Swachid K. Rangan
On 26 January 1950, we, the people of India, resolved to constitute India into a 'sovereign, democratic Republic'. In 1975, by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment, the resolve was expanded to read ‘sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic Republic.
Six decades after it was adopted the goal remains elusive. Party politics and bad governance have taken the country farther and farther away from the objective.
Sovereignty is sullied by reality where one-third of Kashmir along with a vast Himalayan territory, over which we claim sovereignty, is still irretrievably under alien occupation. If the Government is reconciled to ground reality the areas should be conceded to the occupants and redraw the frontier lines to establish meaningful sovereignty over the rest of the country. And settle for durable peace with the neighbours.
Again, popular sovereignty means the will of the people should prevail. The reality is that the election procedure enables the will of only a few self-serving individuals who control political parties, prevail.
Democracy as is being practiced by the political parties in India is in tatters.
There are over 600 political groups registered with the Election Commission. Two dozen are active and most of them are regional parties. Even the National parties have limited influence in different States. They have to depend on the support of the regional parties to form governments at the Centre and the States resulting in coalition governments that have inbuilt instability. Regional pressures and narrow chauvinistic approach to national problems not only impede progress but also defeat the very objective stated in the Preamble.
Elections are held regularly and managed by the Election Commission rather efficiently, but increasingly the process of holding elections has become costlier and marred by violence and malpractices. Only the political parties who are in command of money and muscle power could field enough number of candidates and hope to win and capture power. The candidates are chosen not for their integrity or dedication to democracy but for their personal loyalty to the leadership and ability to create vote banks and bring in money to their party by any means. As a result criminals are dominating the major political groups and some of them even become ministers.
Voter-bank politics has divided people not only by caste, religion, language and ethnicity, but also by trade, profession and by student and labour unions. In every election political parties freely indulge in bribing voters, bogus voting and violence. The Election Commission is aware of these malpractices and has recommended a list of electoral reforms to the Central Government. Without these reforms our democracy will turn into mobocracy especially when no progress is made towards securing the citizens social justice and equality.
Socialism is a dud slogan. With the capitalist globalization policy adopted by the governments, the divide between the super rich and the extremely poor, between city residents and village dwellers-- measured by their social, economic, educational and cultural status--is growing.
Secularism as seen by the major political groups in India is biased against Hindu or Muslim community. Religious or casteist fanaticism is further vitiating the political atmosphere. Gandhian secularism will promote mutual trust and understanding of each others faith. This element is lacking in the secularism pursued by the State and the political parties today.
To keep the focus on the objective the Preamble should be amended to read ‘We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Gandhian Republic’ and to secure to all its citizens …..etc.’
A Gandhian Republic would automatically bring the needs of the poorest of the poor into the focus of decision makers, discourage acquisitions beyond need and eliminate forces that disrupt democracy, justice, peace and stability. India’s 640,000 villages will be empowered to govern themselves and be self-reliant in every respect. A democracy based on Gram Swaraj will be vibrant and enduring. Elections will be inexpensive, violence free and localized.
The Gandhian Republic of India may be structured as follows:
President District Panchayat/
State Vigilance Officer
PrimeMinister/ Cabinet Secretary
1. In Gandhian democratic process some 1000 voters will constitute the Gram Sabha that will elect a ten-member Panchyat. Nagar sabhas will correspond to town or city wards and each will also elect its own Nagar Panchayat.
2. Panchyat members will elect a President who will also be a member of the District Panchayat. The District Panchayats, comprising about 500 members each, in turn will elect seven members from among themselves to the State Assembly and one member to the Parliament. There will be no intermediary Panchayts. With no direct elections to State Assembly or Parliament political parties will be kept out and the election procedure would be simple, clean and inexpensive.
3. Administrative powers will be decentralized and each district will have full autonomy. The Chair-person of the District Panchayat will function in tandem with the District Collector in the administration of the District.
4. The conduct of elections at every stage will be the sole responsibility of the Election Commission. The Vigilance Commission will be the watch dog of all political, administrative and judicial activity. Both the Commissions will have full autonomy and the necessary authority, manpower and equipment in the execution of their functions without any political interference. The investigating agencies both at the state and centre will come under the jurisdiction of the Vigilance Commission.
5. Along with the Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and a Free Press, the Electkion Commission and the Vigilance Commission will constitute the Pillars of Democracy.
6. In Gandhian Republic the economic policy will be holistic development of villages and equal distribution of wealth on the basis of ‘lakhiers all, no crorepathis’ Excess income and acquisition of wealth beyond the upper limit will be heavily taxed and scrutinized for legitimate source. Illegal acquisitions will be confiscated and the persons penalized.
Reconstituting India into a Gandhian Republic does not require any drastic change or revision in the present Constitution. Some amendments are needed to reword the Preamble, provide constitutional protection to the heads of governments from the pulls pressures of coalition party politics and to redefine sharing of powers among the Centre, the States, the District and Village Panchayats.
The exercise to constitute India into a Gandhian Republic will clean up the system by eliminating political parties in the democratic process and the administration.
Then, what will be the role of political parties? After achieving the goal of independence Mahatma Gandhi advised the Congress party to dissolve and convert itself as a social service organization and work for the upliftment of villages. He even drafted a constitution for the Lok Sevak Sangh. His power-hungry followers ignored his advice.
In the Gandhian Republic all the political parties will have to convert themselves as social service organizations serving the community. As individuals the members can contest the elections but not as groups. No political warlord, no vote-banks, no rallies, no violence, no corruption—the objective stated in the Preamble would then be fully realized.
Swachid Kasturi Rangan, 99 Journalists Colony, Chennai 600 0041 India. Phone 044 24511846 e-mail: email@example.com
The author, Swachid Kasturi Rangan is a resident of Chennai. India. Born 1933, a journalist by profession he has been the New Delhi correspondent of The New York Times for over 20 years since 1961. He retired as Editor, Dinamani, a leading Tamil language newspaper in Tamil Nadu State He was the founder-editor of Kanaiyazhi, a renowned Tamil monthly devoted to social reform and literature. A follower of Mahatma Gandhi, he founded the Swachid (Soldiers of War Against Corruption, Hunger, Ignorance and Disease) Movement and has been the founder-secretary of Gandhi Mission. For more of his work you may visit http://www.swachid.com/
Swachid K. Rangan
A Global Union of Gandhian Republics will be a voluntary union of sovereign republics where the will of the people prevail over the will of despots who rule by inheritance or capture power by a sham democratic system.
The ultimate objective is to secure to all citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
1. A basic feature of Gandhian Republic is grass-root democracy where political parties have no role. It is named as Panchayat Raj or village self-government.
2. Along with the Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and Free Press, Election Commission and Vigilance Commission will constitute the pillars of Democracy in Panchyat Raj.
3. In Gandhian democratic process all the eligible voters in the village will constitute the Gram Sabha (Village Assembly) that will elect a ten-member Panchayat (Council). Nagar (town/city) sabhas will correspond to town or city wards and each will also elect its own Nagar Panchayat.
4. Panchayat members will elect a President who will also be a member of the District Panchayat. The District Panchayats, comprising about 500 members each, in turn will elect seven members from among themselves to the State Assembly and one member to the Parliament. There will be no intermediary Panchayts.
5. With no direct elections to State Assembly or Parliament political parties will be kept out and the election procedure would be simple, clean and inexpensive.
6. Administrative powers will be decentralized and each district will have full autonomy. The Chair-person of the District Panchayat will function in tandem with the District Collector in the administration of the District.
7. The conduct of elections at every stage will be the sole responsibility of the Election Commission. The Vigilance Commission will be the watch dog of all political, administrative and judicial activity. Both the Commissions will have full autonomy and the necessary authority, manpower and equipment in the execution of their functions without any political interference. The investigating agencies both at the state and centre will come under the jurisdiction of the Vigilance Commission.
8. In Gandhian Republic the economic policy will be holistic development of villages and equal distribution of wealth on the basis of ‘millionaires all, no billionaires’ Excess income and acquisition of wealth beyond the upper limit will be heavily taxed and scrutinized for legitimate source. Illegal acquisitions will be confiscated and the persons penalized heavily.
The foregoing passages are derived from the Indian Constitution. This can be adopted by different Nations to suit their own national ethos. (January 30, 2009)
Swachid Kasturi Rangan, 99 Journalists Colony, Chennai 600 0041 India. Phone 044 24511846 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgThe author, Swachid Kasturi Rangan is a resident of Chennai. India. Born 1933, a journalist by profession he has been the New Delhi correspondent of The New York Times for over 20 years since 1961. He retired as Editor, Dinamani, a leading Tamil language newspaper in Tamil Nadu State He was the founder-editor of Kanaiyazhi, a renowned Tamil monthly devoted to social reform and literature. A follower of Mahatma Gandhi, he founded the Swachid (Soldiers of War Against Corruption, Hunger, Ignorance and Disease) Movement and has been the founder-secretary of Gandhi Mission. For more of his work you may visit http://www.swachid.com/
majority of the people live in misery fighting for survival. Hunger, Ignorance
and Disease still remain the major problems. All pervasive corruption, aggravated
by the use of money and muscle power by the political parties to win elections,
has been worsening the situation. The growing divide between the super rich
and the down-trodden has given an impetus to extremism. Terrorism stalks
the countries of the world. Added to this, global warming is pushing the
world toward annihilation. To retrieve the world from the brink of disaster,
a global effort is urgently needed.
The system needs to be overhauled and a new leadership committed to Gandhian ideology must take over the reins of governance. Nations should come together to create a Global Union of Village Republics.
Gandhi's vision of Indian was a `Union of Village Republics' where each of the 700, 000 villages would have an elected panchayat (village council), fully autonomous with all the powers to govern itself. Unfortunately, his concept of a vibrant democracy based on Village Swaraj (self-government) was ignored in the Indian Constitution. Instead, the Westminister model of parliamentary democracy dominated by political parties was adopted. This has taken India along the path of peril, far removed from the Gandhian path of peace and prosperity.
In 9, when Mahatma Gandhi evolved his concept of Union of Village Republics his thoughts were focused on India's freedom from the British rule. But all through his writings he had kept in mind peace, security and welfare of the people of the whole world.
In the Global Union world Nations would voluntarily become members, much like the United Nations and the European Union, but the authority to enforce universal peace and security vested with a democratically constituted apex body. An elected Government equipped with a peace force would over-ride narrow national interests and establish a new world of peace and prosperity.
It would be a world without conflict, nations without borders and people committed to Truth and non-violence.
With this objective in view a Charter has been drafted to create a new Global Union empowered to enforce laws enacted by a world assembly or parliament.
Ushering in a Partyless Democracy
A four-tier structure of elected Panchayat (village council) Unions at the
District/ State level, District Unions at the National level and the Unions
of World Nations at the Global level will be the format for the Global Union
of Village Republics.
2. Under the new democratic system direct elections are held only at the bottom level to the Village Councils (Panchayats). Elections to higher legislative bodies are limited to the elected members of the Panchayats. This will put an end to the malpractices in the present expensive and complicated electoral process dominated by the political parties.
3. National parliaments will elect representatives to the Global Parliament, which in turn elects a leader for a term of five years. The person will be the President of the global Union and will be empowered by the Global Parliament to form his own government and implement the decisions of the Parliament.
4. An independent judiciary will ensure the smooth functioning of the global democratic system.
Expanding population, low productivity and benefits of development projects
failing to reach the beneficiaries are the main reasons for the unresolved
problem of growing poverty in countries of the third world. Drastic measures
are needed to remedy the critical situation.
6. To enhance productivity in farming and small industries, new tools, guidance, training and financial assistance will be provided through agricultural and technological institutions in every district.
7. Member Nations will be guided and funded by a Global Fund for implementing a uniform industrial and agricultural policy geared to promote job-oriented projects. Priority will be for industries offering maximum job opportunities and to agro industries in rural areas.
8. The educated unemployed will be enrolled in career training programmes according to their talent and desire and placed in suitable jobs. A subsistence allowance will be paid during the training period. No one will be left idle.
Literacy alone cannot remove ignorance and superstition widely prevalent
among the masses. The education policy will be designed to combine science
and spirituality to strengthen the inherent moral fiber in every human being
from young age.
10. The medium of instruction will be English for science subjects and mother tongue for other subjects. English will be recognized as the official international language.
11. To achieve the goal of universal education all the children under 10 years of age will be enrolled compulsorily in a neighborhood government school. Classes at the primary level can be held outside the school compound entrusted to qualified teachers such as educated women and retired teachers. This would ease the space problem in school as also save much expenditure in infrastructure.
12. Prevention is better than cure. Medical facilities will be provided for all the people under a social security scheme that will also take care of the aged and the destitute. At the same time preventive measures will be taken by inoculation against infections and epidemics, and propagating personal and community healthcare, hygiene and clean environment.
(The author, Swachid K. Rangan is a resident of Chennai, India. B 1933. A journalist by profession he has been the New Delhi correspondent of The New York Times for over 20 years since 1961. He retired as Editor, Dinamani, a leading Tamil language newspaper in Tamil Nadu state. He is the founder-editor of Kanaiyazhi, a renowned Tamil monthly devoted social reforms and literature. A follower of Mahatma Gandhi, he founded the Swachid Movement in 1985 and has been the founder-secretary of Gandhi Mission, Chennai)
Kasturi Rangan, 99 Journalists Colony, Chennai 600 041 India. Phone 044
2451 1846 e-mail:
By Swachid K. Rangan
As Time rolls by, Gandhi's global stature is growing. Gandhism is taking roots all over the world and will eventually sprout into a Universal Religion based on Gandhian Spirituality. Then Gandhji's place will be among the prophets of the world, after Moses, Buddha, Jesus Christ and Mohammed. The Prophets had laid down Commandments, edicts and sacred duties to be performed for individuals. So has Gandjhiji without giving them directly.
life is my message," he has said when asked for one. Anyone can derive
these dictums from his own life, so vividly recorded in his autobiography,
"The Story of My Experiments with Truth."
truthful. Truth begets trust. Trust begets respect, recognition and rewards.
You may not always follow truth, but if you find truth stand by it. And
make it your business to find Truth. Don't do anything in secret that you
cannot divulge in public.
Be fearless. Face threat and danger stoically.
Bear no grudge. Non-violence in thought, word and deed will transform your relationship with others for the better. Malice toward none is the right attitude.
Free yourself from enslaving habits. Illness is caused by wrong food or pollution. Don't suppress the symptoms by medication. Find the cause and avoid it. In most cases Nature cure is the best remedy. Smoking is a slow killer. Alcohol and drugs are poisons.
Be emotional. Show it in love not in hatred or anger. Keep the ego under leash. Ego is the seat of emotions and let it not get the better of you.
Create wealth for the society. If you have surplus funds invest them in productive ventures. Don't hoard or make dead investments.
Share your burden and profits. If you have inherited wealth or running business consider yourself as a trustee and put it in productive uses. Share business profits generously among the workers. Identify truthful, trustworthy persons and reward them with responsibility and money. Do not shoulder all the responsibilities by yourself.
Go public: Take interest in public affairs. Set aside at least three hours of your time in a week and one per cent of your personal expenditure to support a public cause.
Be with God. Sit in Meditation for at least 30 minutes. Relate with your inner Self, God within.
Be a Satyagrahi. Remain committed to truth and nonviolence under all circumstances. Fight injustice and oppression. Be ready to sacrifice your life and wealth for the sake of a noble cause. Service to the poor and the distressed is service to God.
Gandhian dictums should find a place in school textbooks. The moral fibre in every individual would then be fortified. When these individuals grow up and take over national leadership a new world order of peace and prosperity would set in.
By Swachid K. Rangan
Mahatma Gandhi, who led India to freedom from 150 years of British rule, had prescribed a democratic system based on village self-government. He called it Gram Swaraj where political parties would have no role. Unfortunately, the framers of Indian Constitution ignored it and opted for the British model of parliamentary democracy based on the party system. This has proved to be most unsuited to the Indian ethos. Where religion, caste and ethnic rivalries prevail, political parties tend to exploit them to gain dominance and perpetuate themselves in power.
In the parliamentary democracy, as in practice world over, the political parties represent the individual. Only at the time of the elections the voter has a role to play. After that the voter goes into hibernation, until the next elections, and the parties that decide what is good for him. Which in real terms means what is good for them.
Elections are expensive and marked by lavish propaganda, affordable only by a party in command of money and muscle power. Criminalization of politics is a cause for concern as political parties are increasingly depending on this element for funds and votes. Party politics divide the society into so many groups. Evoking sentiments of religion, clan or ethnic identity creates vote banks. This has resulted in a society where various groups of people are perpetually in conflict vitiating the natural atmosphere of peace and freedom.
The party leadership indulges in misuse of power and corruption in order to satisfy supporters inside and outside its own party. Politicians have lost credibility. Good and selfless persons are still there, though in dwindling numbers. Like bad coins drive out good coins bad politicians marginalize and drive out good people especially in the political parties.
With all these, it is evident that political parties have become the bane of democratic system. In countries where a single party dominates and a single person or a caucus controls the party, dictatorship eventually ensues. More so when there are no checks and balances as exist in vibrant democracies such as India, the United States and Britain. Concentration of power in one person makes him autocratic and that is how persons like Sadam Husein emerge.
The time has come now to consider an alternate to the present system that is election-oriented, party-dominated, complicated and very expensive.
Gandhiji's concept of gram swaraj (Village self-government) envisages India as a 'Union of Village Republics'. Each of the 640,000 village panchayats or councils would be a self-sufficient autonomous unit with full political and economic power vested in it. Every individual will have direct voice in the government.
The individual is the architect of his own government. A Panchyat of persons possessing minimum prescribed qualifications and annually elected by adult villagers will conduct the government of the village. It will have all the authority and jurisdiction. The Panchayat will be the legislature, judiciary and executive rolled into one.
Direct elections are held only at the village level. An electoral college of panchayat members will elect the legislators to the State and National legislatures as also the heads of the governments. Decentralization of power is a basic requirement.
Gram swaraj as conceived by Gandhiji is thus a genuine and virile democracy, which offers a potent cure for many of the ills that mark the present political system.
This is applicable not only to the Indian electoral system but also relevant to the system that exists in the United States and other party-based democratic countries. With this in view, a reformed system of 'partyless democracy' universally applicable, must be evolved. A new, partyless democratic system having the Village self-government as the base will usher in truly a democratic republic, the Gandhian Republic of Universal Peace and Democracy.
Gandhiji's concept of Panchayat raj envisages India as a 'Union of Village Republics'. Each of the 640,000 village panchayats would be a self-sufficient autonomous unit with full political and economic power vested in it. He called it 'Village Swaraj', where every individual will have direct voice in the government.
H.M. Vyas, compiler of Gandhiji's essays on the subject writes: The individual is the architect of his own government. The government of the village will be conducted by a Panchyat of persons annually elected by adult villagers possessing minimum prescribed qualifications. It will have all the authority and jurisdiction. The Panchayat will be the legislature, judiciary and executive rolled into one. Village swaraj as conceived by Gandhiji is thus a genuine and virile democracy, which offers a potent cure for many of the ills that mark the present political system that is "election-oriented, party-dominated, power-aimed, centralized and complicated".
At this point of time it may sound too Utopian, as it would require dismantling of the present electoral system and rewriting of the Constitution itself. Credit is due to the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who pushed through the 73rd and 74th amendments providing for compulsory elections to the Panchayats and other local bodies. Fundless and powerless it is a far cry from Gandhiji's concept of Panchayat raj. But these elections have no doubt created awareness among the villagers and an opportunity to vent their grievances to the authorities through the easily accessible elected representatives.
Given the lack of competent leadership and literacy and inadequate resources to achieve self-sufficiency at the village level, it may not be practical to bring in the panchayat raj as envisaged by Gandhiji. But as an intermediary measure, cluster of villages and towns that form the districts can be made into autonomous entities with maximum political and executive powers.
There are 700 districts in our country. Already a good administration is in place in each of them along with a judiciary and an infrastructure for agriculture, power, industries, education, health and other services.
With this in view, a reformed system of 'partyless democracy' will have the following salient features:
1. Direct elections, by adult franchise, will be held to the Panchayats only.
2. The voters in the villages will form the Gram sabha, and in towns and cities the wards will be termed as Nagar sabha. Each will elect a Chairperson and a six-member administration to the Gram or Nagar Panchayats.
3. The chairperson will be a member of the District Council, which may have up to 300 councilors.
4. The Gram/Nagar sabha and District Council will meet twice a year to oversee and guide the panchayat or council administration.
5. The councilors will elect a Chairperson along with a six-member administration.
6. The Council chairperson will automatically become a Member of Parliament and the six administrative council members will become Members of the State legislature.
7. Thus there will be a four-tier democratic system, namely Gram/Nagar Panchayats, District Councils, State Legislatures and Lok Sabha. Direct elections are held only at the bottom level, namely, Gram/Nagar sabhas. There will be no elections to State Assembly or Lok Sabha.
8. The State assembly and the Lok Sabha will be a continuing permanent body, never to be dissolved and reconstituted every five years
9. One-fifth of the elected members will be retired every year and elections are held for the vacancies. The Panchayats represented by these retiring members will go to polls at the same time. That is, 140,000 vilage and town panchayats out of the total 700,000 will elect new panchayats for a five-yearterm.
The leader of the House, who will be elected by a simple
majority, will have a full-term of five years. In case
there are more than two contestants preferential voting
will decide the winner. His removal in midterm will be by
two-thirds voting in favour of such a resolution.
The Constitution has no mention of the Political parties. The leader of the House is the Chief Minister or Prime Minister. A charismatic, clean candidate can enlist the support of the majority in the House. He can form his own cabinet with competent persons. Once elected by a simple majority he will not be bound by the pressures and pulls of his own partymen or coalition partners as is witnessed now.
All this may require some amendments to the Constitution and drastic revision of the Peoples Representative Act. It will also meet with stiff resistance from Political parties that have vested interest in the present system. Eminent persons of stature in public life outside the dominant political parties should come together and form an alliance, "People's Alliance for Partyless Demoicracy" and fight it out in the elections at all levels.
A new, partyless democratic system having the Panchayat as the base will usher in truly a democratic republic, the Gandhian Republic of India.
By Swachid K. Rangan