No, the game changer from Gujarat is not Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Despite the taint acquired during the Gujarat riots in 2002 Narendra Modi has earned kudos even from critics for providing sound administration to his state. Many people look to Gujarat as the locomotive for India’s economic revival. Gujarat certainly provides that hope but not because of Narendra Modi who admittedly allowed an environment that made possible for the real future role model of India to emerge. That role model is of course Hemant Patel, 29 years old, and the Sarpanch of the Punsari Village Panchayat. If his example starts getting replicated in all the villages of India a revolutionary change will galvanize this nation.
In Punsari the panchayat pays an annual premium of Rs 25 lakh to insure each and every one of its 6,000 villagers for a cover of Rs 1 lakh and a medical claim policy of Rs 25,000. The classrooms in the schools have CCTV cameras to keep watch on the teachers. There are no dropouts from schools. Twenty litre-cans of purified drinking water are supplied to each household for a meager cost of Rs 4. “These are bare essentials for a standard life today and why should our village be behind," asserted Hemant Patel.
Five years ago the village Panchayat had a capital of Rs. 25000. Today its deposits have risen to Rs. 75 lakh. This was achieved by selling the village grazing land into plots for schemes organized by various communities. Apart from central funds normally given by the central and state governments to all village Panchayats there was no contribution by any NGO or NRI. Punsari is wholly self-reliant, standing on its own legs.
In the Directive Principles of State Policy Article 40 of the Indian Constitution states: “The State shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self governance.” During the last sixty years what powers and authority did the government offer panchayats to make them self governing units? A vast number of panchayats are not even elected but nominated. There is no primary level of the police created to allow panchayats to deal with petty local crime. No policy has been devised for panchayats to raise through local taxes funds to augment what is received by them from the Union and State governments. This directive principle of state policy enshrined in our Constitution has been callously neglected.
What village Punsari and Sarpanch Hemant Patel have proved is that the aim of Mahatma Gandhi and Jaya Prakash Narain to create self governing villages and urban local bodies across the nation to introduce a brand of unique and vibrant democracy was not an empty dream but a practical proposition. It is for higher bodies to monitor the primary levels of administration to ensure that laws are observed. But equally it is the lower bodies of awakened and empowered citizens to monitor higher bodies and ensure that power is not misused and the rights of citizens are not trampled. Should not Doordarshan propagate the experience and example of Punsari for all Indians to learn and emulate?
Despite the success of Hemant Patel and his team there is as yet a long way to go. Their experience will have to be adapted to different conditions and differently cultured people. Their model might need further improvement and modification. But the bottom line is that proof has been offered. Federal, decentralized and self governing governance based upon scientific separation of powers between all the different levels of administration is the way forward. It could enable our vast and diverse nation to achieve spectacular economic progress along with genuine democratic governance.