The author starts the book to show how the people, the owner of this country, have no control over the government employees, government or the public money, government policies and laws and finally no control over the natural resources! He even “suspects” that the big corporates of India and even those of foreign origin control our politics and economy! I quote the author on page 3, “I now question myself, ‘Do foreign powers actually control our Parliament?’” In next page he substantiates his suspicion by quoting Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, and the Radia tape scandal!!
The author has widely travelled and the above is not bookish knowledge but part of his personal experience while working within system and promoting his NGO, and trying to find a solution to corruption, unemployment and miseries of people!
It is natural that outcome of his findings were part of his personal experience and he had no or minimum, or very little knowledge of others’ findings before him or even that of his contemporaries; what are the root causes of exploitation of the people!
Page 14- “It is obvious that the government does have money but it is being used on things that are unnecessary”! He further quotes various government schemes, like old age pension, widow pension, NREGA, etc! If people have control over the money allotted to them, road to Swaraj will be built!
On BPL author says, everybody wants to be a beggar. Everybody wants to be on a list of beggars. There is race to be beggars. How is such a country ever going to progress?
So far, I have been able to, at least I think so, to explain the mind-set of the author! A petty bourgeois mind-set! Middle class, honest may be, but pseudo-intellectual!! With all his travel, work with poor through NGO, he is not able to shed off his philistinism, blames people to be wanting to become parasites! Today the world has amassed wealth enough to feed more than 10 times the existing population on Earth for decades and all that due the labour power produced by the workers and peasants!!
His observation on Land is very right! On pages 19-21, he gives reason, why land acquisition is against farmers. It is taken by force, at the lowest compensation, talks of tribal land, nothing is given to peasant labours, who had been working on these lands! Few who get lands, ‘compensate’ the bureaucrats and political leaders but the peasants, the landless peasants and the labour gets ruined! SEZs are approved in Cabinet meeting within minutes and farmers are routed!
Same goes for minerals. I quote, “…. Government is selling them to private companies at unwarranted at low prices. Private companies do not use these resources for the betterment of the country. They mine these resources and sell them in international markets for huge profits.”- Page 21.
This chapter is heart breaking. “Tribal had no papers to show the ownership of the land on which they had been living for centuries…….. became criminals on their own land…….. declared government property”, author rightly shows meaning of “development” after the British left India!!
Very well brought out, this phenomenon is not Indian but of the world but sadly author fails to link this to “Private Property”! He is of the opinion that the remedy is removing corruption and not socialisation of the land; negation of original small natural plots, brought about by the dispossession of 10,000s tribal natural habitats and even in the other parts of India and transferred them to the few capitalists and MNCs and now need is to negate these huge chunk of lands in hands of few to the society, to the government and re-establish the landless peasants and workers, as part of commune but not as individuals, as before, surviving on small plots, forest produces!!
Now forest produces in form of Tendus, Bamboos, etc worth Crore is being enjoyed by the contractors, politicians and the capitalists, whereas the tribal get few bucks in lieu to work for them! So is with water resources, including river being given to foreign companies!
So, having described the woes of people, the author asks if we have democracy. Do we have control over our own national resources? Solution, as per him, is participation of people in decision making, denying the basic of democracy is election in 5 years. He doesn’t attack the right to property!! He doesn’t attack capitalism!
In fact the author will love to have king as head of society, who listens to his people as he explains with some story. He wants us to believe us that such society is possible and nothing wrong with the past system. He glosses over happily, that the history of Monarchy is history of tyranny, dictatorship, inequality, degradation of woman’s honour and their exploitation! Going back into history is utopia or worse to befool mass and show them a dream, which will never be fulfilled and by the way makes the ideologues of capitalism happy!
He shows his philistinism by quoting Lord Metcalfe, acting GJ in 1830 on page 33, “…the foundation of this country was gram sabha. People would meet and the whole village would decisions. ….”!! Who will like to remind him of the deep feudal exploitation in India and world over and such statements is gross injustice to the people, peasants, surfs who suffered infinitely in hands of landlords, casteism and who even had to let their women be used by the masters as sex slaves and who fought bravely and sacrificed their lives to change old feudal system???(See a glimpse of repression of peasants by the feudal in Hyderabad in pre and post independent India )
Short comings of Gram Panchayats
aAuthor lists out limited power, dictatorial Pradhan, though he rues the unlimited power of Collector or BDO who can suspend Pradhan for being corrupt! Logic fails!Today, capital is concentrated in few hands, one example will suffice. There are 100 Indians who control more than half the wealth, that what the rest of Indians have! So, is the centralised political power, judiciary and bureaucratic power to help the capital grow further. Capital; a dead entity, but grows only on living labour power, must remain in motion. Any decline or even being stationary, the capital loses the competition and gets merged into the winner or even gets annihilated!
The centralisation of power in state and few influential hands is not due corruption but due need of capital and corruption, bureaucracy is a by-product, though necessary, of this need, not understood by the author
Yes, Swaraj, need to decentralise the power, has to abide to the central power, while the centre must understand the need of local units of society, as ‘different’ entity of the full nation! This is contradiction, like that of a family and a child! Family must understand the need of child for the latter to grow, while the child will have to follow the family’s culture, economic limitations, and latter’s position, where it has reached in the history!
Swaraj, like in Ralegan Siddhi, is utopia. It receives all industrialised products from the rest of India, like electricity and even thread and needle! 1000s of Ralegan, if united, will destroy the nation, as nation needs the modern industry and agriculture to survive, nay, progress enough to be free of economic chains and act like humans, not like animals, working 24/7/356 to manage subsistence and not give time in humanly acts, music, arts, education, science, spiritualism!
Backward Region Grant Fund
Author takes us to 2 villages, where this scheme is in vogue and exposes the whims and fancies of the Collectors of these regions in spending the grant and how corruption nullifies the ‘would be progress’!
Author wants us to believe that once power is ‘transferred’ to Gram Panchayat, things will be alright, as these people will sit together, decide what they want and do wonders with the grant they are getting! Forget about class contradiction, the need of capital to grow and exploit the working class, the root of corruption, law of uneven development, etc which is essential part of capitalism; is obliterated; knowingly or unknowingly is not important!
Example of Other Countries where People Participate in Decisions Making!
Now, author wants us to believe in US democratic system, he says, “In America, no decision is taken without the participation of the people, be it at the local, city, municipality, or even the country level…….” Page 49!
I can’t believe, is author such naïve or he wants us to be naïve or is he a real agent of capitalism and imperialism! Do I need to cite examples of US democratic norms in domestic matters; there are 1.6 million children in US who survive on food stamp and on country level, millions of people were in street against Vietnam War and before invasion on Iraq, who took the decision?
Next example is Brazil, he says literacy rate due people’s participation is 100% and other progress has been stamped by World Bank! What lie, literacy rate is high but close to 92% and he wants us to believe in World Bank and not what millions of workers and students were on streets only previous year against unemployment and corruption! Arvind Kejriwal is spreading superstition!
Even, the example of Switzerland, as a ‘best democracy’ is misplaced! One must understand the meaning of ‘super profit’, these nations make by squeezing their own workers and peasants, in addition to those of 3rd world nations through finance capital, FDI (By the way, AAP opposes it) and even through outright military aggression! These nations bribe the labour leaders and the upper stratum of the labour aristocracy. These minority section of working class, do enjoy a portion of ‘development’ and other facilities jointly with the elite capitalists and us, the philistines, envy them and try to emulate them!
Form of Swaraj or people’s participation is understood by his model, visible in p56-57, where he wants people to select doctors, teachers (Teachers from village itself with Rs 5000/month!!!!!!) and if needed be fired by them only and not by a panel of experts, appointed by governments! Poor villagers, what will they do, appoint a panel of experts to appoint the expert to serve them! It’s not simple childish but its opposing the technical, organisational, social, scientific expertise that the humanity has achieved; instead of moving ahead of present, with all the knowledge acquired by us, but he wants us to move backward in history, which is impossible, and that too with the ill knowledge of past feudal India, that was a historical ugly spot in our progress in civilisation, which saw endless miseries and exploitation, known as “Asiatic Barbarism”!!
Author gives an example of a village in Chennai, where a Sarpanch plans to start production of soap, oil, bricks, etc (P 60-61). He does not consider economic viability of small scale industry and also does not talk of consuming entire products or will he be asking them to sell them, anti-thesis of production is distribution and if so, who will buy these expensive and qualitatively ‘poor’ products (Mass scale production, permits higher technology and cheaper and better products)! Petty bourgeois romance in name of Swaraj!
Small scale industry was negated by big scale industry for higher rate of profit due technology, management, lesser cost due mass production, comparatively smaller size of area needed, and better quality and this phenomenon is not national but international! Bigger industry destroyed smaller en-mass world over, yet there are ‘day-dreamers’ who fantasise reverse to take place, even they try so, and like philistine, take pride in few success, whereas 100s of them get destroyed due competition or get merged into the winners!
Author, now, rues on lack of democratic norms in political parties, against their leaders’ high handedness, that of Sonia Gandhi, Mayavati, Gadkari, etc. He is right but he would have never known what is Central Leadership or Democratic Centralism; lack of that understanding forced Shazia Ilmi to quit AAP and now I am happy to note that the author, as Delhi CM has understood its meaning by his personal experience and implementing; Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan who did not ‘obey’ the leader, are out of AAP undemocratically!
Solutions as per the Swaraj
Having seen the problems cited by the author; basically the corruption, allotment of resources in wrong hands and bureaucracy are the root evil and naturally the solution lies in decentralisation of power and resources, at least at smaller level. The author will like to see Panchayat’s control over Land, Mine, Forests, Water. The tasks and authority must be clearly defined between the state and Panchayat sphere of action!
He is not for change in constitution but only for reforms and feels, if people have power, the politicians’ corrupt ways will be curtailed (P-70-71)!! Few examples do follow but cannot be verified by me, yet taking it to be true, we must also have more examples where such villages who did well under Swaraj but perished later due stiff competition against monopolised market and other administrative reasons!
Where does all this Swaraj help? Author wants us to believe education, health, Naxalite problems, Alcoholism, poverty/hunger/unemployment will be tackled in favour of masses!
Book is unnecessarily made lengthier by adding chapters like “Baseless Fears…..”, where he says Dalits won’t suffer by Panchayats. He gives his full support to Gram Sabhas against Khaps ( Khap in Modern India ), Social evils will not increase, infighting will reduce, etc.
Well, the book shows concerns of author, his analysis but inadequate solutions, where he wants to cure the symptoms! I believe large number of copies are sold (Have seen thousands of them were distributed free, or from the funds of party), rate is only Rs 10/copy), but same time I know, very few AAP supporters and volunteers have read it, forget about understanding it!
Hope mass leaders and mass itself get freedom from imaginary Swaraj, Ram Rajya; where the society wants to move back in time and gains even worse society based on deeper exploitations by capital and henchmen!
By K.K. Singh