Gram Vikas aur Swadeshi Sansadhan (Hindi), Anjani Kumar Jha, Publications Division, GoI, Pp 112, Rs 85.00
INDIA is an agrarian country with two-third of its population living in villages. With respect to natural resources, all the villages are rich but despite this, their economic condition is far from satisfactory. The author, a journalist, sees that growth of villages can occur only if it is accompanied by local self-rule.
In fact, villages were seen since the Vedic times as single units by way of administration. Rig Veda even mentions the villages and villagehead or mukhiya as he was known then. Even in the Jataka tales, Gram Sabhas and Gram Sammelans are discussed. The author says that the growth of villages continued both during Hindu and Muslim rule, despite the end of royalty and decline of the kingdoms. The king used to ask for a share from the villager’s produce to keep his kingdom running, but not as a measure to exploit the farmers. Though hordes of foreign invaders kept on looting the country, the village units maintained their identity. The author quotes former Governor General Charles Metcalfe who had written in 1830 that the Indian village groups are like small republics. They have almost everything which they need to exist on their own. Along with this, they are independent of outside intervention in their affairs. “I do not want any kind of interference in the village constitution and I get disturbed when something is done to destroy this structure.”
The author feels that the village panchayats are not playing a constructive role with the welfare of the villagers in mind. Instead of developing as self-sufficient organisations, they are working as one of the instruments in implementing the plans and policies of the state governments. He laments that we are ignoring Gandhi’s concept of gram-swaraj.
He then goes on to describe in detail the significance and role of the Gram Sabhas and Gram Panchayats where the importance of Panchayati Raj is paramount. Here he lists the duties and responsibilities of the Panchayats, the Sarpanch and the Panchas, their salaries and disbursal of funds. He makes a valid point when he says that today seeds are available in plentiful amounts for growing plants on the promise of obtaining a rich yield but nobody sees that these seeds need more water, more chemical fertilisers than the local seeds which need less water and inorganic manure. He says that plants gown on foreign seeds, chemical fertilisers, etc. are proving costlier in the long run as the companies providing these inputs are increasing their prices every now and then.
Hence to establish Gandhi’s Gram Swaraj, it is necessary to make the Gram Sabhas as single self-sufficient units run by the local villagers. The Gram Sabhas have to be strengthened so that they can run entirely on their own.
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