All India Panchayat Parishad (AIPP) was founded in 1958 with an objective to strengthen Panchayati Raj institutions. The establishment of pan India network of Panchayati Raj institutions was one of the most sought after dreams of its founding fathers in that decade. Training and research on socio-political issues is one of the key functions of this autonomous society that reflects from its publications since later phase of 1950s. Lok Nayak Jayprakash Narayan and certain other likeminded leaders played crucial role to found Balwantray Mehta Panchayati Raj Foundation and Memorial Fund, hereinafter referred as BMPRF. In fact, this is a trust that came into existence as a consequence of the AIPP resolution after a serious consultation that prolonged for a couple of days during 18th and 19th May 1966. The main objective of this foundation is to perpetuate the memory of the founding father of the three-tier panchayati raj in Independent India by propagating and strengthening the cause for which he stood, namely, development and fulfilment of the ideas and objectives of democratic decentralisation or Swaraj.
These two institutions are working for upliftment of rural and urban societies for many decades along with the state units of the Parishad. Bihar Rajya Panchayat Parishad (BRPP) is the mother institution of this group of institutions that was founded by Pt. Binodanand Jha in 1950. BRPP General Secretary Dr. Lal Singh Tyagi has started publication of Panchayat Sandesh (Hindi), a monthly journal focused on decentralisation of democracy in 1955. After a couple of years this periodical got registered in Press Information Bureau vide registration number 3599/1957. All India Panchayat Parishad started its monthly publication from New Delhi in English and Hindi separately in 1960 itself. One can obtain RNI records (32376/77 & 32377/77) on the name of our current editor Shri Sahdev Chaudhary, in addition to them, Shri Prakash Herur has started Karnataka Panchayat Sandesh from Dharwad in Kannada only a few years ago. As such the subject of democratic decentralisation is covered in three different languages every month. These days I am serving publication division of AIPP and BMPRF, as the managing editor of above said journals on decentralisation of democracy.
Before proceeding further I think it pertinent to mention a couple of records from the previous issues of Panchayat Sandesh. Kindly refer to the AIPP annual report by Shriram Tiwari as published in August 1988 on page 14-16. He gives a clear picture of training program that describes the national award ceremony that was initiated in 1985-86 with the sponsorship of Gujarat govt. The April 1992 issue of Panchayat Sandesh was specially focused on training of youth associated with Panchayati Raj institutions. The report on 10 days training program at Kishore Sadan, Haidargarh, Barabanki, UP was published on page 3-10 in that issue. A copy of these reports is attached herewith for ready reference.
My senior colleague Shri Shitala Shankar Vijai Mishra is the Trustee Secretary of BMPRF and Secretary General of AIPP for certain years. He has been seriously working to build a network of qualified workers comprising teachers, writers, researchers and field organisers according to the spirit of clauses mentioned in functions of the trust. Last year he has delightfully persuaded me to start a voluntary program to train and educate people in society or public life. I’ve heard the similar voices from various other corners, meanwhile, one of his subordinates wrote a letter so as to formerly engage myself for this noble cause. As such I’ve been assigned the convener to start dialogue series and training program pertaining to decentralisation of democracy in modern times. The year round auspicious occasions of anniversaries of our founding fathers and crusaders for great causes turns out to be more valuable with brainstorming sessions focused on relevance of their life and works in present scenario. The staff members from Panchayat Sandesh office and volunteers from various walks of life helped me to organise a series of sessions on different subjects between 19th Feb. 2016 and 19th Feb. 2017. The frequency of such events is not less than 50 times an year that may extend to 100 sessions or more in a particular year.
As you know the birth anniversary of Balwantray Mehta is celebrated as Panchayat Divas (the day dedicated to the memory of Mehta ji and his works on Panchayati Raj system or decentralisation of democracy). Some of my colleagues and journalists wrote specific reports on a few of the dialogue sessions organised in the past. A brief summary is being presented here with the details of subjects and experts. I hope it will be helpful to ascertain the impact of such educational programs on the immediate and larger audiences. Although this series of events take place with a limited number of participants, it gets published in print and new media to reach a wider network of audience. Panchayat Me Paricharcha, Saturday Forum and anniversary celebrations are the platforms of learning and sharing, where everyone gets an opportunity to express his or her views on a horizontal platform. As its convener, I’ve started this series with certain experts like Dr. Vijay Kumar (former head of deptt. Gandhian Thoughts in TMU Bhagalpur, Bihar) and Dr. Onkar Mittal (President, Society in Action for Community Health, New Delhi) on 19th February 2016 at Panchayat Dham. This series ended with Shri Sanjeeb Patjoshi, the joint secretary of Panchayti Raj ministry in central govt. on 19th February 2017. Meanwhile we have started a weekly three hours educational program, also known as the Saturday Forum, on 19th March 2016 with former IAS officer Shri K.B. Saxena. It was focused on the subject of Budget and Village. Next week, the RBI consultant and economist Dr. T.N. Jha came to enlighten us further on the same subject. Around 20 serious people from various different walks of life participated in these programs. We have first time published the list of experts on page 27 in December 2016 issue of Panchayat Sandesh. The subjects in focus were political economy: budget, panchayati raj, constitution, law, etc.
Shri Chandra Shekhar Pran, the author of Teesari Sarkar, is the source behind a regular column on the same name in Panchayat Sandesh. He has focused on the concept of Swaraj as stated by Mahatma Gandhi in Hind Swaraj and the local self-rule initiated by Harold Laski, the author of A Grammar of Politics, 1925. The detailed synopsis on this issue is published on page 20-26 in December 2016 issue of Panchayat Sandesh in his own words. Shelley Kasli, the editor of Great Game India largely remained concentrated on geopolitics and political economy that makes changes on the grassroots in rural and urban India. This is the other regular column in Panchayat Sandesh. The focus on challenges to sustainable development reflects from the dialogue session with Smt. Bidyut Mohanthi and Dr. Onkar Mittal. Dr. Hishmi Husain, Gandhian poet Shri Ramesh Chandra Sharma and Shri Bireshwar Bhadauria are noticeable experts on environment and pollution. Padmashri Ram Bahadur Rai, Shri Lalit K. Joshi, Shri Govind Yadav, Shri Ram Nagina Singh, Dr. Ravindra Kumar, etc. are other experts in this series of events that took place in Panchayat Dham within last year. The other topics of discussion were technology, resource management and lifestyle in rural and urban societies on various occasions. Panchayat Sandesh is going to publish certain more reports on these issues in its upcoming editions.
The council reviewed the pros and cons of this endeavour in the 91 meeting of AIPC at Kullu, H.P. on 18th September 2016. Kindly refer to a couple of reports covering this initiative. I wrote a report i.e. Mahapanchayat ki Baithak. It was published on page 39 on 2nd issue of Hindi fortnightly Yathavat in October 2016. The Executive Editor of Panchayat Sandesh Shri Satya Prakash Thakur wrote i.e. Kullu me Mahapanchayat, as published on page 32-33 of December 2016 issue. The need of training and mass awareness initiative was one of the principle issues in AIPC91. Consequently certain other states joined this initiative. This was in focus from Punjab to Uttar Pradesh. The representatives from different corners of Punjab gathered at Dera Bassi on birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi to learn from his life and works. Similarly at least a thousand village heads from different corners of Uttar Pradesh gathered on 21st December 2016 at Aligarh on this issue alone.
The outcome of these programs is not merely confined to talks and discussions alone. The organisations addressing issues of public interest joined us in certain initiatives. Surat based Om Yoga Peeth has started healthy village mission (Swasth Panchayat Mission) with All India Panchayat Parishad. The training programme is a part of this initiative. As a consequence of that a group of 51 women student joined regular training course on the Republic Day. The AIPP treasurer Shri Jayanti Bhai Patel and the expert Shri Manu Bhai Patel are committed to this mission. Shri Shitala Shankar Vijai Mishra took personal interest in this creative effort and visited the training centre in last December. Next month I was there with Shri Lalit Joshi, Trustee India International Centre to help them further. As thus this initiative of AIPP and BMPRF is going to be fruitful for the betterment of rural and urban societies.
The 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution of India deal with the decentralisation of democracy. These issues are in debate since the lawmakers amended the Constitution in 1992. Still the local bodies are yet to receive the powers mentioned in the aforesaid amendments. The status of National Capital Region is obscure; as such it was one of the issues in AIPC91. Here, the state govt. of Delhi is talking about Mohalla Sabha instead of Gram Sabha. We have organised certain dialogue sessions in Panchayat Dham and other parts of the city only to realise the necessity to start a series of interactive programs to train the people living in the urban areas. The state govt. is talking about local self-rule for many years. AIPP and BMPRF need to consult Delhi govt. on this issue in order to further this cause.
The said training programs could have been more effective and lucrative for the rural and urban societies, if we were not suffering from crisis of resources. We need to provide sufficient Human Resource and Material Resource to achieve the aims and objects of the society and trust. Mahatma Gandhi and Jayprakash Narayan are a couple of well-known original thinkers on decentralisation of democracy in modern India. We have been celebrating the birth anniversaries of these leaders in the month of October every year. Last year, we have discussed in the office of Panchayat Sandesh on the 10 days long training program and gathering of people from different corners of India. We have discussed on suggestions on it timing as well. The series of celebrations in the first half of October is covering anniversaries of a few gems like Mahatma Gandhi, Lok Nayak Jayprakash Narayan and Lal Bahadur Shastri. The committee proposed to utilise the first fortnight of October to train Panchayati representatives and common people on the subject of decentralisation of democracy.
All India Panchayat Parishad and Balwantray Mehta Panchayati Raj Foundation have conducted the aforesaid training program on the scheme of volunteering for an year. This training program needs to have certain fixed staffs for its management and appropriate reporting. In some of the events reporters from Trudy and Solange Media Pvt. Ltd. have covered the program on their own. They have updated the details through the broadcasting channels of its network in print and other media production units. Most of the experts offered their help voluntarily, but still we need to bear the cost of certain expenses such as transportation. The seriousness and necessity of these training programs might be ascertained from the fact that the participants have arranged all the cost engaged in this initiative. AIPP and BMPRF have graciously offered their place with tea and snacks.
The members and councillors associated with All India Panchayat Parishad and Balwantray Mehta Panchayati Raj Foundation are diligently doing the above said works as a duty since the inception of these couple of institutions. This is also mentioned in the Constitution of India in article 51. These institutions were used to get unsolicited grants from the govt. agencies in the gone by decades. Most of them used to contribute a moderate sum, however, collectively it was sufficient to bear the expenses i.e. to pay the salary of the staff members and other expenditures of these institutions, including cost of training programs and anniversary celebrations. In addition to such grants, donations from civil society and subscriptions from the readers were other source of fund to run these initiatives in the past. Today the society and trust need to approach the govt. agencies to get aid in order to run the training program regularly and effectively. The elected governments in the centre, sates and local bodies need to look into the spirit of the aforesaid article of the Constitution while going through the contents of this report. The representatives from AIPP and BMPRF will delightfully co-operate the agencies from govt. and non-govt. sectors while addressing these issues. I’d like to conclude this report with an ancient adage that is all the more relevant in 21st century that I’ve quoted on a couple of occasions. It says, either we shall hang together or we will be hanged separately.
(This report is prepared by Kaushal Kishore, Managing Editor, Panchayat Sandesh after the completion of an yearlong series of events focused on training and education on decentralisation of democracy initiated by All India Panchayat Parishad and Balwantray Mehta Panchayati Raj Foundation at their headquarter at Panchayat Dham, Mayur Vihar Phase 1, Delhi 110091)