Socialist Party (India)
Resolution for ‘Chaukhambha Raj’ Convention
A different step in the creative evolution of the constitution will have to be in the direction of the four pillar state. Village, district, state and centre: these very four equally important and equally honorable pillars. (Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia)
The country is going through with unprecedented impulse towards centralization. Political power has come to be centered in the Prime Minister’s Office, or more correctly, the Prime Minister himself. The entire economic power seems to be devolving unto certain national and international corporate houses and global institutions of corporate capitalism like the World Bank, IMF, and WTO. All social and cultural power is being orchestrated by a few majoritarian organizations with fascist prejudices. The values of the struggle for independence, as well as the ideals of the Constitutions are being sidelined to enforce the centralization of power at every level. Socialist Party believes that this is not a sudden development, but the result of that ongoing process since Independence, wherein a heavy industry based highly centralized economy and executive, and the concentration of power in the huge bureaucracy, have helped convert our democracy into a mere formal democracy. In this scenario, the participation of the people in the democratic process is limited to the event of voting every five years. The public deprived of its actual power have become either paralyzed or lost direction. Not just this, it is now headed for social disintegration and self destruction. Buried under the burden of the WTO, IMF, World Bank and corporate houses, lakhs of farmers have been driven to suicide.
During the struggle for freedom and even after it; leaders and thinkers have continuously debated the important issue of the development/progress of the nation. This may be somewhat simplistic, but nonetheless one could argue that two different philosophies of development/progress have existed in our country. The first was formed in terms of the matrix of heavy industry, urbanization and centralization. The second was based on small scale industry, vibrant rural administration and the principles of decentralization. Needless to say, the first philosophy alone has been politically successful, while the second has always been present as a moral imperative. The first philosophy has been represented by Jawaharlal Nehru, and the second has had Mahatma Gandhi, Lohia and Jayprakash as its proponents.
The serious repercussions of heavy industry, multipurpose projects, urbanization and centralized planning came to the fore. Political parties and leaders grew more and more irresponsible. The huge bureaucracy already entrenched in colonial attitudes progressively absolved itself of any answerablility. The lack of development of institutions of local governance led to even further reduction of people’s participation in decision making processes. Institutions like the Planning Commission scripted this entire act by centralizing both power as well as resources. The results were visible right from the second Five Year Plan. Population displacement was seen on a massive scale, environment was destroyed, the gap between the rich and poor widened and many communities and classes on the margins, like dalits, tribals, unorganized labourers, small farmers, landless farmhands, fishermen, minorities, women and children were en masse pushed over the edge economically and socially. Villages and forests kept getting wrecked, quite as cities and industries grew and flourished. These industries and towns have not only destroyed the environment, they have also raised within themselves such appalling slums for displaced migrants that are the very core of misery and permanent destitution. In such conditions even our legal structure proved to be a mirage for the disempowered. Various anti-people colonial laws rendered the lives of ordinary people increasingly difficult. Plans were made for the deprived categories from time to time, but even these plans had a top to bottom approach. There was no public participation in the plans. As a result, these plans became the hub of corruption, and the public was even more beholden to mainstream political parties. Now the Prime Minster has dissolved the Planning Commission and declared that a ‘think tank’ will be instituted instead of it. This ‘think tank’ will be directly answerable to the Prime Minister. Which means that policies will now be made purely to benefit corporate houses. In fact, they are quickly being thus made. Forest rights laws, land acquisition laws, labour laws will all be changed to suit corporate convenience. These neo-liberal policies will wreak further havoc on the already suffering public.
From Independence up till now, if we were to try to name one cause behind all the problems plaguing our nation, it would be centralization : Centralization of power, of decision making ability, of money and of resources. However, along with this, we also have a parallel philosophical tradition available to us, based on the principles of decentralization. This philosophy is based on the faith that the general public is capable of deliberating upon, planning and executing policies on all matters and issues that concern it. This philosophy believes that our capitalistic, representational democracy is merely a formal arrangement and it has no scope for a truly representational participation of the public. This philosophy believes that the direction of directives, decisions and plans in this country should not be from top to bottom but in the reverse order. Authority should be decentralized and dispersed through every locality and village. The need is to work out a system where power is decentralized, which is based on people’s participation, where all plans and projects of development can move upwards from basic people’s units, and in which there is no interference of bureaucracy.
On 26th February 1950, astute socialist thinker and freedom fighter Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia presented a detailed outline of participation based democracy in his speech “Chaukhambha Raj” (four-pillar state). In a very lively analysis he says, “This will be a way of life, which will be connected to every aspect of human life like production, ownership, management, education, planning etc.” In this way he conveyed how direct people’s participation is the life-force of democracy. Drawing upon these ideas of Gandhi and Lohia, one demand has been ever present in this country. This demand has manifested itself in various forms of laws and experiments. Belated though it may be; our constitution has tried to embrace these manifestations in the form of 73rd and 74th amendments.
To an extent our constitution also provides provisions for the implementation of this participatory democracy. Directives Principles of the State articulate the aim of overcoming economic and social divisions with the help of people’s participation, leading to the creation of an egalitarian society. Through constitutional institutions like the panchayats, municipalities, district planning committees and the state finance commissions, the structure of planning and finance allocation from bottom to top is already in place. After the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, local institutions have been assigned such responsibilities and powers that ensure public participation at the level of planning as well as implementation. The constitution calls these institutions of ‘self governance’ instead of institutions of ‘local self governance’. Local self governance implies institutions at local levels to resolve local issues. But self governance means swaraj, that is, the public gets to decide and implement decisions. This means that it will not be subservient to central institutions, but will have equal status in the democracy. It has sovereign authority to make plans, implement plans and to allocate finances as required. In this way our constitution has provided us with an institutional structure which we can strengthen to promote a participatory democracy.
Socialist Party believes that the struggle for such participation based democracy and sustainable human ecology centric development, moves forward on two planks. On the one hand it uses people’s movements to raise the consciousness of people, thereby empowering them; on the other, it uses as the starting point for its ventures, the structures afforded within the Constitution for participatory democracy.
Through this Punjab convention, Socialist Party has launched a campaign for administrative and economic decentralization in the country. Under its aegis, ‘Chaukhambha Raj’ convention will be held in all states and programs will be conducted at the village, district, state and central levels. Without the decentralization of power, the redistribution of wealth and land is not possible, which remains the prime goal of socialism. Socialist Party calls out to other people’s movement groups, political parties, social organizations, civil society activists, intellectuals and especially the youth (who are opposed to corporate capitalism and its model of development), that they come and join this movement for constitutional and constructive decentralization.
Thus stands the Socialist Party
Upholding brotherhood and equality