Though small in terms of area, Haryana has potential to be a harbinger of many radical reforms. It can be the flag-bearer of many good things, which other states can follow for their betterment. A retired IPS officer Ranvir Singh Sharma, also the founder and president of Rashtriya Lokswaraj Party (RLP), is trying his level best to empower villages in a way that these manage their affairs on their own. Empowerment of villages through Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) is a wonderful idea. Sharma feels that Haryana government must implement 73 and 74 amendments in Constitution in letter and spirit so every village accountable for governance. Imagine a situation where every village in the state is a self-ruled entity. The 73 and 74 constitutional amendments are considered as landmark initiatives, which are intended to empower the people in taking care of their governmental needs at the grassroots level.
Across the country efforts are on to invest power in village bodies so that villages are not left behind in scaling the heights of development. Many of us love to remember the statement of Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi that the soul of Bharat lives in India. This was stated many decades back by one of the most revered leaders of the country, but never ever efforts were made to ensure proper upkeep of the villages which house India’s soul. Most of these villages are in bad shape today. They are without potable water and round the clock electricity. Forget about quality healthcare and education at the primary and secondary level. Yet over 80 per cent Indians live in these villages.
As stated at the very outset, Haryana being a small state and better governed can play the role of a torch-bearer of comprehensive rural empowerment, but Sharma, feels otherwise. During a media interaction here last week, he bemoaned that in the name of village development, tax payers’ money is being ‘looted’ by vested interests. One may not like to vouch for what Sharma says, but at the same time there is no denying the fact that there has not been much change in the overall condition of villages since the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Act, 1992. These amendments were meant for promoting self-governance at the grassroots level by putting in place a three-tier structure-village panchayat, panchayat samiti and Zila Parishad.
The amendments intended to ensure that the people living in villages take care of their basic needs including drinking water, roads, bridge, ferries, education, health, sanitation and family welfare. These are the only issues which concern villagers across the country and all government claims to deliver effectively on these counts have fallen flat. “Nothing will change until and unless the true spirit of swaraj is not implemented. Villagers have not yet been empowered. Powers are still vested with bureaucrats,” further bemoaned Sharma. Nobody knows how things will improve for villagers in Haryana after the hue and cry being made by people like Sharma, but one must understand that such interventions have become the need of the hour.
How important is the development of villages for India’s overall development, one can gauge from the words of President Pranab Mukherjee said on July 2, 2016 during the inauguration of a smart model village pilot project at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. “It is only the representatives of the villages who can transform this country which has more than six lakh villages. Our progress and development can be achieved at the desirable speed only in partnership with these decision makers in the villages. We need to empower our women and youth.”