Setting up political trajectory in our villages: Steps towards the Panchayati Raj
स्वे स्वे कर्मण्यभिरतः संसिद्धि लभते नरः (The Gita 18-45)
One attains perfection by discharging Duties.
Two movements must go on at the same time to achieve a sound and satisfactory political process (analogically as distinct and as integrated as the Earth’s well known two movements going on simultaneously: ‘rotation’ that causes day and night, and ‘revolution’ that causes seasons): these get expression in —
- Steps to make the Panchayati Raj work effectively to achieve its ideals, and
- Steps to make our Parliament effectively mission-conscious, and accountable to our people.
Granville Austin has aptly appreciated the reasons Nehru had advanced to go ahead with the community development and panchayati raj programmes ‘whose purpose may be said to have been integration through decentralization and unity through participation, in addition to their obvious aims of economic development and social improvement in villages. These programmes were to be the ideal combination of the grand themes of unity, democracy, and social revolution’ [Granville Austin, Working a Democratic Constitution p. 167]. It was this high idealism that led to the framing of the Article 40 of our Constitution prescribing, as a directive principle for state policy, and to the organization of village panchayats to function as the units of self-government. Now the Part IX of our Constitution deals with the Panchayat by clarifying its role and prescribing its wide powers, and reach. Article 243G of our Constitution contemplates that this institution would play a role in ‘the preparation of plans for economic development and social justice’, and also in ‘ the implementation’ of such schemes as are entrusted to the Panchayat.
As I have observed in Bihar, the institution has not worked well for many reasons, which include these: (i) the political parties do not allow people’s participation at the grass roots levels as they fear that their monolithic and vertical power-structure, under the top-down command system, would suffer; (ii) the political parties love controlling power at the top because it delights their controlling caucus which in turn builds up a hierarchy of their Samurais (fighters) down the line to promote their powers, and to reap and distribute the ill-gotten gains; (iii) the transparency, natural under the Panchayati Raj, is disliked by all the beneficiaries of the Realm of Darkness which permit the crooks and looters operate unseen and undetected; (iv) the Panchayati Raj, if successful, would set afoot a system under which ‘economic development’ would get priority over the idea of the GDP-indicated ‘economic growth’; (v) the ‘corporations’, the MNCs, their mentors, protégées and lobbyists want centralised government where things can be easily managed, and manipulated; (vi) the crooks and the criminals dislike the Panchayati Raj as they cannot afford to play their game under people’s direct gaze, and also because they cannot build filters, shelters, hiding places, and Alsatias to escape being caught. Granville Austin correctly felt that the “State politicians resisted village power for fear of losing influence”, as the ‘segmented structures and primitive institutions’ of rural society ‘could not generate a responsive and creative leadership’. Austin felt that these “same factors would continue to inhibit the development of panchayats and community programmes for years to come.” [Granville Austin, Working a Democratic Constitution p. 168-169]. We must build a well-functional system at the grass-root level to frustrate the conspiracies already afoot.