Friday 12 June 2015

Politics in Development: A Grassroot Case Study

The Meaning of Politics

The political process can enable or inhibit development. The word politics “comes from the Greek word ‘politica’, moderated on Aristotle’s ‘Affairs of State’ the name of his book on governing and government written in Latin and translated in English in mid fifteenth century.
Politics is the art as well as science of government. It consists of social relations involving authority of power. It is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions and is not restricted to behavior within civil governments alone. Politics has been observed in all group interaction including corporate, academic and religious institutions.
In other words, political institution express and embody the wisdom of the people of the time and the route to good political and social institution is by deepening of wisdom and by broadening of vision.

Understanding Development

Development is an act or process, a step or stage in growth, progress, advancement. It is a relative term and is comparable to different countries, different sectors, different time periods.
The scope of development is vast and all encompassing – social, economic, industrial, technological and so on. However, development is strongly linked to economic growth and advancement because it is evident that economic growth usually leads to other types of development.
Development practitioners and experts have evolved different indicators for measurement of sector wise development, for example, increase in annual GDP is an indicator of the economic growth of a country. Literacy level among women is considered as an indicator of social development.
Basing on the frequently found difference in development between urban and rural areas, development is also commonly understood as rural development, i.e. the status of development in rural areas of a country. Rural development implies both economic betterment of people as well as greater social transformation.  

Indicators of Development

By consensus, the international community has accepted the following five as the indicators of development:

  1. Literacy, education, and skills
  2. Health: life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, quality of life, and the levels of health care available in situations of morbidity
  3. Income and economic welfare: high levels of employment, high per capita incomes, and increased gross national product, with appropriate corrections for environmental protection and for income equity
  4. Choice, democracy, and participation
  5. Technology: the capacity to develop technological innovations and to make technological choices)


Kanpur is a typical Indian village. It comes under Nakichua Gram Panchayat of Rasgobindpur Block of Mayurbhanj district of Odisha. About 58% of the population in the villages is tribals. The village is situated at the fringe of Similipal Biosphere and is surrounded by reserve forest. Minor forest produce and wage earning on daily basis are the main source of livelihood for the tribals.
Evidence suggests connectivity leads to economic development; however that has not been the case for Nakichhua GP. Here, the community is languishing in poverty, low literacy and other characteristics of backwardness. Distress migration and distress sale of forest products are regular affairs. Local trade and commerce is mainly controlled by outsiders.

An analysis of the politico development of Nakichua reveals there has not been visible development in the gram panchayat. It is a fallacy that the people of the gram panchayat are relatively more educated and closer to developed regions but the development in their own area is much less than expected.

Kanpur is the revenue village with two hamlet villages. Nibas sahi is the tribal and dalit dominated hamlet and the other hamlet known as Kanpur is the upper class dominated hamlet. Development projects sanctioned to the village is always implemented in the upper caste dominated hamlet. But in the official record, it is reflected against Kanpur revenue village. While the Kanpur hamlet has electricity, piped drinking water, pucca internal road, community hall etc, Nibas Sahi, the other hamlet continues to remain in darkness.

Implementation of Government Programmes

In the village, the development projects are never implemented as per the scheme objectives and guidelines. Since the last 6 years, one NGO initiated some activities in the village commencing with the youth club. Initially, people from different caste and economic groups resisted the initiative as the mooted idea by the NGO did not confound to their local intra-community groupism and pettiness. It went through ups and downs often conflict among youth from different caste and economic groups. However, it seemed to catch the imagination of people from all sections despite of nasty politics by the various political party leaders at the gram panchayat or block level.

Malfunctioning of Village level Democratic bodies

In 2007, a gram sabha meeting ended mid way with fight and bloodshed between two factions of the community having support from two rival political parties. On paper, gram sabhas are held as per provisions, but villagers can hardly recall when they attended a gram sabha meeting for the last. The prevailing situation created by the local political parties doesn’t allow a villager to enjoy the constitutional right to exercise his choice and participate in development decision making process.
In connivance with the Block Chairman and other elected PRI members, BDO and engineers at the block level are only interested in cornering the contracts issued by the block office for infrastructure development of the local area under various government schemes- NREGS, Bharat Nirman, Indira Awas, Watershed Development and others. The need and priority are never looked into while sanctioning the work as the decision depends on other factors- which community group that the political party that wills the power will decide all implementation related matters. In such a situation, how an aam aadmi could expect benefit or justice?

PRIs are political bastions

Legally, the lower two tiers under Panchayat Raj system are apolitical. Panchayat elections are naturally fought without party lines or party symbols Panchayat elections are supposed to be free from any influence, be it political parties, muscle power, money power and so on. But, in reality, the political parties select candidates to contest the gram panchayat and panchayat samiti election. Political parties bring out victory processions after declaration of panchayat election results.
There is no effort from any quarter to clean the system or ensure that panchayat raj institutions remain apolitical. Perhaps, the civil society organizations are too scared to fight for the cause.

Continuous denial of justice has caused disinterest among the common villagers to participate in the process

Presence of muscle power and money power and the nexus among the local politician, PRI office bearer, business community and government officials has left no room for the common and the poor to get their right and/or justice. Those not belonging to such nexus and coterie has lost interest in the process of local self governance, participatory development decision making. Village level to district level development planning exercise has become totally a farce. What people desire is not planned. What the powerful within the community decide has been sanctioned. The concept of ‘Equity’  and ‘Right’ exists in the planning commission and the constitutional document.

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