Independence or in-dependence?

We have to know that there is always another side. The stand you take, as they say, depends on which side you sit. The need to see the other person’s viewpoint is central to any enrolment we seek of other people to our collective concerns.

There is an identity that is whole, and many ways of see what that means as quality of life, in the end, for India and us as people.

There are 600 million young Indians under 25. Nearly 150 million of them are just turning 18. We need 1 million jobs a month for the next 300 months if we have to keep young aspirations fulfilled. There are less than 2 pc who are graduates, and 94 per cent of work force in all segments is literate. The make the wealth. The small majority of educated only manage the wealth.

There are 260,000 panchayats. Every 30th Indian is an elected person, with nearly 30 million who are elected by some body or other — panchayats, urban local bodies, cooperatives, unions, different administrative bodies across both rural and urban India.

Clearly those who have 20 to 30 years of good working years before them should focus on building opportunities out of every challenge and deficit that exists.

In the room today at the CSO meet, the elephant that was terribly missing and we were not even aware of is Governance. Not government. Lincoln’s famous line from the Gettysburg address, “of, by and for the people” needs amending. He forgot the 4th preposition: from the people.

Governments as we have known them in the last hundred years have outlived their utility, if ever they had one. For 2,000 years India saw self-governance at the village. We need to reinvent that mechanism of self-governing with actions on all urban infrastructure needs coming from the people, all of us. No one stops us from doing it, except our own inertia. Hamare Mai baap sarkar to karegi, is the stock response you get in many villages of today. We heard Sunday too at least two participants saying that the government should be doing it.

Over 50 years with multiple subsidies and incentives and the government trampling over every institution of governance, people at the local levels of administration have been emasculated of their ability to govern themselves. In every village there are now at least 32 schemes running — from housing, to health, to farm subsidies, to charities and donations for temples and mosques and churches. The need for planning and shaping one’s own destiny is non-existent.  

There has to be a return to that past into this future if we have to get the 600 plus districts to secure sustainable ways of working. The single biggest hurdle is the government of course, for the beast will resist every attempt to cage it. How do we the people decide therefore to find ways of ridding ourselves of our dependence on the Government, and not increasing it? How do we stop ourselves from saying, The Government should do this, or that? How do we discourage any debate on what the Government should be doing to mend their ways and bringing efficiency?

That will indeed be Poorna Swaraj. We are colonized still. By many forms of government and the bureaucracy that touch our lives. It is more so in small towns and in villages than it is in urban India. Its invidious influence has to be stopped.

But this will mean taking upon ourselves all those things we can do without the government — energy, water, waste, education, health, food and agriculture, housing. If in each of these areas we are able to find solutions and make investments in our own homes, and villages and city wards, we will then secure freedom from the government and its tentacles. Imagine a situation where as amass of people we are able to say No to the Government and run our housing colonies with the water supply board, or the sewerage board, the electricity board, and the waste-collecting contractors of the city municipalities. All these agencies will panic! We would have shown them we don’t need them.

It is not an ideal. It is within the realm of possibility. Look at what happened to the Telephone Exchanges of the 1980s which used to suppress demand so badly that you had to wait in years-long line for securing a telephone line. They have been consigned to the dustbin. The same happened to the Post Office system which was as large as it used to be. Can you now imagine making a ‘lightning call’ and waiting for 3 hours to reach someone who is just 12 hours away? Many in young India do not even know of such scenarios that existed here until 20 years ago.
It is such Poorna Swaraj from the Government that we should secure.

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