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Reference 4: PANCHAYATI SWARAJ: Freedom at the Doorstep

Book Publisher: Notion Press
Author: Nixon Fernando
No of Pages: 363
Paper Back Price: Rs. 649 /-
I.S.B.N: 978-1-64429-905-0



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"Analysing the concept of freedom and self-governmentin their various dimensions, Mr. Nixon Fernando has brought out an authentic and practical approach to solve politico-social issues....."
-------Dr. Lalitha Ramamurthi, Chairperson, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Chennai .
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ABOUT PART2

This part of the book has a website "Panchayati Swaraj" dedicated to itself. It is a kind of operational part of the vision which directly addresses issues through the eyes of the individuals living in the villages of India. The Indian village was beaten into a poor normal by the colonial rule. The ability for self-expression was strifiled. A village teaming up was politically discouraged. Over the two or three centuries, the grassroots institutions were slowly de-patronized and colonial impositions took over.

With the coming of independence was all this reversed effectively?

No!

Despite all kinds of sincere efforts, the way the democracy has played out has lead to keeping ... the villages politically weak and disempowered. The villages of India have not managed to build the required strengths that they and their citizens can thrive in the global village that has emerged today.

This of course is not entirely true because India has had and continues to have village movements led by eminent leaders dotting the length and breadth of the nation. Local leaders have struggled against the prevailing conditions and have moved their respective village teams towards prosperity.

The problem is that there is a need to fight with the system to prosper; it should be the other way: 'flow with the system and prosper'.

This part of the book deals with basic principles and inspirations coming to us from our historical past and coming from eminent people of the freedom struggle. It presents a way forward that is reasoned out from basics. The hope is that here is unfallable reasoning in the thinking process and the consequences point to promising directions that can handle a whole spectrum of issues confronting our nation today.

DO NOT MISS:It is strongly recommended that those working in the field should visit the website "Panchayati Swaraj" and it is self-sufficient in that those on ground can find a template, which they can use to trigger freedom in their villages of concern. The detailed reasoning though is available in the book. Reading the book will surely add deeper understanding to those who endeavor on ground on the basis of the material already available on and through the Panchayati Swaraj website.



FOREWORD





Dr. Lalitha Ramamurthi
Chairperson, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Chennai
President, Institution for development education, Chennai
Former Senior Research Fellow Madras University
DrLalita


Wisdom comes from experience. Experience involves attitude, aptitude, analysis, ability and awareness. If man can emerge successfully from his experiences, then he will be able to understand what freedom really means. This involves reconstruction of ideas related to existence and experience. It requires trust—trust in the capacity of common men to build an economically and socially strong India, trust to carry on development from grassroots level.

This is the undercurrent of ‘Panchayati Swaraj’; a short but meaningful and relevant treatise by Mr. Nixon Fernando. ... The book is a reflection of the faith, dedication and conviction of the author on the power of common man. Analysing the concept of freedom and self-government in their various dimensions, Mr. Nixon Fernando has brought out an authentic and practical approach to solve politico-social issues. Explaining the corruption and manipulation involved in power struggles at all levels, the author is hopeful that given the right freedom and right conditions, humanity will enjoy real freedom. He rightfully believes that a decentralized, self-awakening and systematic contribution by local governing bodies—panchayats—will be able to destroy the narrow loyalties and temptations to outshine.

Indian culture and way of life is an indivisible part of the system of local government. Any purposeful and meaningful system will have the needs and aspirations of the common man as its focus, the beginning and the end. Inequalities between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, the knowledgeable and the ignorant, are the source of discontent among human societies. Mr. Nixon Fernando has analysed these inequalities very logically and has suggested a building-up from the lowest rung of development.

I congratulate Mr. Fernando for his refreshingly unique approach to the governance of panchayats. The title ‘Panchayati Swaraj’ is unique because it reveals that only within the local self-governing bodies the future of India rests. This book is a very valuable contribution, by Mr. Nixon Fernando to remove the apathy and indifference with which those in power look at development issues.

Dr. Lalitha Ramamurthi
Chairperson, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Chennai
President, Institution for development education, Chennai
Former Senior Research Fellow Madras University



CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION
AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME
The power of an idea ** A simple idea, if it is really good, can achieve wonders ** Conceiving a journey back to freedom

SECTION I
THE VISION ...

1.1 – THE VILLAGES OF INDIA IN THE EYES OF MAHATMA GANDHI
1.2 – MY GANDHIAN EDEN: HOME SWEET HOME
A story about a village that is experiencing freedom
1.3 – THE PURPOSE OF THE VISION AND THE STORY
From individual aims to team aims ** Using a mind-science tool to present the vision in an acceptable form ** How that story can be used

SECTION II
AN EXPOSE OF THE VISION

2.1 – THE SIX FREEDOMS THAT WILL LEAD TO THE GANDHIAN VISION
2.2 – FREEDOM 1: REVENUE ACCOUNTING
Accounting Freedom 1: Land Records:
Accounting Freedom 2: Taxes (a record of taxation and expenses)
Accounting Freedom 3: Scheme List
Accounting Freedom 4: Census
2.3 – FREEDOM 2: ECONOMIC
Economic Freedom 1: Adaptation and Integration
Economic Freedom 2: Employment
Economic Freedom 3: Financial
Economic Freedom 4: Technological
Economic Freedom 5: Resource Economization
2.4 – FREEDOM 3: CULTURAL
Cultural Freedom 1: Education
Cultural Freedom 2: Skill Sets
Cultural Freedom 3: Traditions
Cultural Freedom 4: Freedom in the Arts
Cultural Freedom 5: Spiritual
2.5 – FREEDOM 4: HEALTH
Health Freedom 1: Sports
Health Freedom 2: Health Care and Wellness
Health Freedom 3: Hygiene
Health Freedom 4: Nutrition
Health Freedom 5: Medical Care
2.6 – FREEDOM 5: GOVERNMENT
Governance Freedom 1: Legislative
Governance Freedom 2: Executive
Governance Freedom 3: Judicial
Governance Freedom 4: Integration
2.7 – FREEDOM 6: VISION
Vision Freedom 1: Environmental
Vision Freedom 2: Developmental
Vision Freedom 3: Contributory
2.8 – USING THE INDICES TO MOVE TOWARDS SECOND FREEDOM
‘So has my village achieved the six freedoms?’ ** A vision is the start ** What is a project? ** The challenges of moving from vision to project implementation ** Village freedom mind map ** What is the thought behind generating this village freedom mind map? ** How to use this mind map and point in the direction of freedom
2.9 – PLAN OF ACTION FOR EACH VILLAGE
Step 1: Swaraj Seedling(s)
Step 2: Freedom Nursery
Step 2a: Freedom Nursery Presentation
Step 3: Village Freedom Council
Step 4: The NRV Meet
Step 5: The Village Swaraj Master Plan
A very critical reform required for the pursuit of swaraj ** The important tax reform ** A caution for tax reform ** Our possessions belong to the brave who put their lives in the line of duty

SECTION III
THE NUANCES OF THE PURSUIT OF FREEDOM

3.1 – IDEA 1: THE CONNECTION BETWEEN DECENTRALIZATION AND SUCCESSFUL KINGDOMS What is the difference between magisterial duties and judicial duties? **
Chanakya’s idea of decentralizing judicial power ** The indigenous grassroots judicial system
3.2 – IDEA 2: BENEVOLENCE IN CENTRALIZATION IS IGNORANCE PERSONIFIED
…there is no need to rule from above or for kings and politicians to be benevolent from a distance. People can do their own thing. Let the people have the freedom to take care of themselves, and they will, in no time, rise up to the task…
3.3 – IDEA 3: THE ANCIENT INDIAN VILLAGE REPUBLIC
Inscriptions
3.4 – IDEA 4: TWO CARDINAL PRINCIPLES FOR DECENTRALIZATION
The first cardinal principle **
The second cardinal principle
3.5 – IDEA 5: A QUESTION TO VILLAGE CITIZENS: WHEN DOES ONE QUALIFY TO BE CALLED FREE?
Index 1 – The irresponsibility dimension of slavery
Index 2 – A feeling of being subjugated
Index 3 – The question of rights
Index 4 – The highest freedom
To summarize
3.6 – IDEA 6: CAN THE INDIAN ADMINISTRATION NURTURED IN SLAVERY NURTURE FREEDOM?
Foreign vs. native ** Institution-building by colonial masters ** The true colours of the bureaucracy
3.7 – IDEA 7: A TEAMED-UP COMMUNITY WILL PERFORM BETTER
3.8 – IDEA 8: COLONIAL RULE ADVERSELY MOLDED INDIGENOUS SYSTEMS
3.9 – IDEA 9: HOW COLONIAL RULE STIFLED DECENTRALIZATION
A revolution of sorts ** The change in laws related to borrowing and lending ** The change in the pattern of land-holding – Permanent land settlement ** The change in the authority of the zamindars ** Combined effect of the three ** Thirty-six years of total transformation ** The inherent nature of the colonial rule process

SECTION IV
TACKLING THE FORCES THAT CAN IMPEDE

4.1 – THE FIRST ENEMY: THE ‘I WILL DO’ LEADERSHIP
Fighting the first enemy
4.2 – THE SECOND ENEMY: THE INACTIVE UNINFORMED CITIZEN
The belief that villagers are incapable ** Villages left leaderless ** New players, old raj ** Perpetuation of a slavish mentality ** Fighting the second enemy
4.3 – THE THIRD ENEMY: LACK OF INSTITUTIONALIZATION
Insufficient change at independence ** Reforms that did not measure up ** Fighting the third enemy
4.4 – THE FOURTH ENEMY: MIND POISONS
The first great strength ** Another great strength ** What is the fourth enemy and what does it do? ** Effect on people ** The fourth enemy comes in various forms ** The thief in the guise of a friend and well-wisher ** The false Gurus ** The self-centred label-representing-leader ** Such ‘representatives’ are not eligible ** Fighting the fourth enemy ** Identifying that one’s own mind-set has been compromised is half the work done ** Choosing the right principles of action ** Look for Gurus who can guide ** Choose the right leaders ** Fighting back the fourth enemy at the personal level ** A yoga to try ** Think back through your responses for various occasions and be ready ** A village that looks forward ** The Brahst-aastra
4.5 – ENEMIES OF THE SPIRIT OF SWARAJ
Enemies of the spirit of swaraj and the solutions

SECTION V
PARTNERSHIP WITH THE SURROUNDING ENVIRONMENT
Every village has an organic interdependence with the surrounding society.

5.1 – THE INTER VILLAGE FORUM: INVALUABLE FOR FREEDOM
The size ** The culture of win-win ** Where leaders and politicians can make a difference
5.2 – SUPPORTING THE PURSUIT OF VILLAGE SELF-RULE FROM THE OUTSIDE
Knowledge ** Team discipline ** Finances ** Political institutions ** Technology upgrade ** The vital ** Summary
5.3 – TEAMWORK CAN MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE
A bureaucracy plotting for welfare ** Every sector will help ** India has what it takes

APPENDIX
A: THE SIX FREEDOMS IN DETAIL
APPENDIX A.1 – REVENUE ACCOUNTING FREEDOM
APPENDIX A.2 – ECONOMIC FREEDOM
APPENDIX A.3 – CULTURAL FREEDOM
APPENDIX A.4 – HEALTH FREEDOM
APPENDIX A.5 – GOVERNMENT FREEDOM
APPENDIX A.6 – VISION FREEDOM



Section 3 : Chapter 4:
(sample chapter)
IDEA 4: TWO CARDINAL PRINCIPLES FOR DECENTRALIZATION

There are other examples of self-rule villages like the one we have just considered. And there are important lessons that can be drawn from these. We should not do a copy-paste; rather, the past needs to be analysed for underlying principles that can be applied universally, irrespective of the era. If some principles were valid at some time in the past, they should be relevant now too. Let us give some thought to such important principles that will guide us in finding solutions for the present day situation. ...

These principles have to do with the characteristic relationship that needs to exist between the nation, state and village. These may be termed as the two cardinal principles for facilitating self-rule that need to be adopted when we take up the process of building freedom-giving institutions at the grassroots level.

The first cardinal principle: Following is a passage that dates to the freedom struggle of India, somewhere in the 1930s:

The old Panchayat rule in India may be said to be a somewhat imperfect but honest attempt in this (non-violent, rule-by-all) direction. But in the absence of any coordinating arrangement between the various panchayats that attempt must be regarded as unscientific, and inadequate for our present-day needs.
–--------------- Vinobha Bhave in Swaraj Shastra (which he dictated while in prison)

The chapter in which this passage appears in his book deals with the classification of different kinds of administrations/rules as he sees them. However, this observation made by him helps us draw some important inferences in our context. First of all, he does admit to the existence of a panchayat system that was tuned to higher values of human living. But besides that, he mentions that there was an absence of a coordinating arrangement between the various panchayats. This, he says, made the process unscientific. His mentioning of this implies that he felt the need of a coordinating agency to make the panchayat system scientific. A little thought shows how this is true.

A single panchayat, all by itself, is merely an outcome of an agreement for cooperation amongst a group of families living together—that they will run their togetherness in some pre-determined manner which they have agreed upon. If such a community is left isolated and is not influenced by people from outside, then this ‘arrangement’ will continuously evolve and change according to the personalities involved. There will not be permanence. The team can improve or degrade, and it will be difficult for those who are in the community to decide as to what needs to be done. In other words, if there is no benchmark with which it can be compared, it is free to take any shape and change wildly in both content and quality.

In fact, the concept of a panchayat really makes sense only when we set up a standard or a benchmark which can be followed by many local communities of a state or a nation. It must be designed in such a way that it will help both, the people of the village and the nation at large. It must be defined in terms of what must happen inside a community and what must happen between communities. In Mr. Vinobha Bhave’s perception, such a process of scientific standardization did not exist in India as far as he knew, both from history and as far as he perceived in his surroundings.

Be that as it may, we are now aware that in various phases of Indian history, such standardization and some kind of coordination system between panchayats did exist. The rulers of many ancient kingdoms were responsible for ensuring that such coordination existed. The Uttaramerur inscription is proof of such kind of standardization.

So then, a question arises as to why it was not in existence when Mr. Vinobha Bhave wrote in the 1930? In the 1930s, the colonial powers were in charge. They had been influencing the nation as rulers for more than a century and a half by then. Chances are that it must be something they had done.

A fact known to politicians today is this that if one wants to kill a program initiated by a previous government, all one needs to do is to stop all the funds flowing to that program. It dies its own death. Or take the example of the various sports in our country. Those that get sponsorship are able to survive; those that don’t get any money don’t survive. Take yet another example. Let’s say there are two cricket federations fighting it out in India. Which would be the ‘real’ federation? Obviously, it will be the one that is ‘recognized’ by the International Cricket Federation. One could check it out if desired. Let us say the ICC suddenly recognizes the rebel league as the real thing. In a matter of a few months, once people get the idea that the change is for keeps, all the ‘star’ players would shift to the new rebel league. The original federation would eventually disappear.

There are thousands of examples to show how any institution in public life gains endurance when it is ‘recognized’ and ‘patronized’. Conversely, an institution gets automatically stifled, emasculated or even killed when patronage is withdrawn. The same applies to the panchayats too.

When the modern systems were established and consolidated in the administration of British India, patronage to traditional and indigenous systems was withdrawn. Therefore, by the time Mr. Vinobha Bhave was looking at the system, he was merely looking at the remains of a long lost system that lay scattered around him after more than a century and a half of colonial rule. We shall see how the colonial system did this in great detail in the coming chapters, for it gives us an idea of how we can reset the clock and move forward. But for the moment, we shall take it at face value and say that patronage to the earlier panchayat system was withdrawn.

Therefore, if a panchayat system needs to succeed, there is a need for it to gain recognition and legitimacy. Politically, it needs to be respected for its decisions. Its judicial powers need to be recognized. It needs financial support. It needs economic freedom. Having ensured this, and only after having ensured this, can we even start evaluating the value of the panchayat system. Therefore, we can briefly state the first of the cardinal principles as follows:

The panchayat system, which should be instituted first, should also be accorded recognition and patronage.

Fortunately, this process has been initiated post-independence through a long drawn process ending in the 73rd and 74th amendments of the constitution, but it still needs to be taken to its logical conclusion.

The second cardinal principle: Let us take the example of McDonalds. Let’s say that the first McDonalds fast food centre, which came up in some town or city of the US, made a lot of money. The owner decided to expand into other cities and into the world, and so, he set up franchisees all over. He made a deal with each franchisee owner by which he got some regular amount of money and let them do business on his behalf. So, all he did was sit at home. And the money kept coming!

Well! Well! Are we not missing something? If that is all he did, then he would have become a pauper in no time! His clients, having visited McDonalds outlets in other parts of the town or in other cities, might not have liked what they ate there. And so, disgusted with the food, they would have possibly kept their distance from even the original outlet. Indeed, if the McDonalds franchisees in India decide to sell only dosas and nothing else, there would be nothing similar to the original outlet except for the name.

It does not make sense having a franchisee arrangement if there is no standard set up from a nerve centre and if there is no regular monitoring from that nerve centre. Only this standard setting coupled with monitoring will complete the system/organization. If McDonalds does this successfully, wherever any of its American patrons go, they will get to eat almost the same food. If the original food was perceived as good, then the franchisees would also be seen to be serving the same good food. The organization/company would grow and prosper. This is the story of all franchise-based companies all over the world.

This is a simple principle which modern companies use. It is not a new one though. The idea has been used for centuries in relation to the Indian system of panchayats. A wise ruler would let the panchayats operate freely within a set of clearly defined rules, and then, most importantly, he would come back to regularly check whether the panchayats were operating in tune with the scheme. In other words, he would audit the records and performance of the panchayats to check whether they were maintaining the standards he had set for them. He would naturally get feedback, and he would explore corrective measures to improve the system further. If everything was going as per his plan, then he would rate his governance a success.

This reasoning leads us to that second cardinal principle:

A panchayat system is complete only if it is subjected to regular and effective audits.

We desire various goals for the villages of India. Some of them can be listed as follows:
Ø All persons in the village must be treated equally in accordance to the merit of their own actions.
Ø No one must be deprived of what is lawfully his.
Ø Each one must get equal opportunity for study.
Ø Rule of law must be upheld in the villages.
Ø No section of society defined by caste, sex, religion, race or age must be discriminated against.
Ø The village must have a development plan and work on it.
Ø Villages must meet their environment related goals.

If these goals need to be achieved, then all of this has to be coded into the laws governing the village and enforced through time-bound audits. These audits need to be semester audits or, at the worst, annual audits.

All government systems at the taluka level need to have this audit mechanism as one of their prime responsibilities. At the taluka level, the government should have a proper reward and punishment mechanism to ensure that the village communities, through their panchayats, stick to the scheme of progress as broadly designed for the villages of the country.

In conclusion, we can say that when our goal is a grassroots system that is holistic and targets excellence and when we seek something that is desirable for creating and sustaining freedom, it cannot be arrived at by merely initiating a panchayat system. The panchayat system is complete only when it is followed up with the two cardinal principles.

i) Grassroots institutions have to be given the requisite authority or sanction of law so that they can do their own thing. The higher authorities need to hold the hands of those working towards accomplishing their responsibilities at the lower levels. Local governments must be respected and patronized.

ii) In order to ensure compliance to rules and the constitution, arrangements need to be made so that their activities may be audited systematically and regularly.

These two principles need to be ensured if a dynamic grassroots process is to be sustained in India.


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