Millennium Post

Training Policy for Grassroot Leaders

The introduction of constitutionally mandated governance at the local level with three million representatives has drawn the attention of the world and made them to look at the paradoxes of transformations taking place in India. For many incorrigible optimists, India has done many revolutions contrary to the expectations of established theories. But to some others, it is all rhetorics and no practice. Both are realities if we look at the transformative process of India like the arguments of B.R.Amedkar and M.K.Gandhi on village Swaraj. 

The enactment of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment provided enormous scope for deepening democracy and democratisation at the community level. It is to be critically evaluated as to what extent it has impacted the democratic practices of the communities. In a country as diverse as India, it is unfair to make sweeping generalisation on the life, livelihood and socio-cultural practices of the Indian societies. Since the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India is applicable to Indian society, it is imperative to make some general observations about the impact of democratic decentralisation based on the studies conducted by various research agencies.  

But pan-Indian evaluative studies on decentralisation have come with remarkable conclusions that, 
  • Despite many hurdles and barriers rural local institutions of governance have delivered services more effectively than the bureaucratic raj.
  • Corruption has been reduced  considerably but the number of people involved in corruption has increased.
  • Per capita bribe is more than per capita tax. 
  • Local bodies have been transformed into an errant boy of the central government and state governments to implement their schemes and programmes.
  • Poor and marginalised groups have started to assert themselves and claim their rights on development despite barriers and obstacles.
With the above conclusion, they posited that despite all the barriers local rural institutions have delivered goods and eased out the frustration of the poor. Therefore, why are state governments not evincing a keen interest in strengthening the institutions of  rural governance? If they are to be strengthened, then what are the steps to be taken and who has to make such decisions? These are the daunting questions in the minds of the academic community today.  

Before making any policy suggestion, one has to look at the task to be performed  through the rural local bodies. It has to work for economic development and social justice and they are to be performed through a participatory process of governance and development. Here, it is to be recognised that our communities follow age old practices in regulating the affairs of the community but not the provisions of the Constitution. At the community level there has been always a clash between community practices and Constitutional provisions. 

Through the Constitutional ammendment, comminities were brought under the scope of dmocrativ governance for the first time. In the same way, the local governments have to work for economic development and to achieve social justice. It is to be recognised here that both Centre and state governments could not achieve the target fixed by them despite their programmes, schemes and strategies along with huge outlays. Against this backdrop, one has to visualise the task of new local bodies. To achieve the above task at the grassroots, a new leadership is imperative.

In this country electing a leader is not a difficult task but shaping the leaders is very difficult. There is no consciousness on the part of the national leaders that the leaders at the grassroots are to be shaped and oriented to perform development administration and development politics. There is no training culture in our political system as there is no training policy in India to train our Members of Parliament, Members of Legislature and Members of Local Bodies. The tasks assigned to the local body leaders are tremendous and hence, to fulfill the tasks, we require transformational leaders. Are they going to be born? They are in local bodies as elected representatives and they are to be informed that they should become transformational leaders. One cannot be a leader only after being elected, one has to be trained. This is how we could turn the elected representatives into transformational leaders. Training institutions are imperative. But do we have such a kind of training institutions? Yes, we do, but not to train transformational leaders. The existing training institutions are not creative leadership schools. They train only managers for micro-institutions. 

First the training institutions have to be transformed into “Leadership Schools”. These schools have to be created as “Ashrams” of Mahatma Gandhi because the new local bodies are here not to follow the style of our MPs and MLAs. They have to work for a total transformation of the rural areas. It is a new socio-economic reconstruction of the villages. It is a Neo-Gandhian constructive programme. 

Hence, the leadership  the country needs for grassroots action is unique and they are to be groomed as Mahatma Gandhi groomed workers for a constructive programme. To conduct such a training programme, all the existing training institutions will have to be liberated from the shackles of the state bureaucracy and they have to be placed under the autonomous governing boards headed by strong transformed leaders. They must be independent. They should take a new avatar. 

For all the training programmes Government of India is giving resources. So a training policy could be evolved to training grassroots leaders for governance and development at community level. Budgeted resource allocation should be in place regularly. 

(Views expressed are strictly personal)
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