Unleashing the community potential of Indian villages

5.2 Executive
The executive will be elected on the basis of the laws of the land, preferably drafted at the village level on the guidance of the templates/patterns recommended at the state level. However, these executive bodies can be considered operational only after the requisite clearance and recognition is done by the state government. All those who serve in a village—in the public institutions there—should come under the administrative control of the village executive; this would include doctors, health workers, teachers, other village panchayat staff, knowledge workers, etc.
Relevance:         The question may arise as to how highly educated people like a doctor or a teacher ... can serve under the executive control of a bunch of villagers. Such a question is possible now because of the reality we experience in our villages today. We say that because they are illiterate and incompetent, they cannot be made so powerful. The counterpoint to this is again that old adage from mind science, ‘Everything that is created is created twice. First in the mind and then in the real world…’ This is a law of human nature. Hence, if we never conceive that a villager will be able to have a stature such that he will be able to direct a doctor or a teacher, then we are planning for a perpetuation of today’s miserable ‘dung heap’ state of affairs. When we start planning and executing for Gandhiji’s ‘Garden of Eden’ we must start by ‘believing’ that this is possible and that this is the way it ought to be. Only then will it be so.

If this freedom is given, it will reflect the state’s sensitivity, concern and due respect for local cultures and recognition for the third-generation human rights of the citizens. But in the same breath, it must be tagged that the villagers must earn this through their adherence to the constitutional aims and necessities.

Detailed Rationale:         Once we start establishing institutions with the final goal of a liberated village in mind, ... then one will find in due course that the village executives more than meet the requirements. The aim should not be to keep the professionals of mainstream society as superstructures on the village; rather, leadership in a village should be shown the need to rise to such heights that they can direct the efforts of even professionals. The implication then is that the inhabitants are not yet up to the mark and that there is much to attain. There is a lot of growing that needs to happen, and it will happen.

The structure of the village executive needs to be reviewed too. The administrative setup convenient for a village of fishermen will be different from that for a village of farmers or for a tribal society. The amendments to the constitution in pursuit of panchayati raj and the relevant enactments of the respective states need to be reviewed so that there is flexibility for the villages to design systems for themselves that are suitable for their respective villages.

Contract-giving power is a very special aspect of executive power in a village. For public projects to be executed within the village, the powers for handing out contracts should lie in the hands of the village executives themselves.

There are many gains in this. First of all, it will compel the members of the village to get updated and empowered to handle that responsibility. Next, when users become the givers of contract, the quality of the projects can be improved drastically. Contractors who deliver quality will naturally be rewarded with more contracts. This will be a good selection process for the ‘survival of the fittest contractor’. The village dwellers can put in a condition that their own work force should be used for the work, which will improve the quality of labor and, better still, the quantity of it since there will be an element of voluntary work in it. Transparency will increase, and corruption in the government—at least as far as public development works concerning the villages are concerned—can be checked. Initiatives, plans and project reports should be originated by the village itself; the projects can be put up as proposals to the donor agencies—even the government. Once the project is sanctioned, the work can be contracted out by the villagers themselves.

It is better that the contractors run circles around the village executives rather than government offices. Obviously, one can expect hesitation on the part of the current administration to move in that direction, but in the long run, it is better to get the village executives to gain control for the contractors will be under the constant gaze of the users (villagers) themselves. If the process of documentation, mandatory in each village, is clear and transparent, corruption can be minimized and quality maximized across the board.

There is a need to develop a complete system around this core idea that the decision-makers should be the village executives. They can consider the aid and advice of the administrative and technical experts of the bureaucracy but have to make their own decisions. Such a thing will have repercussions on the political landscape, but the impact will be positive if the rule of ‘user decides’ is applied. This will promote political change in that political parties will push for a system in which political activists are paid over the table for their services. This, in turn, will eventually facilitate a cleaner political system. It will improve the quality of life of the nation in a variety of ways. The system has to be creatively worked out into an effective arrangement by planners who work on public administration (statesmen, bureaucrats and academics).

Success Stories and Action:
(Share examples of villages that have succeeded with this freedom. Click here for feedback.)
Success stories and action: Even a company has some freedom to choose what administrative structure it wishes to have. Likewise, the villages must have a degree of freedom in deciding what kind of local government setup they want. It should not be centrally imposed in all its details. Villages should be free to use their creativity to come up with an arrangement that is suited to them. Broad outlines can also be laid, and there are such established models of administration which can be highlighted for adoption. One such model is the system that was used in the Chola period (Uttaramerur); and there are many other examples from across the world operating even to date (Kibbutz from Israel, for instance). The communities should therefore be given flexibility for this. This means that local communities need to be empowered so that they can adopt their own systems depending on their traditions and culture.

A free village should also have the freedom to choose its own executives without any specific or categorist imposition from the outside—I can choose the best from my village, whoever that may be. An outside agent must not decide that so-and-so is not eligible unless, of course, by the law established on account of a criminal conviction.

We also know that an integrated village is the one that can bestow most benevolence on its members. Further, when united, they can rise to tap into the village’s highest potentials. It is relevant, in this context, to note that the founders of the nation had a vision that elections to the municipalities should not be held along party lines, which would imply that even panchayat elections should not happen along party lines. In other words, their idea was that the village administration should not be divided within itself along party lines.

One way the villages can ensure this is to use the system of ‘drawing lots’ as was the case in the election system suggested by the Chola rulers at Uttaramerur. That arrangement will definitely fit the profile of an integrated village of equals and stop the divisive interference of external agencies in intra-village matters. Let’s watch. The Indian mind is extremely creative, and wonderful ways will definitely be found to ensure that villages stay integrated despite all attempts to sow discord and division.

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