N.T.Ravindranath is a retired IB officer. He is the head of 'Department of Defence and Strategic Study' of Vidya Prasar Mandal, Thane. His recent research paper is revealing.
Hijacking of Gandhiji’s dream concept of Gram Swaraj by NGO and Sonia lobby as part of its destructive agenda (Part-1)
The Panchayat Raj is a system of governance in which the gram panchayats are the basic units of administration. It functions at three levels at gram (village), tehsil (block) and zilla (district). Mahatma Gandhi was a hardened supporter of the Panchayat Raj system, a decentralized form of government where each village will be responsible for its own affairs and had described it as Gram Sawaraj (village self-governance).
In January 1957, the Government of India had appointed a special committee headed by Balwant Raj Mehta to examine the working of the Community Development Programme (CDP) and National Extension Service (NES) and to suggest measures to improve the functioning of the CDP and NES. The report submitted by the Mehta Committee and approved by the government in 1958 had set the stage for the establishment of Panchayat Raj institutions in India. The committee had recommended for the launch of a scheme for the democratic decentralization of power which subsequently came to be known as Panjayat Raj. As per the 3-tire Panchayat Raj system recommended by the Mehta committee, there will be a gram panchayat at the village level, a panchayat samiti at the block level and a zilla parishad at the district level. The passage of Constitution (73d amendment) Act 1992, also known as Panchayat Raj Act, which came into force on April 24, 1993 gave the necessary constitutional sanction to the Panchayat Raj institutions. The Amendment Act of 1992 contained provisions for devolution powers and responsibilities to the panchayats both for the preparation of economic development plans and social justice.
As per the Act, the chief administrative officer of the Zilla Parishad will be an officer of the IAS cadre. The functions of the Zilla Parishad are as under.
1) Provide essential services and facilities to the rural population.
2) Supply improved seeds to the farmers. Inform them about new farming techniques.
3) Set up and run schools and libraries in rural areas.
4) Start primary health centres and hospitals in villages. Conduct vaccination drives against epidemics.
5) Execute plans for the development of scheduled castes and tribes. Run Ashram salas for the adivasi children. Set up free hostels for them.
6) Encourage entrepreneurs to start small scale industries and implement rural employment schemes.
7) Construct roads, bridges and other public facilities and ensure their maintenance.
The NGO activists, now known as civil society activists, have been strongly advocating the need for strengthening the Panchayat Raj system and empowering the village panchayats, since last two decades. Their demand had the whole-hearted backing of some senior Congress politicians like Mani Shankar Iyer, Jairam Ramesh and Rahul Gandhi. When the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was voted to power in 2004, one of the first major decisions of the new government was the creation of a separate ministry for Panchayat Raj, and entrusting the charge of the new ministry to Mani Shankar Iyer. The creation of an independent Ministry for Panchayati Raj by the UPA government in May, 2004 was actually fruition of an idea cherished by the NGO- action group lobby in India, led by Sonia Gandhi. The NGO activists project the empowerment of people at grass root-level as a dream vision of Mahatma Gandhi and point out that the local governments which are nearer to the people are the base of any democratic system and in order to give power to the people, a strong, vibrant local government is absolutely necessary.
The NGO activists who are pushing for the speedy implementation of the Panchayat Raj system are very critical about the slow pace of political decentralization and devolution of power to the people allegedly due to the roadblocks created by bureaucrats and other vested interests. The activists allege that all efforts to give power to the people through democratic decentralization and empowerment of disempowered are being undermined by certain vested interests. They quote extensively from a recent report of the Standing Committee of Parliament on Rural Development to substantiate their allegations about the dismal state of affairs in the panchayat institutions, like the inadequate transfer of funds, poor infrastructure development, non-filling of vacancies of panchayat functionaries, etc. The activists allege that the bureaucracy is dead against the emergence of panchayats as institutions of self-governance, as their administrative culture has been to retain power and not to give power to the people. The activists accuse them of believing in imperial model of governance and refusing to change such a mindset. They thus hold the bureaucracy responsible for blocking the empowerment of the rural masses. The activists assert that if the decentralization does not become a reality and the enemies of devolution continue to hold sway, there will not be an end to the present strife and turmoil that has engulfed most parts of interior India.
Panchayats in tribal areas will soon be controlling forest management at the ground level, replacing the control of the Forest Department. At a meeting held during the third week of May, 2010 between Union Minister of state for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh and Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj C.P.Joshi, it was decided to remove Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) from the control of the District Forest Officer and instead bring them under the control of the gram sabhas and panchayats. This is now being implemented in the tribal areas that come under the Panchayat ( Extension to Scheduled Areas ) Act (PESA), 1996. The JFMCs are the basic units of participatory forest management at local level which will take into consideration the views of all stakeholders. However the civil rights activists have sabotaged this system with their political influence and managed to bring them under the gram sabhas.
Presently, about Rs.1000 crore funding is routed through the one lakh JFMCs across the country for various forestry-related schemes. The money will now be routed through the panchayats in tribal areas. Forest Department staff will be made accountable to the panchayats on all relevant issues. Panchayat institutions will have to be consulted before making any decision or declaration involving the forest land.
The NGO lobby’s sudden love and interest in empowering the gram sabhas and its proclaimed aim to strengthen the Panchayat Raj system has some sinister designs. Their aim is not only to strengthen the Panchayat Raj, but to take control of the empowered panchayat institutions all over the country. When the provisions of the Panchayat Raj are fully implemented, there would not be much powers left with the state and district administration and those who control the panchayat institutions would become the real rulers of the country. It is with such designs that the militant NGOs are concentrating on organizing the masses in the remote rural and tribal areas and pressing for full implementation of the Panchayat Raj Act and 73d and 74th amendment of the Constitution. It is easy for the foreign-funded NGOs, who work in the remote tribal and rural areas, to influence the poor and illiterate village elders by bribing them with liquor and money and control the gram sabhas. Militant NGOs have already established their control over thousands of gram sabhas in states like Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra. Hundreds of mega industrial projects in these states and also elsewhere, have been blocked by gram sabhas controlled by the NGO lobby in the recent years. For instance, all the 12 gram sabhas controlled by the NGO lobby in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts of Odisha have voted against the 50000 crore aluminium refinery project of Vedanta Resources in the Niyamagiri hills in August, 2013.
Origin of NGO militancy
The activist NGOs or civil society groups were earlier known as social action groups, voluntary action groups, non-governmental organizations or non-party political formations. The evolution of activist NGOs with state and national level networking is a phenomenon that originated in 1960s and having gained momentum in the next two decades transformed itself into a parallel political force by 1980s. The establishment of this NGO network was a carefully planned part of a well-calculated strategy by the capitalist countries led by the USA for direct intervention in the rest of the world, especially in the third world countries, for giving development assistance to the rural poor with the hidden objective of curbing the growth of communism and also for promoting Christianity. There was extreme poverty and a lot of inequalities in the third world countries in those days and the ground situation in many of those countries was very conducive for the growth of revolutionary movements. The capitalist forces did not want the Soviet block to take advantage of such a situation to spread its sphere of influence to all such countries by engineering revolutionary regime change. It was mainly to prevent such a possibility that the capitalist lobby led by the USA started giving development assistance to the rural poor in those countries through the NGO network. These NGO activists who worked among the people even in remote areas of all such countries were also used as a reliable source of information by the western agencies to correctly assess the mood and temper of the people and also the socio-political and economic situation in those countries which was of immense value to the capitalist block to formulate their policies towards the target countries.
Since mid-seventies, there was a significant shift in the style, strategy and mode of functioning of these activist groups with most of them accepting and propagating militancy as a tool to incite the tribals and other oppressed rural poor to achieve their goals. As per this new strategy, the leaders of these groups, in the name of empowering the rural poor, started educating the rural masses about their citizenship rights, land rights, etc, and also their right to lead a dignified life. They were also taught and trained to organize themselves to fight against the concerned authorities by launching militant people’s movements to get their demands conceded. This new militant movement, known as action group movement was greatly inspired by the liberation theology movement that originated in the Latin American countries in the sixties and gained considerable influence in the region in the seventies.
Liberation Theology Movement
From late 1950s there was a strong and growing feeling among a section of Catholic bishops and priests in Latin America for the need for a preferential option for the poor to counter the growth of socialist movements and protestant sects which they saw as an emerging threat to the influence of the Catholic church. They felt the need for a shift of emphasis in Latin American Christianity from charity and alms-giving to an advocacy of social justice through empowerment of disadvantaged classes. It is the intellectual articulation of this line of thought that led to the liberation theology movement and its most concrete application is the formation of base ecclesial communities.
The second Vatican Council (Vatican-II) held from 1962 to 1965 was an important milestone in the history of the Catholic Church as some path-breaking decisions were taken at this conference. One important decision taken at this meeting was the silent approval of the new revolutionary movement based on the concept called Liberation Theology that was being propagated by some sections of the Catholic church in the Latin American countries. There was prolonged debate on the new movement at the conference and finally it was decided to give silent approval to the new movement without giving any open support to it. Thus, accepting the new movement in principle, the Vatican-II called upon the church to become involved with the struggles of the poor and pointed out that if the church stopped aligning with the powerful elite and advocated the need for a more just world, the poor could be reached more effectively.
In 1968, the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) met in Medellin, Colombia, mainly to discuss about applying the Vatican-II decisions on Liberation Theology to Latin America and giving the church authority to become involved in the social change. Addressing this meeting, Gustavo Gutierrez, considered as the founder of the liberation theology movement, urged the church to begin speaking of liberation rather than development in addressing the problems of Latin America. He asserted that it was not development issues but the oppression by the First World countries that is the real problem faced by Latin America. The concept of creation of Base Ecclesial Communities (base communities) in the interior areas to organize people to fight for their rights, to carry forward a Marxism-inspired people’s movement for a social change and carry out consciousness-raising evangelism was evolved at the Medellin conference. Base communities are groups of Catholics, mostly from low-income strata, who get together once in a week in a neighbourhood church to reflect on Bible and carry out social and political activities. The liberation theology leaders at the Medellin meeting criticized the inequalities between the social classes and called for a commitment to the poor. They asserted that the violence was wrong, but sometimes necessary when fighting against institutionalized violence such as violence by the government.
The naxalite movement in India originated in 1967 from a small village called Naxalbari located near Siligudi in West Bengal. It started in the form of an agrarian uprising led by Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal, two radical CPM activists who were influenced by the revolutionary thoughts and teachings of the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. Though the government of West Bengal was able to suppress this violent uprising, this peasant uprising soon caught the fancy of many leftist intellectuals and young radicals in the country and a new movement of left extremists was born in the country with formation of some independent left extremist groups in states like West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Since the agrarian uprising in Naxalbari village had given the inspiration for the emergence of these radical groups, they all came to be known as Naxal groups and the followers of this movement were called Naxalites. This movement led by veteran leaders like Charu Majumdar in West Bengal, Kondappilli Sitaramaiyyah in Andhra Pradesh had drawn good response from the people in the initial stage. But soon, it started splitting and disintegrating, especially after the death of Charu Mazumdar in 1972, because of the ego clashes among its leaders. It was at this stage i.e. around mid-seventies that the net-working NGOs started its militant action group movement in the country and some of its leaders started befriending leaders of various Naxalite groups for their cooperation in building up militant people's movements to oppose the anti-poor policies of the government. In due course, the NGO action groups were able to establish a working relationship with some of the leading Naxalite groups in the country. With this mutually beneficial understanding and association between the two movements, the disintegrating Naxal groups got a fresh lease of life with the support it received from the action groups and the action group movement got an appropriate ally to push forward its anti-national operations as desired by its controlling agencies in the imperialist block. This close cooperation between the NGO action groups and leading Naxalite outfits not only got considerably strengthened in the due course but led to a total takeover of the Maoist movement by the NGO action groups with the induction of a number of action group volunteers into major Naxalite groups like the CPI (Maoist) and CPI-ML led by Kanu Sanyal. Many Christian action group cadres have also been inducted into prominent Naxalite groups under the garb of liberation theology activists. For instance Vernon Gonsalves @ Vikram,a state committee member of Maharashtra unit of CPI (Maoist) who was arrested by the ATS, Maharashtra, in August,2007 and another top Maoist leader Arun Ferreira, r/o Bandra, who was arrested by Nagpur police had both confessed to the police that they were originally activists of liberation theology movement. A number of human rights activists including Dr.Binayak Sen,Vice President of PUCL, have also been arrested in the past for their close links with the Maoist movement in the country confirming the close links between the Maoist movement and NGO and human rights net-work. Since the Christian action groups in the country are all controlled by various church agencies, many church leaders in India are also now directly linked with the naxalite movement. Today with the full support and all possible assistance from the networking NGOs and also with the systematic induction of a large number of NGO activists into major naxalite groups, the naxal movement in the country has now become very powerful and it continues to make inroads into more and more new areas, especially in the remote and tribal regions. About 200 districts in 15 states in the country are now reportedly considered as naxal-infested.
A CPI-Maoist document titled “Strategy and Tactics of the Indian Revolution” issued by the Central Committee of the CPI-Maoist in 2004 says that the path followed by Lenin in Russia that of capturing urban areas, establishing revolutionary authority in the urban areas and thereafter capturing the villages and establishing the revolutionary authority in the whole country, is not suitable to India.
It says that the Indian revolution will have to start from the opposite direction. It should start from the far-flung backward villages towards cities. The idea of building bases in the rural areas and then encircling cities is a well-known tactic advocated and adopted by Mao Zedong. The CPI- Maoist leadership also advocates creation of base areas in the remote and tribal regions in the country by winning over the rural masses by exploiting their poverty and unemployment and other grievances and preparing them for a protracted struggle against the government. Maoist strategy says that the revolutionary war has to begin in those regions that are relatively more backward and where the social contradictions are sharp. Therefore the primary concentration of the CPI-Maoist is the poor rural masses living in the remote rural and tribal areas. The inadequacy of transport and communication system and isolation of the remote country-side also make them an ideal base for the nascent Maoist guerrilla army.
If the disconnected rural areas form the initial target for the Maoist agenda, contradictions found in the urban centres provide the second stage. Supporting the many separatist movements in India based on identity, religion and caste politics is their third area of concentration. The Maoists have thus supported the separatist movement in Kashmir, Khalistani movement in Punjab, LTTE and other Tamil nationalist movements in Tamil Nadu and all other militant and insurgent movements in the rest of India. The 9th Congress of the CPI-(Maoist) had passed a resolution saying that ‘This Unity Congress unequivocally supports the right of self-determination of all the oppressed nationalities including their right to secede from the autocratic Indian state’.
The Maoist movement in India is now totally controlled by the civil liberty groups which are funded by the church agencies and western intelligence agencies. The civil liberty groups and Maoists are working together with the ultimate aim of India’s disintegration. Their efforts to take over and control all panchayat institutions in the country are also aimed to achieve the same goal.
(http://www.rediff.com/news/column/state ... 130528.htm)
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