Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu has been a sane voice in the country’s political scene. Even Chairing the Rajya Sabha for five years, he never lost his consciousness. As an ace communicator with young and old, rich and poor, rural and urban and farmers and professionals, a new opportunity awaits him now. He should not corner or isolate himself as Nanaji Deshmukh decades ago. He is the best bet for rejuvenating the “little republics” of India. He could bring back the voice and wisdom of village India and pride of villages.
Madam President would remind of grassroots
It is great that a humble person from a remote village is out President. I feel proud that Madam President Droupadi Murmu will continue to remind us of grassroots of our country. Can we claim today old saying that “India lives in villages”? They were even described much before independence as ‘Little Republics’ for their being self-contained.The rest of the country was depending on them. Villages were having local self-government much before Panchayat Raj and before locally elected Panchayat. But earlier the elections were not on party basis. Individual credentials were the basis for their getting elected. Villages were not depended on outside support. But majority of Indians still live in villages even today. Going by the concern of legislatures, priority of their discourse and even by representative character of policy makers, villages are no longer taken seriously as before. For mass media, even of recent social media, villages matter more for political rhetoric or deviant instances like rape, suicides, elections etc. Farmers otherwise would not be on agitation mode for years. Aping urban lifestyles, including type of residence, continue unabated depriving villages as liveable habitats. Economy of villages has become unsustainable and is in shambles signalling a debt trap of majority of families.
Also read: Do we expect any better Environment?
Villages have control over nothing
All this despite a legislation empowering villages to take responsibility for over 30 services and expecting a finance commission to devolve certain percent of state revenue. But in reality villages don’t have control on even village tanks and on revenue generated. If payments for MNRGS and DWACRA women, for example, are delayed or deferred, the news channels will be lining up village for news! Quality of life and ease of living in villages continue to be on decline. Pride of village is no longer evident even among old local residents. No wonder our migration from villages sees no decline, unemployment is on increase. For elected reps (MLAs, MPs, etc.), it is no longer population which matters, as the number of voters in a village. Elections have destabilised peace and harmony of villages mercilessly. Tranquillity is a forgotten notion. Villages have become satellites of cities and pocket boroughs of party leaders.
Dependent on government’s mercy
Villagers have become or made dependents of government. Many are on doles and mercies in the name of welfare and development. Institutions, even cooperative ones, which nurtured villages not long ago, are languishing. All this despite a Panchayati Raj Act (1992, famous 73rdamendment) which came in to effect in 1999. In the name of decentralisation, centralisation is blatant. In the name of less government, government agencies are being proliferated in villages. I am making these summative observations as a village boy with years of field research and analysis. This is to point out urgency for a serious view of the future of villages. Continued Political rhetoric will further plunge village India. None of this will change without excluding village panchayats from party symbol based elections.
My forthcoming book about “Should we not be proud of our villages” by EMESCO discusses these issues, raises more questions and suggests serious research on “Whither villages”.