A Gandhian Dream of Gram Swaraj
This Article is written by Shivangi Upadhyay and Aparna Singh Kshatriya, students of Amity University, Rajashthan.
Swaraj means Self-rule and Self-restraint. The approach to attain swaraj is to give the people a perception of their ability to regulate and control authority. An ideal Gram Swaraj is that it is an autonomous republic, independent of its neighbours for its wants and yet independent in many other areas where dependence is necessary. An ideal village will have intelligent human beings that will live like humans and do work for their betterment. Under the right guidance, the village will grow socially and economically. Men and Women will be free and able to hold their own against anyone in the world. Gandhiji suggested promoting decentralization, to village republics both as an institute of politics and a unit of economic autonomy. According to Mahatma Gandhi, utilization of the local resources is fundamental to the development of the Panchayat Raj System. The Panchayats should be so organized as to identify the resources accessible for development in the agriculture and industrial sector. The Gandhian Dream of Gram Swaraj can bring in much-needed social and political change by including all the stakeholders in the process of decision-making and public policy formation. Therefore, individuals for whom Gram Swaraj remains a dearly held hope for the empowerment of people and a participatory democracy must make focused, systematic, and persistent efforts. Building community and household capacity would be essential for ensuring sustainable development and realizing the Gandhian Dream of Gram Swaraj.
Swaraj, Empowerment, Autonomous, Decentralization, Participatory democracy
Although the word "swaraj" connotes self-rule, Gandhi Ji gave it the essence of vital restlessness that affects all spheres of existence. Gandhi Ji emphasized that for him, swaraj implied chance for the meanest of his comrades since for him, swaraj of individuals implied the entirety of the swaraj (self-rule) of people. Swaraj can be compared to moksha or salvation since it is self-rule and self-control. Gandhi's idea of Gram Swaraj should be understood and viewed within the context of ideal beacons of truth and non-violence. Gram swarajya means every village (Bishan Swarup)should be its vital wants and interdependent for many others. Full independence is when every village would be a republic with full powers.
Gandhian concept of the ideal village:
Villages are the mirror of a country and society must be built in which every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing on its own. India lives in its villages and the development of the village is necessary for every aspect whether it be education, health, sanitation, infrastructure, livelihood, and social aspects of human development. According to Gandhiji, “Each Village should be self-reliant, making provision for all necessities of life – food, clothing, clean water, hygiene, sanitation, housing, education, health, etc”. Every person and every village in India benefit from Mahatma Gandhi's concept of "Gram Swaraj." It emerged as a boon for society. He was adamant that if villages were properly built, every nation could advance. Gram swaraj helped us recognise his vision of the ideal village. He believed that real swaraj will come through the acquisition of the capacity by all to resist authority when it is abused. The true goal of Swaraj is to empower people with knowledge of their rights and responsibilities so they can focus on preventing the abuse of power. Additionally, it offers a chance to escape social persecution. He opposed oppressive and unjust systems of authority. He, therefore, advocated absolute swaraj for villages. He believed that for a village to be a full-fledged republic, it needed to have means of generating income. In light of this, he asserted that "any village today can become such a republic without any intervention, even from the existing Government, whose main effective connection to the villages is the exaction of the village revenue." The concept of the ideal village portrays an image where every village will grow its crop and cotton for cloths. It will have a reserve for cattle, recreation, and a playground for adults and children. If there is no scarcity of land, then villagers will focus on growing cash crops. The village will maintain a public hall, house of worship, school, and waterworks ensuring a clean water supply. There will be safety guards who will be selected by rotation from the register maintained by the village. It will have cottages with sufficient light and ventilation. The cottage will have courtyards enabling the growth of vegetables for domestic use and to house cattle. The village lanes and streets will be free of dust. It will have wells and tanks accessible to everyone. to be both internally and visibly clean. Each person's community should be free of mud, feces, and offensive odours.
The idea of village swaraj is that it is a complete republic, independent of its neighbor for its vital wants. Utilizing local resources is essential to the growth of the Panchayat Raj system, according to Mahatma Gandhi. Independence has to start at the very bottom. As a result, every village will be a fully functioning republic or Panchayat. Therefore, every town must be self-sufficient and competent to run its affairs even to the point of defending itself from the rest of the world. To defend itself from any outside attack, it will be trained and prepared to perish. As a result, the unit is ultimately the individual. This does not preclude reliance on and readiness to accept assistance from neighbours or the wider community. It will be an act of mutual force that is free and voluntary. To identify the resources locally available for growth in the agricultural and industrial sectors, the Panchayats and Gram Sabhas should be formed in this way. The village's government is run by the Gram Panchayat, which is chosen yearly by adults in the community, both male and female, who meet minimum qualifications. These panches will have all authority, there will be perfect democracy based upon individual freedom.
The Gandhian ideal village has several different elements. The generation of income, village sanitation, village industries, elevated status of women, etc. are a few of these. Gandhi's ideal village included village industry and village sanitation systems. Village sanitation is essential because it immediately affects each person's mental and physical health, and development cannot occur without good mental and physical health. He said that 'Village sanitation, domestic cleanliness, personal hygiene, and health care have the first place and full scope, the underlying premise being that this done there can be no disease,'.
Concept of Swadeshi:
Village industries will help in development. When village residents use the local goods and support rural businesses, the town will become self-sufficient. Increased consumption of regional goods and the support of rural businesses result in more lucrative job opportunities and increased output due to rising local demand. To support local producers like farmers, artisans, weavers, and others, customers must satisfy their needs for local produce and producers. In doing so, natural economic order and social harmony will evolve. According to Gandhi, using locally produced goods implies adopting Swadeshi. His conception of Swadeshi was shaped by Gita's Swadharma philosophy, which refers to a person's essential character. The phrase "use of only homemade products to exclude foreign things" is referred to as swadeshi. This usage is essential for preserving domestic industry, particularly those sectors without which India will become impoverished.
Women are described as men's better half. As long as she has not had the same rights in law as man, as long as the birth of a girl child is not celebrated in the same way as a boy’s birth, so long we should know that India is suffering from partial paralysis. Suppression of women is a denial of Ahimsa. Therefore, the upliftment in the status of women was a preserved goal to earn swaraj. Gandhi Ji advocated for equal rights for women. He said that women will be given the same amount of respect as men and all women except one’s wife will be treated like a mother, sisters, or daughters, and hence women will be safeguarded in society.
Decentralization of power:
Another ambition of Mahatma Gandhi was to create an ideal village with Gram Swaraj through "Decentralization of Powers." He believed that some people establish their monopolies on power and continually assert their dominance over it. The majority of individuals are under their control, and they view power as their puppet. He opposed the monopoly system of power. For economic development to benefit all facets of society, the economic power structures in villages should be decentralized. He believed that everyone should have the ability to acquire wealth and property. It shouldn't be restricted to just a few individuals or groups within the rural community.
Millions of children in India would find it nearly impossible to receive an education without access to fresh or basic education, it seems to be commonly acknowledged. Therefore, the village worker must become proficient in it to teach basic education. As is customary, adult education will come after basic education. When this new approach to schooling has taken hold, the kids end up teaching their parents. However, the village labourer must also pursue adult education.
Health & Medical facilities:
Unhealthy people can't win Swaraj. As a result, we should no longer be held responsible for our people's health being neglected. The fundamentals of health must be understood by every village worker. Medical relief and readily medical care should be easily accessible to the people. there shouldn't be any reason for illness or disease if the laws of personal, household, and public hygiene are rigorously followed and appropriate care is given to the issue of diet and exercise. Illness is impossible where there is complete purity on both the inside and the outside. The villagers wouldn't require any doctors, hakims, or Vaidyas if they could just comprehend this.
But if this program is not constructed on the rock-solid foundation of economic equality, it will be nothing more than a structure on the sand. Economic equality must never imply that everyone has an equal number of material possessions. But it does imply that everyone will have a decent place to live, enough nutritious food to eat, and enough Khadi to cover themselves. Additionally, it implies that the heinous inequity that exists now will be eliminated using nonviolent means.
Decentralization in India can help to attain the afore mentioned goals. Independent India launched its first programme of rural construction,
1. Community Development Programme – it had the ability to grow the people's movement within Gandhi's village development beliefs. But it remained a bureaucracy-run initiative with no village involvement. The initiative was unable to generate the necessary enthusiasm, and it was believed that the solution lay in decentralising authority to levels below the state.
2. Belwant Rai Committee 1957 - According to the committee, community empowerment and accountability are necessary for development to advance. The team proposed the early creation of formal elective local councils and the devolution of the necessary resources, power, and authority to them to achieve this goal. In most of the states, PRI Institutions were established by the early 1960s. PRIs evolved became the fundamental institutional framework via which rural India was to undergo socioeconomic development. But regrettably, the tensions in PRIs eventually became apparent, and the anticipated outcomes did not materialise.
3. Ashok Mehta Committee 1977 - The committee drew up three phases of PR in India after Independence. from 1956-64 it was ascendancy, 1965-69 was phase of stagnation and from 1969-77 of decline. Instead of suggesting a larger area than the current panchayat as the second tier of PR for a population of 10-15 thousand people and calling it Mandal Panchayat, it suggested a larger area than the present panchayat, which remains a fundamental unit in the Gandhian theory.
4. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments were enacted in 1992 because of efforts that were started in the 1980s to give Panchayats constitutional status. The process of transferring power to the people lasted about 50 years.
5. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments, which ushered in a new era of local self-governance, can be seen as a crucial turning point in the country's efforts to realise Mahatma Gandhi's sublime vision.
Gandhi had a vision of what a gram swaraj will look like and he gave us ways to accomplish the same, but even after years we have been lagging in providing the villages the same amount of development that is happening in urban areas and hereby, we are disappointed in accomplishing the goal that was given to us by Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi Ji was adamant that communities and villagers could advance and lead the nation toward sustainable development. His vision of Gram Swaraj is attainable with the help of selfless and committed minds. He had witnessed and thought about how vulnerable and poor villages were, so he dreamed of an ideal village. He had thought about his vision for the growth of the village during his many lectures. Even in the twenty-first century, his opinions remain highly pertinent. Gram Swaraj is also made feasible through the formation of "Cooperation" in an altruistic manner. Given that everyone's selfless cooperation can only lead to beneficial improvements in society, it must be an inherent characteristic of the community. It would be a step towards equality if the mighty helped the weak and defenseless. His principles, such as bridging the rural-urban divide, creating employment, concern for the environment, etc., have great importance in the present context, which can be utilised to make different policies of development. (Vyas, 1962) We are still far from attaining gram swaraj but with the help of government policies and people’s cooperation, we are getting closer to that goal every day that Mahatma Gandhi dreamed and preached of.
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• Vyas, H. M. (1962). Preface. In H. M. Vyas(Ed), Village Swaraj (pp. 5-15). Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House.
• Patil, S. H. (1983). Gandhi and Swaraj. New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications.
• Gandhiji on Villages. Compiled by: Divya Joshi. Mumbai: Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya;: http://www.mkgandhi.org/ebks/Gandhionvillages.pdf
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