

5.         To facilitate social audit of government programmes;

6.         To expedite redressal of grievances of the people and assist in the functioning of helplines;

7.         To improve quality of implementation of government programmes by providing feedback on status of programmes to responsible officials;

8.         To provide opportunity to socially conscious citizens to participate in nation building activities;

9.         To develop leadership among the people;

10.       To develop a cadre of trained development volunteers with a deep commitment to change and development;

11.       To create appropriate conditions to maintain peace and tranquility in rural areas.


As per the eligibility criteria for the recruitment of Bharat Nirman Voluntees (BNVs), any individual committed to making contribution toward effective implementation of welfare and development programmes of the Governments may apply to the Block or Gram Panchayat for registration as Bharat Nirman Volunteer. He should be above 18 years of age. At least one-third of the Volunteers so engaged should be women. Preference may be given to SC/ST/OBC and minorities in enrollment. Tenure of the Volunteers may be lifelong provided they fulfill the prescribed conditions for proper conduct and discipline.

            After the acceptance of the application for Volunteers by the Block or the Gram Panchayat, the Volunteers shall be engaged for nation building service through effective implementation of government programmes in the Block or the Gram Panchayat where they are registered.


The Volunteers shall be provided three days training on proper implementation of various government programmes. They shall be familiarized with the fundamental duties as laid down in the Constitution of India under Article 51-A of the Constitution of India.

            On completion of the training the Volunteers will be provided a badge containing the logo and description of Bharat Nirman Volunteers. Further refresher training will continue to be provided according to need. Training will be imparted to the volunteers by the Block with the help of SIRDs.


According to the work manual, every Bharat Nirman Volunteer shall be attached with a maximum of 40 households residing in his close neighborhood. The Volunteers will be responsible for facilitating delivery of public services under various government programmes to the eligible rural households. They will also forward requests for services and grievance applications from the rural households to the Gram Panchayats and the Blocks.

            The duties of the volunteers will include carrying forward the messages of rural development under Mahatma Gandhi NREGA, National Rural Livelihood Mission, Rural Housing, National Social Assistance Programme, Rural Roads, Drinking Water and Sanitation, Watershed Development and Panchayati Raj Programmes to the rural households with whom they shall be attached. They will make sure that the members of the rural households are fully acquainted with their entitlements, roles and responsibilities under various programmes of rural development, agriculture, industries, banking, health, education, etc.

            Gram Panchayats, BDOs, District Collectors and Line Departments are responsible for delivery of public services to the people under various programmes.

            This is an important administrative tool for informing the citizens about the services which are to be delivered to the citizens along with the standards of delivery.

            This prevents uncertainty in delivery of services and eliminates harassment of the citizens. The volunteers shall help in the preparation of Citizen's Charter and its implementation by the Gram Panchayat, Block and the District Administration by communicating the expectations of the citizens and preparing a delivery standard which is workable.

            Large number of grievances accumulate in the offices of the BDOs, District Collectors and the Line Departments and responses remain inadequate because of shortage of resources. The volunteers shall look into grievances and in coordination with the Government offices shall provide help lines to the rural households.

            The volunteers in his multi-faceted job, is expected to run Wall Newspapers and community radio as powerful tools for communication. The volunteers can act as rural reporters and help in the working of the community radio and operationalization of wall newspapers.

            The volunteers will assist in maintenance of proper data base of the rural households, SHGs, and the works being taken up under various programmes including the conduct of BPL Census.

            The volunteers are expected to provide regular feedback to the Gram Panchayat and the Block Office regarding the state of affairs under various programmes of rural development and other allied programmes pertaining to Health, Education, Women and Child Development, Environment, Electrification and other rural infrastructural development programmes (including ICT).

            The volunteers will not confine their actions to rural development programmes only. They will act as agents of rural development in the wider sense including programmes of development of agriculture, livestock, fisheries, micro, small and medium enterprises, etc.

            Volunteers may also act as Banking Correspondents of the local Bank operating in the area. This will be subject to conditions imposed by the bank. They may also assist the banks in recovery of loans from willful defaulters and facilitate credit access to the families.

            The Volunteer shall act as a catalyst for mobilization of rural households into the Self Help Group movement. They should facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills to the members of the Self Help Groups so that they can raise bank loans, take up production and trading operations and repay bank loans in a time bound manner. Government services relating to combating diseases (HIV, TB, Malaria, diarrhea, etc.) can be effectively reached to the rural households by the volunteers. The incidence of diseases may be reported to the doctors and para health workers like ASHA and ANMs to facilitate supply of drugs. Wherever necessary affected persons may also be hospitalized by the volunteers. Volunteers may also facilitate institutional delivery of children to avoid risk to the child or the mother. They may identify malnourished children and pregnant mothers in the attached households and ensure supply of vitamin fortified diet to them through Anganwadi centers. Everyone should be provided access to safe drinking water through the rural drinking water supply programme. Volunteers should motivate the families to avoid open defecation and construct their private latrines so that the Gram Panchayat may be declared as Nirmal Gram.

            Illiterate members of the households may be identified and provided support through the literacy programmes to supply them learning materials. School drop outs may be identified to bring them back to schools. Volunteers should endeavour to ensure that all members of the household are made literate and the schoolgoing children go to school and no child is subjected to child labour.

            In order to ensure food security the volunteers may identify eligible households who may not have ration cards and report such cases to the Block or the GP. Volunteers should also report cases of non-delivery, short delivery or untimely delivery of rations by the suppliers of essential commodities. They shall utilize the resources under RKVY, NFSM, NHM, IWMP, MGNREGA, NRLM, etc. to maximize production of foodgrains, fruits and vegetables, spices, sugarcane, cotton, milk, meat, eggs and fish.

            Volunteers should identify families without house sites and report the cases to the GP or Block or Taluks or tahasils. They should also facilitate provision of houses to the houseless and the poor under the rural housing programme of IAY and facilitate easy flow of funds to the beneficiaries from the block or GP.


Normally police maintain their work diary which speaks a lot about law and order situation under the jurisdiction of a police station where a constable is posted. On the lines of police diary, Bharat Nirman Volunteer shall maintain a Work Diary in a prescribed form which will contain programme-wise details of work allotted to them and work performed by them. The Work Diary will be reviewed by the Counselor or the BDO or the Gram Panchayat from time to time. Suitable grades such as A, B, C and D may be awarded to record the quality of work against each item of work done. The Work Diary may be maintained in an electronic format prescribed for this purpose in Diksha website of the Ministry of Rural Development.

            The performance of selfless volunteer will be judged by a designated team by adopting their own set of norms. Basing on the grading of work done by the Volunteers measured in the Work Diary an annual appraisal will be done by calculating a weighted sum of the grades. Each grade may be summed up by attaching values to grades.

            The top 10% of the Volunteers as per the calculation of the sum of the grades may be given awards at the District and Block levels during the annual functions such as Republic Day or Independence Day or Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti Day. The award may contain a certificate.

            All information relating to Bharat Nirman Volunteers shall be entered in the MIS given in the Diksha website covering information on enrollment, training, Work Diary, grading and awards. Besides, socio-economic profile of the rural households and the village may also be maintained according to the prescribed forms and data tables.

            The ministry expects high moral standard from the volunteers. It is to be seen how these volunteers will perform in rural setting without any kind of monetary incentives and future prospects of growth. However, the Ministry is expecting Bharat Nirman Volunteers to exhibit model conduct and be an inspiration for others in the village. They are expected to be ever ready to provide all possible assistance for effective implementation of the welfare and development programmes of the government.

            In order to keep a check on the conduct of volunteer, the Ministry has evolved a mechanism under which a Volunteer who show doubtful character and conduct may be disengaged by the Gram Panchayat or the Block. The Gram Panchayat or the Block shall provide opportunity of hearing of the volunteers before the termination of the engagement. The volunteers shall take a proficiency test every year. This may be an online objective test to assess the knowledge of the volunteers about all the schemes operating in rural areas. The annual renewal of engagement of the volunteer will be subject to the passing of the volunteers with a minimum of 70% marks.


With the establishment of the cadre of village based volunteers following outcomes are expected:

1.         Better access to public services and improvement in outreach of government programmes especially for the women, dalits and tribals

2.         Improvement in human development indicators such as income, literacy, gender empowerment and life expectancy and reduction in infant and maternal mortality, child welfare, poverty reduction, etc.

3.         Infrastructure development and market integration – rural roads, telephony, irrigation, watersheds, housing, drinking water and sanitation, electrification, new and renewable energy sources, broadband connectivity, Bharat Nirman Rajiv Gandhi Seva Kendras

4.         Vibrant people's institutions like gram sabhas, village health and sanitation committees, vigilance and monitoring committees, Joint Forest Management Committees, Social Audit Committees, etc.

5.         Better management of natural resources through proper implementation of watershed, forestry, land development, drought proofing, flood protection and anti-water-logging measures under Mahatma Gandhi NREGA, Integrated Watershed Management, and other programmes.

6.         Environmental protection by biomass conservation and afforestation through people's participation

7.         Greater transparency and accountability in implementation of government programmes by dissemination of information and speedier delivery of public services

8.         Enhancing benefits for landless labourers, herdsmen, forest-dwellers, artisans, farmers, weavers and fishermen through improved access to infrastructure, institutional services, physical capital and financial resources

9.         Leadership development in rural community

10.       Support to local administration and PRIs

11.       Better quality of programme implementation

12.       Proper social audit of government schemes

13.       Effective redressal of grievances

14.       Facilitation in resolution of conflict


The BNV initiative is currently being implemented in 1242 blocks and 12672 Gram Panchayats in 233 Districts all over the country. This scheme was designed by a group of committed and visionary officers in the Ministry of Rural Development, led by Niten Chandra, Joint Secretary (who has been recently transferred back to his parent cadre, Odisha) and duly supported by Secretaries of the Department, Sri B.K. Sinha and Sri S. Vijay Kumar and the Union Ministers, Sri C.P. Joshi and Sri Jairam Ramesh. Mr. Pradip Jain, the Minister of State for Rural Development, played a major role in nurturing the scheme.

            India has a total of around 2,00,000 BNVs. The maximum volunteers are in Tamilnadu (38,672) followed by Andhra Pradesh (29,581), Rajasthan (23,023), Uttar Pradesh (17,569) and Gujarat (12,950).

            Satyendra Kumar Singh, Director, Training in the Rural Development Ministry, who worked closely with Niten Chandra, Joint Secretary, since conceptualization till now says that the scheme is commonly called Lab to land programme.

            As per Singh, the scheme is receiving tremendous response as the number of volunteers has swelled to a huge 2,00,000 in a short span of 1 year and a half (mid 2011 till end 2012) since mid 2011 till end 2012. The Ministry has organized 6 regional colloquiums, where the BNVs were made to listen to presentations from officials representing various departments of the government managing programmes in the presence of BDOs and Sarpanches. This kind of interaction made the BNVs get understood and accepted by the authorities in the Supply System and also the Sarpanches, BDOs, who have to closely work with the BNVs. The colloquiums have been an effective induction process for the BNVs.

            Being impressed by the possibilities, other Ministries and Departments including Drinking Water Mission, NRHM have started requesting for the services of the BNVs for facilitating their service delivery. Rural Development Ministry is in the process of finalizing a scheme for operationalising Social Audit.

            The present focus of the scheme is in training and induction of the BNVs through the State Institute of Rural developments, who were in a poor state. The training of BNVs in the SIRDs have been able to rejuvenate the SIRDs.

            A third party assessment done in Andhra Pradesh on the BNVs came out with a very positive result as claimed by Satyendra Singh. The selected case studies of the BNVs presented below speaks of the level of passion among the BNVs. However, this is the beginning, much more is yet to be done. The prime mover of the programme Niten Chandra is transferred out to his parent cadre, Odisha, making the scheme leaderless till someone with equal passion does not take charge. But the scheme has gained momentum and caught the imagination of the supply side and the demand side to move on its own merit. Niten Chandra said the programme is self-propelled now as the users of the BNVs are excited with the possibility and they are going to take the scheme forward.


The BNV scheme is no doubt a historic scheme. It is historic as;

1.         It is by far the first scheme to employ rural people without paying remuneration. Obviously the volunteers are expected to come from well off sections of rural society.

2.         It is one of the rare scheme to focus on the training and capacity building of the volunteers.

3.         It is first scheme to focus on the information and communication bridge between the service provider and the beneficiary – the service receiver.

4.         It is also the first scheme to have a plan to evaluate the performance of the volunteers.

5.         It also recruits people from local area, who have adequate knowledge of the locality and no greed to influence the programme negatively.

            Still, there is a challenge. How will Bharat Nirman and Bharat Nirman Volunteers be successful? How can they make the huge investment of Rs. 87,800 crores and more productive making India a developed country.

            The corporate houses may depute their employees as volunteers with salaries paid by the company under CSR to work as state level or district BNV coordinators, who can hand hold the BNVs in their initial phase and act as support / hand holding and capacity building partners till the BNVs stand on their own feet. They may engage NGOs and support them for the task.




The Corporate Houses may depute their employees as Volunteers with Salaries paid by the Company under CSR to work as State/ District-level BNV Co-Ordinators. They can hand-hold the BNVs in their initial phase till BNVs stand on their own feet. They may also engage NGOs for this purpose.

            At this point of time, Corporate India is expected to focus on the development issues confronting the nation and identify key aries, where it may get engaged to make a difference as a CATALYST. This expectation is based on the fact that Companies Amendment Bill is going to be an Act soon, with a powerful clause for CSR spending. In addition to this, revised CSR Guidelines for the Public Sector is being effective since April, 2013 with a transformative vision to make CMDs of Public Sector Companies to be personally involved. This increased involvement of both the Private and Public Sector companies is expected to create a challenge of selection of the CSR activity. The solution to this perennial challenge lies in information and knowledge about meaningful CSR project ideas, where the company can make a difference.

            For example, the Public Sector companies are expected to adopt backward districts for its development. Adoption and handholding of the BNVs in the back ward areas can be a very productive CSR investment for any PSU.

            The areas of engagement of the Corporate house under CSR may through adoption of the BNVs of a state or a district and provide handholding support including, managing their affairs including training (augmenting what is provided by the government), motivation and handholding during their work including report preparation. Many other areas of support may be considered in due course including organizing laptops from the available govt. funds or providing them form CSR budget of the corporate. But priority need be to provide intangible inputs over the tangible inputs as the government budget generally creates provision for tangible inputs. Being based on volunteerism, the BNV programme is non-controversial.



Former Jt. Secretary, Rural Development

GoI, In-Charge of BNV Programme

(Transfered to Parent Cadre)

You have been involved in designing and implementing this much needed innovative programme. We see a great degree of passion in you for this scheme. Will you tell us the background of this scheme, how did it all happen?

Evaluation studies of rural development schemes like MG NREGA, IAY, SGSY / NRLM revealed problems of low awareness and participation of the rural community in planning, monitoring & social audit of programmes. Cases of unfair treatment of beneficiaries and irregularities in selection and implementation of projects were being reported in the implementation of programmes. In certain cases, investigation by CBI was also ordered by Honourable Supreme Court. Internal audit of the Ministry also pointed out deficiencies. In a workshop held on RD Strategy for LWE (Left Wing Extremism) Districts in September, 2011 at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi Honourable Prime Minister exhorted strengthening of community ownership of programmes of rural development to improve the impact of programmes. The ad hoc Task Force on Strategic Planning of Performance Management Division of the Cabinet Secretariat of Government of India recommended strengthening of the Gram Sabhas.

            While the rural community was the chief stakeholder of programmes, it was increasingly realized that their lack of ownership of programmes lay at the root of programme ills. Accordingly, a need for a strategy for bringing the rural community or the Gram Sabha at the center of the programmes came to light.

            While the Ministry was undertaking the exercise of Strategic Planning, the Training and IEC Divisions developed an initiative for education and empowerment of the rural community by adopting a focused village approach and training certain identified members of the community through the State Institutes of Rural Development of the States and NIRD, Hyderabad. The Initiative was christened Lab-to-Land Initiative to highlight the need to eliminate the gap between policy / policymakers (Lab) and the beneficiaries / rural community (land).

            Under the Initiative 10-20 families of the rural community were attached to chosen committed individuals in the rural community who were willing to contribute to the development of their village. Almost thirty to sixty such individuals called Bharat Nirman Volunteers (BNVs) were identified in each village selected by the SIRDs / District Administration. Hon'ble Minister gave a call to mobilize 500 such BNVs in the September 2011 LWE Workshop at Vigyan Bhan, New Delhi.

            Focus of training and IEC now was brought to rural community for the first time. Efforts were made to build bridges between the community and the service delivery agencies through the BNVs through joint training of elected representatives, BNVs and officials at the cutting edge level. Every two months the gains made by States were shared in National Colloquia amongst all SIRDs and NIRD and selected BNVs / Sarpanches and District / Block level officials. The National Colloquia dispelled cynicism, energized everyone with positive thoughts and people went back with new ideas and resolutions to do better.

            The leadership of the Honourable Union Ministers of the Ministry of Rural Development, Sri C.P. Joshi and Sri Jairam Ramesh and the Union Secretaries of the Department of Rural Development, Sri B.K. Sinha and Sri S. Vijay Kumar was critical for nurturing and blossoming of the initiative.

What has been your experience in being a part of this programme ?

It was gratifying to see trained members of the rural community – BNVs – mobilizing community, and strengthening gram sabha and leveraging government programmes to realize collective aspirations. Some of them were widely acclaimed and received national Awards under MG NREGA and for Nirmal Gram under Total Sanitation Campaign. The state level training and IEC institutions that were lying dormant directly got involved in village development through field level training programmes.

What is the progress of the scheme, so far in different parts of India?

Community mobilization exercise has been undertaken in all States covering 200, 000 BNVs. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Manipur, Maharashtra, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, have been the front runners in this Initiative.

            After training by SIRDs, the BNVs have eliminated the middlemen from the system with the support of the District Administration. They are acting as the last mile human connectivity between the service delivery units and the community. Decision making is now being done by the people for the people. Democracy has become healthier.

What are the challenges the programme faces ?

The middlemen are the greatest hurdle. Training Institutions capacity for outreach programmes need significant enhancement. Distance training and education strategy should be in place.

            Regular National level programmes are required to be held to inculcate in the BNVs a pan India nationalistic character.

What are the opportunities for the scheme in making an impact ?

This is immense. Every year, over Rs 8,00,000 crore is being invested in rural India by Central and State Governments. Over Rs 15,00,000 crore gets invested by the private sector in the economy as a whole. There is no dearth of funds. We need to reorganize relationships and smoothen communications.

What is your assessment of the future of the scheme?

States and the community have understood the benefits of the Initiative. BNVs are highly qualified – lawyers, engineers, accountants, social activists, mediamen, doctors, retired employees, students are part of the movement. They are providing free service. Quality of works are improving and costs are coming down.

            Public funds are being pooled together for common cause. Blood and eye donation camps are being organized. Encroachment of public property is being checked. Disaster management has become easier. The list of benefits is long. The Initiative has acquired its own momentum.

How do you see the possibility of corporate engagement (as its CSR) in supporting the BNVs?

The confluence of talents in business, government and community for national cause can become a reality. The Corporates can directly contact SIRDs to get deep footholds in rural India through 2,00,000 BNVs who have their personal profiles including photos and mobile numbers in

            The BNVs can be organized as manufacturing and trading enterprises that can banish poverty, rejuvenate markets and spread industrialization in deep pockets of rural India. The wounds that have been inflicted in the disturbed areas of rural India can easily be healed.

Any other information, you would like to share with the readers of CSR VISION ?

We are the few fortunate Indians in Government, business, academia, professionals, who owe a debt to rest of the countrymen. We need to put aside cynicism, think positively and work united for accelerating development. In the wake of new innovations in social media this is no longer unthinkable. There are committed individuals everywhere. We only need to find each other.

About the author

CSR VISION is India’s ( probably world’s ) first monthly magazine in print devoted to CSR and Sustainable Development for bringing together all stakeholders of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT at a global and local levels and act as a platform for promoting strategic CSR and sustainable development practices through dissemination of information and knowledge.