Self-help

Democracy "of the people, by the people and for the people". Madhya Pradesh takes the lead

 
By Mario
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Participatory democracy is finally coming of age. At least in Madhya Pradesh (mp). A process that began with empowering the tribal people of Jhabua district in 1994 is culminating in Gram Swarajya for every person living in the 70,000-odd villages of mp . To coincide with India's 51st Republic Day, the mp government under chief minister Digvijay Singh will introduce the Gram Swarajya project that will make every village a "politically, socially and economically autonomous unit" with every citizen a member of the gram sabha .

Jhabua was just a moonscape when the Rajiv Gandhi Mission for Watershed Development was launched in October 1994. The mission broke all rules. It was probably the first government scheme in India in which people, instead of bureaucrats, were made decision-makers. Yet again, mp is breaking the rules. A village will become more important than the panchayat . Called the gram sabha , a fourth tier is being created to add to the three -- gram panchayat , janpadh panchayat and zilla panchayat -- already existing in the Panchayati Raj structure. Headed by the sarpanch , a gram sabha will have a village development committee. Members will be divided into eight implementing agencies dealing with health, agriculture, village development, village defence and infrastructure, among other things.

Now villagers will be able to solve their own problems without having to go to the panchayat . It will also make government employees working in rural areas more efficient. This is only the beginning of the transformation from " rajniti to lokniti ", says Singh, who believes "spoonfeeding the people" must stop. Deepening of democracy is always better and what is needed is a more participatory democracy rather than representative democracy where people rather than individuals have a say. Other states should take a cue from mp and set about empowering their own people. After all, wherever people have been given the option of 'self-rule', the results have invariably been remarkable.

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