'Panchayati Raj' is the real democracy

The democratic institution of a panchayat needs to be strengthened. The strength is inherent at the local level, said Dr Ajit Jha from Delhi University who is the member of national presidium of Lok Rajniti Manch. Dr Jha was speaking at the Panchayati Raj Sammelan organized by Lok Rajniti Manch in Lucknow on 20th February 2011. The panchayats should be in the centre of democracy.

Historically, Dr Jha said, politics have not always been people-centric. Whosoever could control arms and ammunition was the one holding the reign of power. It was only during the independence struggle in India when Mahatma Gandhi and Dr BR Ambedkar were leading the movement, a unique phenomenon happened when fight to seek independence went alongside the fight to establish democracy in India. This didn’t happen all over the world, so India was surely in a unique situation, said Dr Jha.

He said, post-independence, before 1980, it was clear that remaining in electoral power was gaining dominance in Congress over people’s movements. After the year 1980, nearly every mainstream political party has got a chance to be in power either in the state or at the national level, said Dr Jha. The experience hasn’t been good with different mainstream parties and even those who voted for them might feel frustrated, said Dr Jha.

The people who are in power today, they are doing all what’s possible to serve their own interests, said Dr Jha. So people’s movements fuelled due to failure of politics in India, said Dr Jha. Before independence, under leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr BR Ambedkar, people’s movements and political activism was in unison. Even after independence, most of the people who gained power or were working for the government, were the same people to bring about the desired change. Sadly today, the situation has changed – with politics drifting apart from people’s movements.

The desired change with integrity is not likely to come if people’s movements and politics fail to synergise, said Dr Jha. Some people pose questions like ‘we social activists don’t have enough strength to jump into politics’ but if such questions are analyzed carefully, it is likely to become clear that it is a bad question because people’s movements versus politics is not the issue in front of us, said Dr Jha.

When Mahatma Gandhi and Dr BR Ambedkar led the freedom struggle of India, the difference between people’s movements and politics dissolved, and even then, people realized that the question of people’s movements versus politics is a fake one.

Dr Jha said that people are increasingly moving towards organizing themselves, it is the politics of the people, by the people and for the people truly speaking, and people are leading the struggle for political reforms as well.

The ‘Panchayati Raj’ is the real democracy, said Dr Jha. Democracy means that people should have power over the politics. Dr Jha further commented that if we leave 20-25 countries in the world, most of the other nations have a population equivalent or less than the cities of India. When an entire government runs those country, then why don’t we have a similar participatory and democratic structure in every city of India, said Dr Jha.

The Panchayati Raj Sammelan brought together over two dozen elected representatives, and over a hundred political and social activists who participated in an open dialogue to explore solutions for making panchayats transparent, truly democratic and efficient in bringing about the desired change.

Bobby Ramakant - CNS 

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