I would often wonder and visualize India before British Rule, as a golden bird. Historical facts support that there was Swaraj in India as it was self sufficient and a very rich country. It really makes me feel nauseous to the core, when I realize that we were ripped off and torn by British. It is said that before the British rule in India, Gram Sabha was very strong. However, during the British Rule Panchyats were left out to play the role of a ‘tooth less elephant’. Does this mean our pillars of democracy (Gram Panchayats or Gram Sabhas) were shattered ruthlessly by the Britishers and till now we have not been able to empower them and re-establish them?
I recently finished reading ‘Swaraj’ by Mr Arvind Kejriwal. This book has given me many answers about effectiveness of Gram Sabhas and also dawned upon me that this is a model which empowers people directly and present a bigger meaning to democracy.
Talking about mega-cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Chandigarh? How will this model be effective in such cities? Well the idea of Gram Sabhas in cities is like Resident Welfare Associations (RWA). We have RWAs since ages and these are generally meant for senior citizens. What if our RWA has financial empowerment of budgeting according to the needs of people? How would it feel if we as citizens get our democratic right to decide where public funds be spent? Needless to say, we will feel empowered. Freer, liberal and certainly responsible! The idea is very simple yet very powerful.
The second major thing is Lokpal. Yes, it can become a major weapon in weeding out corruption not only from its roots, but also at higher levels as it has seeped into almost every bureaucratic function. Talking about states – then Yes, Lokayukta can be appointed.
The idea of involving citizens in the government system is not an alien one. It is already being followed in many developed countries. I remember when I was I working with a travel agency in New Zealand. The local city council proposed some changes for local market parking. The local residents and shopkeepers opposed the idea. A meeting was called for local residents and shopkeepers. I attended the meeting expecting it to be a good get-together, brainstorming and frankly with the lure to have cup of tea and some handmade cookies with all.
To my surprise, I was shell-shocked to know that the officers of city council were also present in that meeting .While I quickly grabbed second chocolate cookie, they unanimously decided to make changes in the plan of city council. Without much-a-do, the respected officers of city council agreed to make the desired changes.
That was the day when I realized how far we were! If this was to take place in India, the idea wouldn’t have seen the light of the day for next 10-15 years certainly. There are numerous problems that we face but we have become so immune or ignorant towards the problems that we have shifted towards acceptance.
We believe that we ought to have these problems and nothing much can be done. We just have one solution, which is to keep cribbing, cursing and disgrace the system. I think empowerment of common man can be a first step towards bringing back golden days of India. I see a ray of light coming from the idea of Swaraj. Jai Hind!
By Gaurav Verma