"True democracy is possible": Panchayati Raj Sammelan

The Panchayati Raj Sammelan brought forth two key issues related to democracy at the community level: firstly, the elected representatives should take decisions in open meetings where common people can participate freely; and secondly, work towards establishing local self-governance as guaranteed under Article 243 of Indian constitution after 73rd and 74th amendment. The Panchayati Raj Sammelan was organized by Lok Rajniti Manch in Lucknow on 20th February 2011 where over two dozen elected representatives from recently held Panchayat elections in UP state and more than hundred political and social activists participated.

The first session was moderated by Keshav Chand, a noted social activist from Deoria, UP who is associated with the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Asha Parivar and Lok Rajniti Manch. Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and member of national presidium of Lok Rajniti Manch, Dr Sandeep Pandey, opened the Sammelan. Member of state presidium of Lok Rajniti Manch SR Darapuri, member of national presidium of Lok Rajniti Manch Ajit Jha, Magsaysay Awardee and noted right-to-information (RTI) activist Arvind Kejriwal, member state presidium of Lok Rajniti Manch and senior advocate of UP High Court Ravi Kiran Jain, Editor Sachchi Muchchi Arvind Murti, senior activist Mazhar Hussain, were some of the key resource people for the Panchayati Raj Sammelan.

S.R. Darapuri, who has been a retired Inspector-General (IG) Police, said that until the larger goal of sovereign panchayats is achieved the elected Gram Pradhans must ensure that the benefits through various welfare and development schemes reaches the people.

The Sammelan closed with newly elected Gram Pradhans taking an oath of transparency and accountability. They said that they will take all their decisions in open meetings of the Gram Sabha, they’ll keep their records transparent and accessible, they will not be part of corruption and they will not keep arms for their security. In addition the women Gram Pradhans pledged not to allow their husband or any other male members of their families to run the panchayats in their names. The oath was delivered by Mukesh, Gram Pradhan for the second time from GP Beniganj, Dist. Varanasi. Mukesh who is a member of Lok Samiti has run his panchayat honestly for the last five years.

The recital of an activist song ‘tiranga udaate bahut saal beete’ had earlier marked the opening of the Panchayati Raj Sammelan.

A film "SWARAJ – The HIWARE BAZAR Village" was also screened in second session in afternoon. This film documents an inspiring story of Hiware Bazar village where local self-governance has yielded eye-opening growth and development. Hiware Bazar is a village in Maharashtra, India, where people don't migrate to metropolis in search of jobs, teachers are present in schools, ration distribution is free of corruption, roads are clean and people live harmoniously. The people of village collectively started taking decisions through Gram Sabha and the village was transformed from a 'village of shame' to a 'village of fame', a village of Mahatma Gandhi's dream.
Vallabhacharya Pandey - CNS 

Citizen News Service (CNS), India/Thailand 
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