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
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
(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
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
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.