PUCL Bulletin, November 2001

What is Needed is Real Democracy at All Levels
-- By R.P. Dhasmana

The newly formed State of Uttaranchal is indeed a small State by all definitions. It is spread over 53119 kilometers inhabiting 15669 villages, 77 towns, 48 tehsils, and 95 blocks in 13 districts. Keeping in view its geographical, human and natural diversities, it is a mini-India in the real sense. Almost all the religious, sects, communities, and castes live together in perfect harmony and peace. There have been no communal tensions in the area so far. There are plains, teraai, doons, Shivalik hills, mountains, and snow-capped cliffs. Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, and Bihar are wholly depended for water on this state alone. The hydro-potential of 40 thousand megawatts, if realised in a well-managed way, will be sufficient for the entire nation's needs today.
Many things are to be set right, before we embark upon the correct line. The UP Reorganisation Act 2002 takes away the newly carved out State's right over its resources. It is not free to use its water resources even for irrigation purposes. It has to consult UP if it wants to make use of this resource. It has to sell the hydro-power to CCP for 65 paise per unit and then purchase it from them for one and a half rupee per unit for which the actual consumers in the State will have to pay over Rs. 3 per unit.

There are more than 25 such anomalies in the Act. Until these anomalies are removed through amendments in the Act, the State would not be able to move forward. It is because the same party is ruling over the Centre, Uttaranchal and UP, the interim Government of Uttaranchal is tightlipped to raise any voice against these anomalies. Moreover the type of the Government that this new State has got is lacking vision in all respects. Unlike Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, ours is an interim Government which had to accomplish the twin tasks of delimitation of Constituencies and sharing of Estates. The Government instead of doing this and paving the way for a full-fledged Government to come in, is indulging into signing contracts with private parties, drafting policies for different departments and coming up with strew legislations being opposed by people throughout the state. 'Forest Regulation' is one such instance.

The people of Uttarakhand demanded a separate hill State when they felt they were lagging far behind in the race for development. A State with rich bio-diversity and different sections of people living in diverse set-ups with different ethos and daily requirements with different family institutions cannot be managed by a few elected representatives and so called experts who derive their expertise from the looks of colonial rule. So the Government and administration in a small State should be people-oriented. It has to involve people from the grass-root level not only in planning but in arriving at the right decisions regarding them. The answer is provided by the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Acts passed by the Parliament in 1993. Since then no State in India has implemented them in right earnest. Kerala did it gradually for five years and witnessed the change for itself. In Madhya Pradesh the thing was done in a reverse order, i.e., from above downwards. But the Act provides the decentralisation scheme in a bottom-up direction.

Article 243G (Eleventh Schedule) gives the right of management of: 1. Agriculture including its extension, 2. Implementation of land reforms, land consolidation, and soil conservation, 3. Minor irrigation, water management and watershed development, 4. Fisheries, 5. Social and farm forestry, 6. Minor forest produce, 7. Animal husbandry, dairying and poultry, 8. Small-scale industries including food-processing units, 9. Khadi, village, and cottage industries, 10. Rural housing, 11. Drinking water, 12. Fuel and fodder, 13. Roads, culverts, bridges, ferries, waterways, and other means of Communication, 14. Rural electrification, including distributing of electricity, 15. Non-conventional energy sources, 16. Poverty alleviation programmes, 17. Education, including primary and secondary schools, 18. Technical training and vocational education, 19. Adult and non-formal education, 20. Libraries, 21. Cultural activities, 22. Markets and fairs, 23. Health and sanitation, including hospitals, primary health centres and dispensaries, 24. Family welfare, 25. Women and child development, 26. Social welfare, 27. Welfare of the weaker sections, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, 28. Public distribution system, 29. Maintaining of Community assets to the Panchayats.

Article 243W (Twelfth Schedule) empowers the self-governments in the cities to undertake: 1. Urban planning including town planning, 2. Regulation of land-use and construction of buildings, 3. Planning for economic and social development, 4. Roads and bridges, 5. Water supply for domestic, industrial, and commercial purpose, 6. Public health, sanitation, conservancy, and solid waste management, 7. Fire services, 8. Urban forestry, promotion of environmental and ecological states, 9. Safeguarding the interests of weaker sections, handicapped and mentally retarded, 10. Slum improvement and upgradation, 11. Urban poverty alleviation programmes, 12. Provision of Urban facilities like parks, gardens, playgrounds, 13. Promotion of cultural, educational, and aesthetic activities, 14. Burials and burial grounds, cremations, cremation grounds and electric crematoria, 15. Cattle pounds, prevention of cruelty against animals, 16. Registration of births and deaths, 17. Public amenities including street lighting, parking spots, bus stops, and public conveniences, 18. Regulation of slaughterhouses and tanneries.
These exhaustive lists show that if the State empowers the Panchayats and local self-governments in cities to undertake all these activities, the State has a few things to do, such as connecting district headquarters with the State Capital, looking after University Education, etc. Most of its energies will be confined to legislative activities. But the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Acts keep the State Governments free in giving whatsoever powers it likes to the Panchayats and autonomous bodies in the cities. That is why the State Governments are not willing to part with all these powers. For this public opinion has to be created to a large extent. Secondly, when the State provides for the budget for these activities, it should not be channelised through Collectors and Blocks. It should be given direct to the Panchayats. In fact Panchayats are expected to evolve their own administration and judiciary. Collector Raj has no place in Panchayat Raj.

The UP PUCL has not only protected and defended the civil and political rights of the people of Uttarakhand during their movement for a separate hill State more particularly at the time of police atrocities on the public at Rampur Tiraha near Muzaffarnagar but also awakened them later about a good governance and effective administration

It undertook two extensive tours in the year 2000 of Garhwal and Kumaon and discussed with the people how democracy can be revamped through 73rd and 74th Amendments. Bridging the gap between the voters and the elected, democracy will be at its best if the economic activities are decentralized to the extent the Constitution provides for. The process of establishing PUCL in the State will be over by October this year. The main task of the PUCL will be to see that the development process in the State goes on smoothly. People's collective right to development has become the human right now and fortunately in the absence of common cases of violation of human rights, Uttarakhand PUCL can concentrate on the former for quite some time.
The hilly areas of Uttarakhand have 23 percent land only which can be used by its people. Out of this 12.22 percent has already become barren and only 12.88 percent is cultivable, 10 percent of which is having irrigation facilities. Sixty-three percent of land is known as forestland though forests cover only 60 percent of it. Because of open market concept and also because of depending for everything on loans from World Bank and other agencies, Governments generally undertake unwieldy projects which they cannot manage well. On the instructions of loan-providing agencies, national parks, biospheres, and sanctuaries are being expanded nowadays causing rehabilitation problem for thousands of inhabitants. Moreover the multinationals are having an eye over the tremendous bio-diversity reserves. The moment Government is not able to pay back the debts, our forests would be denuded rapidly causing environmental and ecological hazards for the entire nation. The real owners of the forests were the villagers at one time. The British snatched them away and earned revenue out of them which was to be sent to Britain. After we got independence, our own government did not return them to villagers. They rather made the existing regulations more stringent. Our present government in Uttarakhand has issued a forest regulation recently which is the worst ever example of greed and control. The entire people are up against it but to no avail. This is another example of violation of human rights in Uttarakhand but a lot more homework is necessary to declare such cases as the violation of human rights.

Nowadays Police recruitment is on in the State. The more the police the more will be crime. Sooner or later police atrocities on masses will be a common scene. In fact more police force is required to protect the vested interests and suppress the people's voice against them. If the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts can be brought in the state through suitable legislation, and the State government implements it in right earnest, it will not have sufficient money with it to deploy board of officers and a big police force. Even the number of Ministers has to be minimised. At present the interim Government is spending 500 crore rupees annually on the salaries and allowances of its officers. If the Government gives 60 percent of its budget and new-budget allocations to the Panchayats and 20 percent to city bodies, it will be left with 20 percent only. This will compel it to keep the officers and police to the bare minimum.

Home | Index