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India! I dare you to be rich

Tag Archive: Swaraj

Ajaypal Nagar’s text was not even paraphrased by Arvind Kejriwal. The claim of plagiarism cannot be sustained.

Alex, not satisfied with my analysis, has cited some material in the public domain to 'prove' plagiarism by Arvind Kejriwal.

I've reviewed that material but am NOT at all impressed.

1) The largest block of "similar" text cited has a DIFFERENT MEANING in Arvind's text

Consider this text from Nagar's book:

This means that:

When a person complains against someone from a department, the complaint is examined by the same department's officials. In such inquiry the person complained against is protected by the person inquiring against him (I'm not sure about the meaning of 'vajib shulk bhi janch adhikari dwara vasuli jati hai").

And consider this text from AK's book which is cited as an example of plagiarism:

The actual English translation of AK's text is provided in Swaraj:

"When complaint is lodged against these officials with their senior officer, the inquiry is conducted by the officers of vigilance department. Under political pressure, or by accepting bribes or just because of carelessness they do not take any action. The citizens on the other hand have no control over these vigilance officers."

Now, Arvind is referring to a general issue about complaints and neither his idea or words bear resemblance Nagar's text. Except for a couple of words there are no similarities. (The actual Hindi text in Arvind Kejriwal's text cites "senior officers" of the department, not "vigilance department"). There is no reference to "senior officers" or "vigilance officers" in Nagar's text. Further, AK's text cites three reasons why complaints may not be acted upon, and mentions that the citizen has no control over these senior officers.This is not part of Nagar's text. Vague resemblance of concept (about complaints) means nothing. Such vague resemblance is probably found in 100s of other writings. Plagiarism involves LIFTING SPECIFIC CHUNKS OF TEXT. AK has not lifted Nagar's text.

2) Most examples cited as plagiarism are largely 4-5 words of common language that anyone can create/think of.

From Nagar [Click for larger image]

And from AK's Swaraj: [Click for larger image]

It is beyond absurd to suggest that sets of 4-5 words, which are NOT EVEN EXACTLY IN THE SAME ORDER, but part of (in some cases) entirely different concepts, represent "plagiarism".

Sorry, I'm not impressed.

This is NOT a case of plagiarism.

Plagiarism, in common parlance, involves SIGNIFICANT USE OF EXACTLY THE SAME WORDS. Ideas, when paraphrased, do not represent plagiarism (although they may breach intellectual property rights in some cases).

It is clear that Arvind's ideas were emanant well before Nagar's book reached Arvind. The apparent similarity of a few words here or there – in no particular order – which are not even a paraphrase of Nagar's ideas – does NOT amount to plagiarism.

I've only see a couple of pages as examples, and there may well be some "exact" words copied elsewhere. But based on what I've reviewed, there is no case of plagiarism against Arvind.

COMPLETE LIST OF POSTS ON THIS SUBJECT

Arvind Kejriwal did not plagiarise Swaraj. Evidence from my 6 blog posts since September 2011.

Comparison of Arvind Kejriwal's 2009 Note on Swaraj and the 2012 book. #1

Comparison of Arvind Kejriwal's 2009 Note on Swaraj and the 2012 book. #2

Comparison of Arvind Kejriwal's 2009 Note on Swaraj and the 2012 book. #3

Comparison of Arvind Kejriwal's 2009 Note on Swaraj and the 2012 book. #4

Comparison of Arvind Kejriwal's 2009 Note on Swaraj and the 2012 book. #5

Comparison of Arvind Kejriwal's 2009 Note on Swaraj and the 2012 book. #6

AAP couldn’t find anything else but my blog to defend Arvind Kejriwal against the charge of plagiarism!

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Comparison of Arvind Kejriwal’s 2009 Note on Swaraj and the 2012 book. #6

Next, health.

FROM THE 2009 NOTES

Access to basic health care should be a fundamental right available to every human being. The western world has long been grappling with the cost of healthcare and the need to expand access.

While some European countries have state-run healthcare programs, the US has a largely free market health care system driven by special interests from the pharmaceutical and insurance industry. Neither of these systems has been found to be widely satisfactory.

A developing country like India, where 27.5% of the people are well below the poverty line, has little choice other than a government-provided health care system for its large population. The good news is that we already have a state-run healthcare system; the bad news is that it’s a hopelessly inadequate one. A visit to the nearest government hospital will more than confirm this.

 

 

A few of the problems besetting state-run hospitals are:

  • Inadequate doctors and nurses
  • Ill-equipped hospitals and shortage of medicines
  • Assigned doctors and nurses may shirk their duties

Inadequate number of Doctors and Nurses: Primary Health Centres, dispensaries and hospitals are woefully short of doctors, nurses and other staff. Recruitments are done at state level. Even if staff is urgently needed in a Primary Health Centre (PHC), the PHC incharge can only write to higher ups. The letter gets lost in bureaucratic maze at higher levels. As a result, the people suffer.

It would be best if Gram Sabha is empowered to recruit new staff whenever needed. Depending on local cultures and resources, they would also be best suited to decide whether to recruit ayurvedic specialist or a homeopath or a local mid-wife etc. They would also be able to do so at much lower costs than being paid by state Government. Such staff recruited directly by Gram Sabhas would be treated as Gram Sabha employees and Gram Sabha would be their appointing authority. They would have the powers to hire them and proceed against them if they do not work properly.

The power to appoint new staff should be given to Gram Sabha and not to sarpanch because sarpanch may turn corrupt and take bribes in return for recruitment. Gram Sabha may set up a committee to shortlist names. The final decisions may be taken in an open meeting of Gram Sabha. For district level hospitals, this power would be enjoyed by Zilla Panchayat, who could be held accountable by Gram Sabhas of that area.

Assigned Doctors and Nurses don't bother to perform their duties: What can a poor and ordinary citizen do if the doctor does not turn up for work, if the nurse misbehaves? Nothing. At best he writes a complaint to higher officials in medical department, who do not respond. This is a clear case of lack of accountability. The medical professionals at these hospitals are answerable to their supervisors, who in turn report up the chain of command. Ordinary people have no control over them.

Once again, this is best addressed at the level of Gram Sabhas. If any medical professional does not perform, the Gram Sabha should have the power to summon him before the open meeting, question him/her and withhold his salary or impose penalty against him, if needed. For the staff employed directly by Gram Sabha, Gram Sabha would also have the power to fire him.

Ill-equipped hospitals and shortage of medicines: Government hospitals are always short of medicines and equipment. Purchases are mostly done at state level. Even if a hospital does not need a particular drug or equipment, they are saddled with it but the drugs actually needed are not provided. For instance, in GTB hospital of East Delhi, drugs for dog bite are never in short supply because it is one of the most expensive drugs and there seems to be a nexus of the supplier with purchase department.

Let the purchases be decided locally for all drugs and equipment and funds for the same should be provided by Gram Sabhas. Let the hospital administration place its requirements before the Gram Sabha meetings, who may pass it or get it vetted from some expert. The Gram Sabha may even go for some ayurvedic or homeopathic medicines rather than going for only expensive allopathic medicines. This would ensure that not only would medicines be available to people but would also save costs on buying medicines and equipment not needed by them. If there is an outbreak of an epidemic the issue is bound to be raised in the local Gram Sabha and Gram Sabha may be able to take immediate steps, unlike present system, wherein the administration takes months to respond, by when several people have already died.

 

 

FROM THE BOOK

Improvement in health services
In the same way let us take health services. The Doctors in village hospital do not treat the patients properly and use abusive language, they are rude, they do not come regularly and the medicines are stolen from the hospital. If the gram sabhas had power then they would be accountable to the Sabha, which could directly question them and if need be, punish them suitably.

If there is shortage of medicine then they would be able to purchase medicine from the free fund that is made available to them from the government. This will directly reduce the corruption. Today no action can be taken against the corrupt officials. If gram Sabha has the power then it will be able to question the corrupt officers and punish them.

Similarly, if a doctor in a government hospital does not treat the patients properly or does not prescribe or give medicines when needed no action can be taken against him even if a complaint is filed against him.

We went to a village in Orissa where sixty three families were suffering from Plague. The village had rupees six lac available to them but that money was not free money. It was tied to one or the other of the government’s schemes. The nearest hospital was fifteen kilometers away from the village. In spite of the fact that so much money was available yet that money could not be used even to hire a vehicle and take the poor families to the hospital. The consequences were inevitable. Seven people died? What use was rupee seven lac if it could not save the life of people in that village?

The people who go to a hospital for getting medical treatment should be empowered to appoint and suspend the Doctor. The administration should go directly in the hands of people.

MY COMMENT

Once again, there is 100 per cent similarity of ideas.

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Comparison of Arvind Kejriwal’s 2009 Note on Swaraj and the 2012 book. #5

Now for schools.

FROM NOTES

In a village in West Bengal, though a panchayat gets roughly Rs 6 crores per annum, a village could not make a school, which they needed so desperately, because all funds were tied.

We have made some amendments to the central Nagar Raj Bill. Essentially, we have suggested that all functions and control over local school, dispensary, ration shops, roads, street lights, etc. should be given to the people. Likewise, control over local officials dealing with these matters should also lie with Area Sabhas.

Four of the commonest problems of government schools are:
1.    Poor infrastructure
2.    Shortage of teachers
3.    Absenteeism among teachers
4.    Poor quality of teaching
Poor infrastructure: State government’s education department has a defined budget. Some officials at the district headquarters take the decisions as to how the money should be used, without ascertaining the actual requirements of each school. Based on those decisions, purchases are made in bulk. Desks, for example, may be purchased in a given financial year for the whole state, irrespective of whether a school needs them or not. A school may have a more pressing need for ceiling fans than desks. But fans cannot be purchased because there is no specific budget for that. So a school remains in want of a commodity that it requires more than what it’s provide with from the top. The system is based on wrong priorities and gradually turns a self-respecting school into a beggar, always asking for something from the government.

In the proposed model of local self-governance, a school would present its requirements in a Gram Sabha. The Gram Sabha would assess how much money is available as against the requirement of that school. The people and school administrators will sit together and decide the most pressing requirements that must be met through available funds.

It is to be noted here that Gram Sabha, and not Sarpanch, is the most legitimate authority to make such a decision. Given such a power, most Sarpanchs turn corrupt. The entire process of purchase should be open and transparent. In an urban setting, Mohalla Sabha would take such a decision. Gram Sabha or Mohalla Sabha should also have the power to fix responsibility and penalize an official if any wrongdoing is detected in the purchase process.
Shortage of teachers: At the municipal primary school at F2 block of Sunder Nagari in East Delhi, 10 teachers teach about 950 pupils, divided into 20 classes. No action has been taken on headmaster’s written requests pleading for more teachers to be made available to his school. There is a long process to create and fill new posts. Till that process is started and completed, pupils must suffer. The headmaster or the parents of the pupils have absolutely no say in expediting the process. Then there are allegations of widespread corruption in filling vacancies. The larger question is: can one expect a teacher, who got a job by paying bribes, to instil desirable values in pupils under his watch?

In the proposed model, a Gram Sabha or Mohalla Sabha will be able to appoint teachers in a school under its jurisdiction whenever the number of pupils justifies such an appointment without having to seek approvals from higher authorities. The Gram Sabha or Mohalla Sabha may temporarily pay the salary of a teacher that it has appointed from its own resources and could be compensated by the state government later.
Here too, the power to appoint teachers must not be given to elected representatives like a Sarpanch, who might be tempted into accepting bribes to favour a candidate or indulge in nepotism. The power should lie with the Gram Sabha or Mohalla Sabha.

Absenteeism among teachers and poor quality of teaching: Most government schools, in rural and urban areas alike, face the problem of teachers, more than the pupils, playing truant. Either teachers do not attend school, or if they attend, they just sit under a tree and gossip. They may also decide to come late to the school and leave early.

Teachers feel emboldened to shirk their duties because they know that parents of their pupils, even very educated ones, can’t hold them accountable. If any parent has any problem with a teacher, all that he/she can do is to complain to the headmaster. Since parents of many pupils in government schools are poor, illiterate or semi-educated, headmasters often treat them with scorn. The parent either gives up or at most makes a complaint to the school inspector or to his higher ups including Education Director. Most of the times, his/her complaints are thrown into the rubbish bin.
A sympathetic education officer may even send an inspector for enquiry, who would be too willing to accept a bribe from the erring teacher in exchange for a favourable report. That’s the kind of fate that meets most complaints from parents against school teachers. As a consequence, parents stop making complaints.

In the proposed model, a Gram Sabha or Mohalla Sabha will have the power to withhold the salary of a teacher or impose financial penalty on him/her if parents of pupils are not satisfied with teacher’s performance. In 2002, when Madhya Pradesh gave Gram Sabha the power to withhold the salaries of a number of government officials, school teachers were compelled to mend their truant ways.
A Sarpanch or any other elected Panchayat members must be denied this power. Sarpanchs are known to turn corrupt and fix monthly bribes on a teacher as “protection money”. Even if a Sarpanch or Panchayat member does not turn corrupt, he/she is bound to get influenced by pressures from his relatives and friends. Therefore, the power must vest in the Gram Sabha or Mohalla Sabha and not with the elected representative.

FROM BOOK

In a village government school, if a teacher does not teach properly or decides to come late to school or prefers not to come at all , no action can be taken against him, even if a complaint is filed to this effect.

We visited Khijuri village in West Bengal, where the Sarpanch told us that though the village had received rupees six crore from the government, they could not construct a school which was badly needed and would have cost them only rupees twenty lakhs. This was because this money was tied up under various scheme of the government, for instance, the pension fund or construction of houses under the Indra Vikas Yojana or for some other scheme.

The right to take all decisions about the village and its organizational set up should be of the villagers. The need is to bring about an amendment to the existing Panchayati raj and other prevailing laws where this power should be enshrined in the people of the village. The gram sabha should have the power to stop the salary of a teacher who is not coming to the school or not teaching properly.

Under RTI (Right to information) act it was found that in many a schools, up to class ten, of Jharkhand state have not a single teacher. In Vamani higher secondary school, Kanuga, Saraikela, Kharsawa has 310 children but not a single teacher. In a school of Siroom there are 435 children in ten classes but there is only one teacher, that too for Bangla language. Currently it is the duty of the state government to provide teachers in school. Many a times people in the above mentioned places wrote to the state governments but no answer ever came.

COMMENT

Once again, the underlying idea is precisely the same.

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Comparison of Arvind Kejriwal’s 2009 Note on Swaraj and the 2012 book. #4

Now for Gram Sabha:

FROM NOTES

Important ingredients for local self governance

The key to improving local governance is to give complete control over functions, funds and functionaries to citizens’ assemblies.

The following are the most critical conditions required for the success of any local self-governing institution. If anyone of them were missing, the institution would not work.

1. Power should lie with citizens’ assemblies and not with Sarpanch or other elected members of Panchayat. People would take all decisions in their Gram Sabha meetings every month. Sarpanch and other Panchayat members should only implement those decisions.

In urban areas, such people’s assemblies do not even exist. All powers in urban areas are concentrated primarily into bureaucracy and to some extent with elected representatives. A municipal ward in a large city can have more than 40,000 voters. Since it would be unreasonable to expect such a large number of people to meet at a place at regular intervals, each ward should be broken up into smaller areas or mohallas consisting of about 1000 families. Powers should be given to peoples’ assemblies namely Mohalla Sabhas or Area Sabhas.

  1. All functions related to a village or mohalla should lie within the jurisdiction of Gram Sabha or Mohalla Sabha. The principle should be that whatever can be done at the level of Gram Sabha or Mohalla Sabha should be done at that level. What cannot be done at the grassroots level should be done at the intermediate levels, i.e. block level (rural areas) and ward level (urban areas). What cannot be done at the intermediate levels shall be done at the district and municipality levels. And what cannot be done at district and municipality level should be done at state level. Currently, state is engaged in micromanaging the affairs of each village and mohalla. In a decentralised scenario, a state would have more time and resources for bigger projects. Complete powers should be given to each tier of local government to take all decisions on matters belonging to that tier. Presently, subjects have been transferred to panchayats without any powers. For instance, Uttar Pradesh gives Panchayats power over schools in their jurisdiction, but if a teacher does not attend his class, Panchayat cannot take him to task. The official who can punish an errant teacher is called Assistant Basic Shiksha Adhikari, who usually takes a bribe from the teacher and turns a blind eye to his misconduct.
  2. Relation with local bureaucracy: In most Panchayati Raj laws, the bureaucracy has been given veto powers to accept, modify or reject the decisions and proposals of a Panchayat or its Gram Sabha, thus rendering them ineffective. Gram Sabha or Mohalla Sabha decisions shall be final unless they are technically flawed or they violate any law.
  3. Power to recall: If people are dissatisfied with the performance of their elected Panchayat or municipal representatives, they should have the power to recall them. Some states like MP and UP have already given this power to their citizens.
  4. Adequate and untied funds: Most of the funds provided to Panchayats are tied to government scheme of some kind. A study of MP and UP Panchayats shows that more than 90% of the funds are tied to government schemes. Very little money is left for the people to spend on their own projects and problems. Besides, the funds provided are meagre. In Kerala, 40% of the state budget is directly provided to panchayats without any strings. Other states too should provide adequate untied funds to their Panchayats.
  5. Power over local officials: The local officials should get their salaries through Panchayats at the levels of village, or block or district. In urban areas, they should get their salaries from mohalla or ward or municipality. If they do not perform, Gram Sabha or Mohalla Sabha should have the power to withhold their salaries or impose penalties upon them. These officials should also be appointed by Gram Sabhas or Mohalla Sabhas so that they become the appointing authorities for these employees and can remove them from job, wherever needed in extreme cases.

FROM BOOK

LAW NEEDED FOR SELF GOVERNANCE OF VILLAGES

For people to take decisions under the aegis of gram sabhas following changes will have to be brought about in our legislation so that people will have control over their fate and their lives. They would then be responsible for their own progress.

Gram Sabhas should be supreme The Problem:

In the present system gram sabhas have been given very little power and the power that is given vests with the sarpanch or head of the panchayat. This association of people on village level has no control over the actions of sarpanch. In most of the laws enacted for gram sabhas, their role is limited to giving advice to the sarpanch. The sarpanch has the option of accepting or rejecting the advice. Therefore, people suck up to the sarpanch. This makes the sarpanch autocratic and corrupt. The people of gram sabha, in absence of any power to question his actions, stand by as helpless spectators. Since they are unable to take any action, the people of gram sabhas have distanced themselves from the day to day working of the gram sabhas.

Law has not given any power to the people of gram Sabha to make amends if the sarpanch is taking wrong decisions or is indulging in corrupt practices. The district administrator however, has the right to take action against the sarpanch. Each district administrator has about one thousand village panchayats under him. District administrator is located in a city far away from villages. He has no clue to the functioning of sarpanch of a panchayat. When villagers make complaint against the sarpanch then in most cases no action is initiated against the sarpanch because the district administrator has no time for them. If the Sarpanch belongs to the ruling party or has affiliation with the local M.P., MLA or a leader then the administrator under their influence does not bother to initiate any inquiry. In this way no action is taken against the erring sarpanch.

Since there are more than thousand villages under the administrator, he assigns the work of supervising the sarpanch to the block development officers (BDO) or some junior officials. These officials in turn indulge in extorting money from the sarpanch. If a sarpanch, who is honest, refuses to pay then the BDO’s and junior officers initiate inquiries of false cases against the sarpanch. The BDO’s and junior officials with the power vested in them to take action against the sarpanch, coerce the sarpanch to toe their line and make him part of the corrupt practices. This happens in connivance with the district collector who, either on his own volition or under the pressure of political masters blesses the actions of his junior officers. This platform of coercion is both used for siphoning off the government funds and to spread political influence of a party. “Do as directed” or an action will be taken against you becomes the rule for the sarpanch of a village

Suggestion

The first step is to free this sarpanch from the clutches of the district administrator and make him accountable to the people directly. Our suggestions are as follows.

  1. The gram Sabha should be given the power to take all decisions. Their decisions should be final and the role of sarpanch should be limited to implementing the decisions.
  2. If a sarpanch is found to be indulging in embezzling funds or in criminal acts or in corrupt practices then the gram Sabha should have power to direct the police to register a first Information report (FIR) against the accused sarpanch. The progress report of the action taken against the sarpacnh should be placed before the gram Sabha on regular basis.
  3. Unless, the gram Sabha specifically requests for an action against the sarpanch, the district administrator or any other officer should have no power to take any action against a sarpanch.
  4. In case a sarpanch does not follow the wishes of the gram Sabha then gram Sabha should have the power to recall this sarpanch. If more than fifty percent people pass a vote of “No confidence” against the sarpanch and send it over to the election commission then the commission should verify the signatures within fifteen days. Within thirty days of verification of signatures a secret ballot should take place against the impeachment? If “No confidence” vote is won with majority then that sarpanch should be removed from his post and a new sarpanch should be installed with fresh mandate of the people.
  5. Recall of sarpanch is a sure shot formula that should be used as a last resort. There are several states where this right to recall has been bestowed on people of gram sabhas. Many villages in these states have used this power. Unfortunately there are no remedies for an in between situations. Either you have a sarpanch or you recall him. There are no provisions, where the people could direct him time to time and force him to take corrective actions. As soon as the process of removing a sarpanch starts, the wheels of local politics come into motion. This local politics is then supported by the realignment of politics on the state level that leads to a lot of undesirable corrupt practices. Because of this an honest debate becomes impossible on the proposed “No confidence motion”.
  6. We believe, if the gram sabhas get all kinds of power to take decisions of amendment, advice with which they could direct the sarpanch from time to time. Then it would not become necessary to remove the sarpanch. In such a case he will be an equal partner in the joint process of taking a decision at every stage. It is believed that there will be no need to use ultimate weapon “Recall”.

MY COMMENTS

There is practically no difference between the ideas expressed in the notes and the book. Indeed, there is extensive elaboration about these ideas in the book.

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Comparison of Arvind Kejriwal’s 2009 Note on Swaraj and the 2012 book. #3

Now for NREGA.

FROM NOTES

Though NREGA is an excellent program, it is too centralized. People do not get wages for months together. Because the payment has to come from the BDO. Why can’t the payment be done in open meeting of Gram Sabha before everyone?

NREGA creates employment only in the government sector. If adequate and untied funds were directly made available to Gram Sabhas, they may decide to provide small loans to people to start small enterprises. The Gram Sabha may even decide to start a small industry in the cooperative sector, which may depend upon local raw material. They may need to be provided with technical support, which should be the job of State Government.

Schemes coming from the top have made beggars out of citizens. In villages and slums, everyone looks upon the Government to provide them something free of cost. This mentality needs to be changed for good. [Sanjeev: this is inconsistent with what socialist Arvind stands for. Probably slipped through by accident.] Let every citizen become a part of the decision making and planning exercise and share the responsibility.

FROM BOOK

A joke named NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee)

This act guarantees hundred days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members offer to do unskilled manual work. Thousands of crores have been allotted under this scheme to various states in the country. Hundreds of cases are coming up small and big where the wages are being paid to non existing ghost workers. Where the wages have been paid for the work are less than what should be paid under this scheme or the wages are paid for less number of days and claimed for hundred days by coterie of government officials right from district collector to BDO to Sarpanch.

Four percent of the allotted money is known as contingency fund that is specifically used for the welfare of women and children working under the schemes of NREGA. This four percent is used for providing water and sanitation for the workers, welfare centres like a crèche or a dispensary. In rural areas no such facilities are ever provided to the poor worker’s family. This contingency fund is siphoned off by the government officials who are connected with NREGA running into hundreds of crores.

Government schemes are formulated at the centre or the state capitals. The funds that are made available under these schemes flow from top to the bottom. Each official is hell bent on spending money on his level only. That money which is meant for the welfare of the people at the lowest rung never reaches them. Every official spends that money on his own level. The poor worker does not know whom to make a complaint. The tax money paid by honest individuals is thus squandered on such grand schemes where government has no capability of implementing them.

How can money be siphoned off on all levels is a question that comes to the mind so very often? One of the biggest reasons is that there is no accountability of any government official. This is what needs to be corrected.

MY COMMENT

Clearly the underlying idea is the same. 

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Comparison of Arvind Kejriwal’s 2009 Note on Swaraj and the 2012 book. #2

Now about ancient Indian democracy:

FROM NOTES

India has a long history of “governments by discussion,” in which groups of people having common interests made decisions on matters that affected their lives through debate, consultation, and voting. During Buddha’s times, though the rulers were not elected and the king’s son would succeed his father, the day-to-day decisions of governance were taken in village assemblies. Decisions of village assemblies were respected by the king.

Siddharth Gautam (later to be Buddha) was the son of the king of Kapilavastu, home to the Sakyas. Though the king was the head of the government, the affairs of the state were deliberated upon and decided at a democratic institution called the Sangh. Every Sakya youth above the age of twenty had to be initiated into the Sangh. Siddharth, too, became a member of the Sangh when he came of age and started participating in its proceedings.

When he was twenty-eight years old, there was a major clash between the Sakyas and the neighbouring Koliyas on the issue of sharing the waters of the river Rohini, which separated their two states. The Senapati of the Sakyas convened a session of the Sangh to consider the question of declaring war on the Koliyas. Siddharth, not surprisingly, opposed the war and proposed a motion to settle the dispute through peaceful means. The motion was not just spoken against; it was defeated by an overwhelming majority when it was voted on. The public voted for the alternative resolution of going to war with the Koliyas.

The Sangh followed this action up with an even more remarkable act of democratic power. The Senapati proposed a motion to proclaim an order calling to arms, for the war against the Koliyas, every Sakya between the age of 20 and 50. The motion was passed by the Sangh, with Siddharth and his supporters dissenting. Siddharth refused to accept the proclamation, which was construed by the Sangh as a breach of his oath (taken while being admitted to the Sangh), to safeguard the best interests of the Sangh with his mind, body and money. As punishment for the dereliction of his duty as a Sangh member, Siddharth was, eventually, sentenced to exile from Kapilavastu.

There may be disagreement over the logic of the Sangh’s decisions, but there can be little doubt over the strength of the democratic institutions of Kapilavastu, as exemplified in the story. The prince had little say and the collective will of the people prevailed.

Buddha's commitment to republicanism (or at least the ideal republican virtues) was a strong one, if we are to believe the Maha-parinibbana-suttanta, among the oldest of Buddhist texts. This is illustrated by a story. Ajatasastru, the King of Maghada, wishes to destroy the Vajjian confederacy (the Licchavis) and sends a minister, Vassakara the Brahman, to the Buddha to ask his advice. Will his attack be a success? Rather than answer directly, the Buddha speaks to Ananda, his closest disciples:

"Have you heard, Ananda, that the Yajjians hold full and frequent public assemblies?"

"Lord, so I have heard," replied he.

"So long, Ananda," rejoined the Blessed One, "as the Yajjians hold these full and frequent public assemblies; so long may they be expected not to decline, but to prosper…”

The Buddha saw the virtues necessary for a righteous and prosperous community, whether secular or monastic, as being much the same. Foremost among those virtues was the holding of “full and frequent assemblies.”

 

In this, the Buddha spoke not only for himself, and not only out of his personal view of justice and virtue. He based himself on what may be called the democratic tradition in ancient Indian politics — democratic in that it argued for a wide rather than narrow distribution of political rights, and government by discussion rather than by command and submission.

Another example, perhaps more complete in description, of sophisticated local-level democracy in Indian history, is recorded on the walls of the Sundaravarada temple of Uttiramerur, Kanchipuram district. The inscriptions document a written constitution that dealt with elections to a village assembly around 750 AD, qualifications required of contesting candidates, circumstances under which a candidate would be disqualified, mode of election, tenure of the elected candidates and the right of the public to recall the elected members when they failed to discharge their duties properly, etc.

The village assembly had administrative and judicial functions, and was empowered to impose and collect fines from both common criminals and errant village administrators. Elected members of the assembly were also effectively policed by a larger assembly comprising village residents as well as the serving elected members of the village assembly.

Records detail the regulations and acts passed by the village assembly with respect to specific public services, such as the testing of gold quality, institutes of higher learning, and village tank maintenance. Each public service was rendered effectively by delegating the tasks to committees comprising members elected from various communities, to ensure sufficient expertise and impartiality within the committee.

One of the earliest instances of civilizations with democracy was found in ancient India, even during the times of the Rigveda, probably the earliest Indo-European literature and one of the most sacred books of the Hindus. The village in India was looked upon as the basic unit of administration in earliest Vedic age. The states mentioned are mostly monarchies, but with two democratic institutions called the Sabha and the Samiti. The Sabha (Assembly in Sanskrit) is widely interpreted to be the assembly of the elect or the important chieftains of the tribe, while the Samiti seems to be the gathering of all the men of the tribe, convened only for very special occasions. The Sabha and the Samiti kept check on the powers of the king, and were given a semi-divine status in the Rigveda as the "daughters of the Hindu deity Prajapati".

The later epic Ramayana seems to mention a Samiti summoned by King Dasharatha of Ayodhya for ratification of his son Prince Ramachandra as the successor (Book II, Canto II:80). Later, there were even many republics in ancient India, which were established sometime before the 6th century BC, and prior to the birth of Gautama Buddha. These republics were known as Maha Janapadas, and among these states, Vaishali (in what is now Bihar, India) was the world's first republic.

FROM BOOK

It is a pity that we have forgotten our own history. From where did we adopt democracy? Some say that we learnt of democracy from the US and some say that we learnt it from England. But the truth is that democracy has been there in our country from the times of Gautam Budha. Democracy then was far more powerful than it is today. Vaishali was the first Democracy of the world. Democratic traditions are ingrained in our psyche and, therefore, we chose democracy naturally after independence in 194.A King’s son used to succeed the king. There were no election to choose the king but at the same time the King did not have absolute power. All decisions were taken by the gram sabhas. Whatever the people of the village wanted the gram Sabha wanted the same. The king had no options but to accede to the wishes of the people.

Today we elect our king once in five years but the king is not in our control. In ancient time people did not choose the king but the king was under their control.

There is an anecdote connected with Vaishali. One day a Sabha was organized which was attended by the citizens and the King presided the meeting. Citizens proposed that a certain woman become the “Nagar vadhu”. That woman accepted but on the condition that she would be given Palace of the king as her living quarters. The proposal was accepted by the majority of the citizens and the Palace of the king was allotted to the Nagar Vadhu . The king objected as the Palace was his living quarter.

The people argued that the Palace was constructed with the tax paid by the people to the king and therefore, they were the real owners of the Palace. The wishes of the people prevailed. The king vacated the Palace and built a new Palace for himself. It is a different matter that making a woman “Nagar Vadhu” was a wrong practice, even then. But the point that is being driven home by this example is to depict the power of people in the prevalent political system.

MY COMMENT

Arvind has retained the basic thrust/focus on the origins of democracy in India in both these documents.

 

 

 

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