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Dream of a New World Governance

Join with us in dreaming big. Dreaming of a new world.

Dream of a world where no direct elections to national parliaments take place. Nor direct elections to state assemblies. Not even to panchayat councils.

Dream instead of a world where parliaments come to the streets.

The whole world gets organized into neighbourhood parliaments of about 30 neighbouring families. Each neighbourhood of 30 families becomes a kind of a mini-world or a mini-nation.

Each neighbourhood parliament has a neighbourhood cabinet, with a neighbourhood prime minister and ministers for various concerns like health, hygiene, environment, income generation, children’swelfare, adolescent’s guidance - and what not - that are relevant at its level.

Each neighbourhood parliament chooses its delegates to represent them at the village parliament. It too has its cabinet with a village chief-minister and village-ministers for concerns that pertain at village level.

Next come the third level parliaments, panchayat parliaments and their cabinets.

Thus come about respectively block parliaments, district parliaments, state parliaments, national parliaments, international regional parliaments and finally the world parliament (mind you, not United Nations but a world parliament) – each with its cabinet.

The whole process is guided by certain principles:

 

Principle One: Principle of Numerical Uniformity.

Once you have a certain number of neighbourhood parliaments you can automatically have a “village”- parliament; and once you have a certain number of “village” parliaments, you can have a “panchayat” parliament; and so on.

Hence no big “villages” and small “villages” and big “districts” and small “districts” and so on. Actually the present territorial designations like that of block, district, state, nation and world are any more not in vogue. What we would have rather are various “tiers” or “levels” of parliaments. Like first level parliament (meaning neighbourhood parliament), second level parliament and the like.

 

Principle Two: Principle of Smallness of Size.

No more are parliaments with 500 and more members. It is a small, discerning community at every level.

(The ideal number of members here? Said Mr. P. Parameswaran of Kerala: “Not more than eighty five.” Observes Guruji Rishi Prabhakar: “Eighty five would be too much. It will still give a lot of scope for majority-minority confrontations. Why not the scout number, that is, 36?” The neighbourhood parliaments alone, in that case, can have a bigger number i.e. 30 families and not 30 individuals).

The advantage here: Everyone knows everyone face to face. And everyone’s weaknesses and strengths. One cannot go on fooling, as Gandhiji observed, a face-to-face community for long.

 

Principle Three: Principle of Recall.

You don’t need to wait for five years to call back a candidate whom you “elected” from one level of the parliament to the next. As you are a small community at each level of the parliament, you can convene your parliament any time you want and decide together to send someone else who would explain and represent your concerns better.

 

Principle Four: Principle of Subsidiarity

Subsidiary units get the focus here. Vitality, dynamism and power are concentrated more at the lowest levels possible. No business that could be handled at a lower level is taken to any level above it. Higher levels deal only with those matters that the lower levels cannot handle.

 

Principle Five: Principle of Convergence.

This means once you have such a network everything converges at the network. Everything is done through it. This reinforces the structures further and further. Thus whether children’s programmes, adolescents’ programmes, self-help groups or what not, everything is referred to neighbourhoods & their representative networks.

Well, what would be the world like if this dream were to be realized? Could you detail it out and tell us? What all would be there and what all would not be there?

Let us hear from you....

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Good Governance and Institutionalising Neighbourhood Participation*

Talk at UN

One of our participants in this round table insisted on participation of people at grassroots in governance. I want to build on that. I want to insist that we take steps to institutionalize people’s participation in governance. We need to build structures for that. People are the ultimate stakeholders in governance. And they are very much interested to help improve governance if only they can. Without people being given scope to involve effectively in governance, no other measure will ensure good governance adequately and on sustained basis. This is especially so in developing countries where, for example, even well-meaning political leadership often ends up in corruption to keep getting the support of various power cliques even to ensure the political stability needed for creating conducive situations for growth transformation. But people feel powerless. People, as mere individuals, feel helpless, lost, and unable to do anything to ameliorate the situations they face. Hence they back out and appear apathetic. They need structures of participation to make them feel that they matter. That their voice counts, that their participation counts. People don’t have at present such structures as would give them an adequate, effective and ongoing say. All that they have is the scope for a kind of a token voice to put a tick mark to choose between candidates over whose primary choice they don’t have say anyway. People need structures or forums to come together and talk effectively. These forums have to be accessible to people. There have thus to be neighbourhood-based units of participation in governance. These units have necessarily to be small. The bigger a forum gets to be, the more the small voices get drowned, they go unattended. Then it all becomes a game of the big to the exploitation and manipulation of the small and the powerless. Hence these units should be face-to-face communities of, say, not more than forty families. They have also to be numerically uniform, territorially organized, inclusive communities that they could be the real voice of the people of the neighbourhood, the “neighbourhood parliaments” of people. Parliaments, to go by the Latin root, parlare, are just talking forums any way. These neighbourhood forums are to be well linked, well-federated at all levels, even up to the world level, that people have their mechanism, institution, to interact with governance powers, other stakeholders in governance, at all levels. One of the ways we could effectively promote this would be to insist that the self-help groups of savings, credit and the like, that are being organized all over, be made into territory-based neighbourhood groups and then be promoted as neighbourhood units of participatory governance. We wan to quote a success-experiment in this regard. The State of Kerela in India has more than 1,75,000 neighbourhood units organized and federated already up to the third level of federation. The same State had also a movement of planning by people, initiated by the State, where planning began at these well-defined, numerically-organized neighbourhood forums. Such forums were also used for experiments in monitoring by people, auditing by people etc. One of our participants here spoke also about introducing good governance themes in school syllabus. We have a related interesting experiment in terms of neighbourhood parliaments of children. Children come together in the above-mentioned type of well-defined neighbourhoods, elect their own “ministers” and all, and take charge of their neighbourhoods. The above mentioned Kerela State, India, alone, to cite, has already thirty five thousand neighborhood parliaments of children federated at various levels up to that of the State. They had their meeting of the state parliament of children in the state assembly hall of Kerela. These children have also very many stories of successful interaction with the various other stakeholders in governance at various levels. Such experiments need to be replicated all over the world. The entire world must be organized into neighbourhood units of good governance federated at various levels. We will do well to remember the neighbourhood is the first possible and viable level of participation in governance by people. If the very first step happens to be inaccessible, people have little chance of interacting with governance at any other level.
 
*Intervention by Edwin M. John, Neighbourhood Community Network, India, at Special High–level Meeting with The Breton Woods Institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development at United Nations Headquarters, New York on,16 April 2007. edwinmjohn@yahoo.co.in, ncnworld2000@yahoo.com

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Governance from Below

Dear friends,

I want to focus on just one point: Give the reins of governance to the hands of people. And give it effectively.

People themselves are the reason, the legitimating source and the ultimate stakeholders in governance.

When I say people, I don’t mean just the more vocal, the more powerful, the upper middle class and the like, but also, and especially, the poor, the disadvantaged, the powerless, the people at the base. Mahatma Gandhi would say the well being of the least is the ultimate test of every thing. Ultimate test then even of good governance.

We have systems of governance today, where one needs to be powerful if one’s grievances are to be addressed.

Ensure that people at the base remain powerful. People will ensure that governance remains good.

If people are powerful they won’t need that much of awareness seminars to get sensitized and make an adequate response. It is in everybody not to tolerate being taken for a ride, and to ensure one’s place, dignity and future.

But if people feel helpless and powerless, no other measure would ensure adequately good governance on a sustained basis. The powerlessness of the people is the ground on which a lot of unfairness or corruption breeds.

Power is the ability to have an effective say. To have an effective say is really to rule. And people are to rule.

But people cannot have their say unless they have effective and viable ‘talking forums.’ Talking forums, when translated according to Latin root, parlare, means “Parliaments”

Until “parliaments” come to where people are, until they are accessible to people and viable to be handled by them, people cannot have power, people cannot really rule.

Democracy” is not rule by people enough if it keeps the talking-forums away from people; if it does not provide scope to have their say, control, or monitoring.

Democracy now does not allow people to have their say. All it allows is a ‘token’ voice that does not give much of content to their choice.

Empowering people is not just giving people a little more education, a little more skills, a little more awareness etc. Powerlessness is more of a structural problem, a systemic problem of even”democratic” nations.

People must have their say effectively and that not once in five years or so, but on an ongoing basis.

Building structures or mechanisms for people’s ongoing and effective voice in governance is not difficult.

We can start organizing neighbourhood parliaments or neighbourhood level forums for people’s participation in governance. These forums could be federated at various levels, even up to the world level.

When federating and organizing this way we have to keep in mind certain principles:

1.

Principle of smallness of size: When any forum gets bigger, the small voices get drowned, and it all ends up as the game of the big, and the alienation and exploitation of the small.

2.

Principle of numerical uniformity. To ensure that everyone gets an equal sense of belonging and nobody feels disadvantaged as regards distance to decision-making centres.

3.

Subsidiarity: Whatever can be handled at a subsidiary or decentralized level should not be taken to any higher or centralized level.

4.

Recall scope: Since participating forums are small, face-to-face communities at every level, any level can call back its disappointing representatives to the level immediately above that the whole system remains answerable ultimately to the person at the base.

5.

Convergence: To strengthen the sense of identity of the neighbourhood units and their representative structures, ensure that everything that could be done through these units are done through them.

One of the things we could do to speed up the realization of such governance-participation mechanisms for people is to ensure that the present self groups for savings and credit and the like, in hundreds of thousands all over the world, are integrated as neighborhood groups of governance participation. Another: to get children themselves organized into these neighborhood parliaments that they too help to usher in a new culture of accountable and effective and participatory governance. Where there is a will and vision, every thing is possible.

Edwin M. John, Neighbourhood Network at the meeting of FFD Civil Society Forum on 15th April, 2007 at Church Centre, UN Plaza, New York.

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Guruji Rishi Prabhakar of Sidha Samadhi Yoga (SSY) and Neighbourhood Parliaments

A greater movement than the freedom movement is slowly unfolding itself in the nation. But as we see only the individual strokes we cannot see the larger picture being painted. Father M.J. Edwin is one more person in this picture. During the time of the Hindu-Muslim riots in December 1992, Poojya Guruji* was moving towards Delhi to visit each important religious head. It is at this time he heard of the great work being done by Father in the form of “Neighbourhood Community Network”, at Nagercoil in Tamilnadu. Poojya Guruji saw the immense potential of the program and invited Father to join at Delhi. Father Edwin who had never met Guruji before joined forces with him to meet many important personalities and explained to them that working together at the street level was the answer to living together in harmony and a

 

way of solving many issues at the root level. This will prevent issues from flaring up as had happened in then situation.

One VIP questioned as to who will make all this happen? But the fact remains when a great visionary sees the possibilities, he does not start with a how as the ordinary man does, but he simply knows it will happen. Such Neighbourhood Communities are today already working in many places in Chennai, Mumbai and mushrooming very fast at other places. Father has infused even children and women to take part. He can be consulted ...

–Father M.J. Edwin Mobile – 9442648224 / 04652-278223

Networking neighbourhoods is very important, for interaction amongst residents is the answer to living life successfully at the micro level and this alone can solve many issues, rather than wait for the macro level to solve issues for the common man.
(Taken from Rishi Vani, official organ of SSY, August 2005 Issue No.10 Volume 6)
Poojya Guruji* means venerable master

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A Participating People*

A deeper look into the why and how of participation as aimed at by neighbourhood community networks. This write-up is based on actual sessions at grassroots neighbourhood communities in Kanyakumari District.

Animator

:

Suppose your daddy has a niece. And, he is very much attached to her. She is getting married tomorrow morning. The negotiations of marriage have been going on for months. But your father has been kept in the dark. Just this evening, they are coming and giving your dad the invitation for the marriage. Would your dad attend the marriage?

   

The majority of the people : No, he wouldn’t.

A few others  : Yes, he would.

   

Dad becomes violent

Animator

:

Most of you say he would not go and a few of you say that he would. Now, let us ask: even if he goes, how would he tend to behave at the function?

   

Person I

:

His grudge would show on his face.

Person VIII

:

He would be indifferent.

Person III

:

He would limit his involvement to the minimum.

Person IV

:

He would be fuming.

Person V

:

Every little thing could make him burst out and pick up a quarrel.

Person VI

:

He would look for an opportunity consciously or unconsciously to take revenge and teach them a lesson.

   

Animator

:

Why should he behave like that? Shouldn’t he rather be happy that they have spared him all? The trouble of negotiations and have called him to enjoy just the fruits and to have a good dinner and a good function?

   

People

:

No; no!

Animator

:

Why?

Person VIII

:

Because he was not a party to the decision.

Person IX

:

Because he was not consulted.

Person VII

:

Because he was not given importance.

Person IV

:

Because he was not treated as a person.

Person V

:

Because he was treated as an outsider.

Person VI

:

Not as someone who belonged.

Animator

:

Is it your father alone who would feel like that? Or just any person?

People

:

Anybody at all.

Animator

:

Even the least and the poorest?

People

:

Yes, very much.

Animator

:

That means it is something in the very nature or the essence of being a person to seek to involve, and to seek …

   

Person I

:

to be given importance.

Person II

:

to belong.

Person III

:

to be treated as a person.

Person IV

:

to be consulted.

Person V

:

to be a participant.

Person VI

:

to be a person.

Animator

:

Shall we then say: To be a person is more than just being a human?

People

:

Yes. Very much.

Animator

:

Could we stretch a bit further and say that to be a person means to be a participant?

   

People

:

True.

Animator

:

In that case, would you say that to be a non-participant is to be a non-person?

People

:

Sure.

Person IX

:

He becomes a “nobody”.

Animator

:

Would anybody like to be a “nobody”?

Person X

:

Not at all!

Person V

:

Everybody is made to be a somebody!

   

Sick and violent

Animator

:

Now, let us come back to your dad again. Like everybody, he wants to be somebody and he is treated as nobody. And he rages from within. And what happens if he continues to remain in that state for long?

   

Person II

:

He would get sick.

Person III

:

He would have blood pressure.

Person IV

:

He would have heart attack, rheumatism, ulcer, and what not?

Animator

:

Shall we say people who are treated as non-persons end up as a sick society?

People

:

Very much true.

Animator

:

And also a violent society?

People

:

Definitely.

Animator

:

Now, let us return to your dad again. Would he want to be consulted on everything, or only on certain things?

   
   

Where I’m affected

Animator

:

Let me put it this way: Suppose someone in Abbeville in Louisiana in America wants to have a shave, would your dad like to be taken into confidence?

   

People

:

No.

Animator

:

In what areas would he like to b e consulted then?

People

:

In areas where he feels involved.

Person IX

:

In decisions that affect him.

Animator

:

And what are the areas where the decisions affect him?

Person V

:

Decisions at home.

Person VI

:

Decisions relating to relatives.

Person VII

:

And relating to people he feels close to.

Person IX

:

Village-level decisions.

Person I

:

Panchayat-level* decisions.

Person II

:

Block-level decisions. I mean, Mandal**-level.

Person III

:

Decisions at district level.

Person IV

:

At state level.

Person V

:

National-level policies.

Person IV

:

Even world-level decisions for that matter. For example, when a decision was made to have war in the faraway Gulf, it left certain villages in Kerala starving.

   

Animator

:

So, your dad is affected by so many forces over which he has no control?

   

Social alienation

Animator

:

Actually called the predicament of the modern man. What they call social alienation. Modern man feels he is an outsider. Such a lot of things happen without his being able to do anything about it. He feels helpless. He feels it is somebody else’s world where he is nobody, where he is not someone who matters. He is sick in varying levels.

   

Person II

:

Can anything be done to bring the modern man out of this predicament.

Person III

:

 It seems so impossible.

Person IV

:

It appears to be man’s fate. To be condemned as a helpless person.

Person V1

:

Condemned to be in pain. To be sick.

Animator

:

That is the dilemma. We want a world wherein everyone matters and is respected. And we cannot ensure a situation wherein everybody can be participants in decisions that affect them.

   
   

One minute, one issue

Person VII

:

Could you explain more? I don’t seem to get it that clearly.

Animator

:

Let us take the situation at the village level. I know a village which has some 12,000 people. And the decisions that are made at the village level affect the participants. And, naturally they have to be consulted. And suppose you give them one minute each to express them. How many hours would you need?

   

People

:

Two hundred hours.

Animator

:

How many days does that make?

Person IV

:

Nearly eight days.

Animator

:

So, if everybody sits in a general body for eight days and nights without going to sleep, without eating, without working, etc., you can give one minute each to comment on one problem. But neither do we have just one problem nor is just one minute enough. So it becomes…

   

People

:

Impractical.

Animator

:

What then is the way out?

People

:

???

   

Make us a committee?

Animator

:

What happens often is some people say, "It is not possible to consult everybody; so, make us a committee; we will run the affairs for you". But, what happens along the process is that these people become "the village", they become "the ones who matter". And, others?

   

Person IV

:

Others become nobodies.

Person III

:

Become non-persons.

Person XI

:

They become second-rate citizens.

Person IV

:

They become alienated.

Animator

:

Now, let us ask again: does anybody like to be a second-rate person? Would you like to be one?

   

People

:

No.

   

Vs. marginalization

Animator

:

What happens then to the majority of the villagers?

Person

:

They too would end up the way your dad would. That is, indifferent, apathetic, uninvolved, quarrelsome, etc.

   

Animator

:

What then do we do to get out of this situation and thus to give everybody the satisfaction that he is not left out? That he is not marginalised?

   

Person I

:

Why not we organize people into small groups?

Animator

:

Go on; let us see how that solves the problem.

Person I

:

Suppose we have Neighbourhood Groups or Neighbourhood Communities of about 30 families?

   

Animator

:

What is the advantage?

Person V

:

Then, everybody will have a chance to be listened to.

Person III

:

Then, everybody can have a chance to be a participant. To be consulted, to be involved.

   

Animator

:

But, doesn’t that limit the concern to a smaller area.

   

Neighbourhood Sabhas, Gram Sabhas

Person I

:

But the neighbouring groups can be networked.

Animator

 

How?

Person I

:

Neighbourhood Communities can begin discussing their own problems among themselves. And whatever they can solve at their level they can solve then and there.

   

Animator

:

And for problems they can’t solve?

Person I

:

These Neighbourhood Communities can each have a governing body which could become the representative general body for the village.

   

Person II

:

 A kind of Gram Sabha or village assembly.

Animator

:

And, then?

Person III

:

Each Gram Sabha, in turn, can have a governing body which together become the Panchayat Sabha. And, then, progressively, mandal sabha, district sabha etc.

   

Animator

:

Good let us see. Go on.

Person III

:

We could go further this way to the levels of the state and nation.

Person IV

:

And, then, to continental or regional and global levels.

Person V

:

Not only that. We can also have "Ministers" throughout.

Animator

:

Come on. Let us hear more about it.

   

Ministers every where

Person V

:

Nowadays we have "ministers" only at state and national levels to represent

Person VI

:

That means?

Person V

:

We should have "Ministers", say, for education, health, environment, finance etc. in each neighbourhood community. These people should form separate ministries at the village level for each of these separate concerns. That is, under a village-level minister for a particular concern. And they should be further networked.

   

Person VI

:

Then, we will have a situation like the one the Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Shri Krishna Kant wanted?

   

Animator

:

What did he want?

Person VI

:

That everybody at the base should have a role each.

Animator

:

You mean you would like to have an alternate government this way?

People

:

Yes.

Animator

:

That is for the whole world? What would such a world be like?

Person I

:

A world without frontiers.

Person II

:

A world wherein everybody would be a person.

Person III

:

A world of co-operation.

People

:

A world of participating people.

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Where People Are in Governance and Eradicate Poverty

 "Can poverty be eradicated in India?" We addressed ourselves to this question in a symposium conducted by Health Action, the monthly magazine of Catholic Health Association of India.
    The symposium was held in Secunderabad in 1996, in preparation for the special 100th issue of the magazine, under the title, "Poverty: the Ruthless Killer". It was inaugurated by the late Mr. Krishna Kant, who was then the Governor of Andhra Pradesh who later became the Vice-President of India. The participants were experts and scholars from some of the leading institutions of the country, who have been specializing on the subject. What did these specialists have to say in response to our question?
    "Poverty is very much eradicable" they said. "Not only that; it should have been eradicated long time back. We had everything required to eradicate it".
    Then? "What was missing was the political will to eradicate poverty".

 

Political will
      What was this "political will"? To put it simply it just means: those who have the power didn't have hunger and those who had hunger didn't have the power. Hence, the urgency to remove hunger was missing among the power circles, the circles that govern.
     A statement made by Prime Minister Vajpayee makes an intriguing illustration. He said they would eradicate poverty in 20 years (Or is it 30? I don't recollect clearly. I didn't seem to have taken it seriously. Well, why should I when they themselves don't mean it? Anyway let us say it is 20 years.)
     Why 20 years? Why not now? The answer: For Prime Minister Vajpayee, it is not that urgent a problem. For him, it is one among the many problems that along with others could wait. It is as if saying "Well, we know poverty exists, But what could we do? We have more urgent problems to attend". He doesn't feel the pinch of the hunger of the poor.
     Suppose the Prime Minister's next meal is not assured. What would be the number one problem that the Prime Minister of the nation would address? Naturally it would be his own hunger.
     But when it is the hunger of the millions it becomes for the one in governance, a distant problem, a problem that could wait.
      This is what would keep happening if power is with the abundantly fed.
     Could we ensure that power on the other hand is with people who have hunger? Could we ensure that it is the people at the base who do the governance?
      It seems very much possible.

 

Tools of Power
     For the poor to exercise power thus and for them to govern, the requisite is that the tools whereby power is exercised in societies and nations go to the poor, to the people at the base.
And what is power?
     I would give a practical definition: to have power is to have one's say in such a way that what is said matters. I say, "Let it be done", and it is done - that is power. It is to have in other words an effective say.
    How do you exercise this power? The answer should be simple. If power is having an effective say, the first thing to assure yourself is to have a forum where you too have your say. You need to have "talking-forums".
    Hence the role of parliaments in democracy. The root word in Latin for parliaments is parlare and it means to talk. Parliaments are talking forums through which people exercise their right to have an effective say.
    You could see various such talking forums in democracy. Like Rajya Sabha*, Lok Sabha** Legislative Assembly, and Legislative Council.
    What is even more important are the parliaments that are not even called parliaments. I mean the electoral constituencies. Each electoral constituency is a parliament where people, though in a token way, and though just once in five years or so, do the talking.
   This way every citizen being equipped with a parliamentary constituency, a legislative constituency and a panchayat constituency, is supposed to be powerful. But is he?

 

Bigger forums & Smaller people
     One hitch here comes from a very simple principle: the bigger the forum you have, the bigger a voice you need to get across and the smaller voices get lost. Our constituencies tend to be too big for the "small people".
     Say for example one Mrs. Nirmala from below-poverty-level family wants to get herself heard in the parliamentary constituency of Nagercoil, in Tamilnadu.
     Will it be possible for her? The parliamentary constituency will be too big a forum that she gets lost. She becomes powerless. All she could have is a token voice -- once in five years -- by way of choosing a candidate. Even then, as the constituency is so big she wouldn't even get to see the candidates, let alone talk to them.
    And while trying to choose the candidates, at times she is left with no choice at all -- none of the candidates is satisfying. A choice between the devil and the deep sea. She is not strong enough to field another candidate by herself either. That is for her too big a game to handle. She ends up feeling helpless, alienated and frustrated. She could wait for next five years. But next time around may not mean any better prospects either.
    The system is such that those in power, with the immense visibility and vast resources of money that come to them through various manipulations, keep entrenching themselves in the positions -- putting down every threat to their power. Mostly Mrs. Nirmala will be condemned to choose between the same persons, or their  progeny, for many more elections to come.
    This happens every time when the talking forums are too big: the small voices get totally lost.

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Neighbourhood Parliaments & Networks

What is the way out?

    The option would be to make the parliaments small and accessible to small people. Something along the lines of what Mr. M.P.Parameswaran of Kerela Shasthra Sahitya Parishat proposes as a new election system. Let me explain his proposal in detail adding some of my own mix.
For him, we should begin the election at the level of neighbourhood parliaments of not more than eighty voters: Those elected should form the village parliaments; and village parliaments elect the panchayat parliament, and they in turn elect the block parliament, and this way come about District parliaments, State parliaments, and National parliament.

Even the parliaments at levels other than that of neighbourhood should not have more than about eighty voters. The reason: We want to ensure that these parliaments are face-to-face communities that allow members to get to know one another's strengths and weaknesses better.
As Gandhiji remarked, one cannot go on fooling for long a face-to-face community.

 

Recall-facility

And what do we do when someone whom we elected at one level of the parliament to the level immediately above it, fails to represent the concerns of the people who elected him? We should then have recourse to call back facility. The members will come together in their parliament and by a majority decision call back the representative/s and depute some others in their turn.

We must also ensure that the guiding principle for the functioning of this network of representative parliaments at various levels is subsidiary. This means that whatever we can get done at lower level is done at that level and not taken to any higher level. The higher level parliaments are to take up only those matters that the parliaments at levels lower to them are not able to handle.

This way we could ensure vitality, dynamism, sense of belonging, partnership and fulfilment at the lowest levels where they are very much needed.
To help this process each parliament beginning from the one at the neighbourhood is to have its own "ministers" i.e. President, vice-president, secretary, joint secretary, treasurer and "people responsible" for various concerns felt at the particular level.

We would also need the principle of convergence. This would mean: Whatever could be routed through these parliaments at various level are routed through them. That means, once you have, say, neighbourhood parliaments, every government scheme should function as if the neighbourhood parliaments are the channel through which everything is directed.

Self-help groups, choosing beneficiaries for various schemes, allotment of loans and subsidies, implementation of certain projects etc. should have the neighbourhood structures as the pivot around which everything revolves.

 

Possibilities galore
     Whenever I used to present the above concept in seminars I used to ask the participants to do some buzzing with those seated nearby on what would be the benefits of having such system of parliaments that start from the neighbourhoods and reach through representative networks up to national level, and where principles of subsidiarity, convergence and the facility to recall representatives are exercised.
The following are some of the advantages the buzzing groups usually report:
“No room for corruption”
“Everything will be transparent.”
“There will be justice.”
“There will be equality.”
“Politicians will be accountable.”
“People will have control over governing processes.”
“As vast majority of the people are poor, the concerns of the poor will be better addressed.”
“Poverty will be eradicated.”
And they go on and on like this. Sometimes they conclude saying, “Kingdom of God will be here.” Or, “The paradise will be here.”
But is all this only a dream?
Fortunately not. The winds are in favour.

 

Favourable winds
       For one thing, the CPM-led government of Kerala initiated such processes in half of its panchayats. They have neighbourhood sabhas where people come together, assess their situation, identify and prioritize the problems, and make goal statements, time-bound plans, budgetary statements etc.
    The plans made at these ayalkootams*** are consolidated at village sabhas and then are taken to the panchayats.**** The government allotted 40% of its planned expenditure to be "governed" by panchayats.
    Once the funds were allotted at panchayat level the above neighbourhood parliaments & village parliaments could continually involve in processes like community monitoring and social auditing. And social auditing is much more than the routine one that checks if vouchers tally. Singh Committee set up to study ways and means of strengthening panchayat system has suggested the integration of such neighbourhood sabhas into panchayat raj structures.
       This social auditing through panchayat structures has also made a sensational beginning through right to information provisions in the state of Rajasthan.
Madhya Pradesh government has created history by providing for call-back scope in panchayat raj structures.
       UNICEF along with the Central Government is promoting Convergent Community Action (CCA) in some fifty districts throughout India as a pilot project in the direction of governance by people. Some friends are working for a constitutional amendment related to these neighbourhood sabhas. Certain voluntary organizations and even universities take keen interest. In short wherever I go, I find a lot of enthusiasm for the concept.
Said the late Mr. O.V. Vijayan the famous novelist of Kerala: "This is the only way out". And many share the view.

          Still some may continue to have doubts regarding its efficacy & scope. All we could tell them: be visionary enough to have faith, walk in faith and you will see the deserts bloom. And one-day we shall see people taking charge, and taking reins of governance in their hands, and eradicating poverty.

*Rajya Sabha, in India, Parliament of the States
** Lok Sabha in India, Parliament of the People
***ayalkootams stand for neighbourhood assemblies
****Panchayat stands for mostly inter-village governance unit.

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Neighbourhood Parliaments as the Integral Solution

Grassroots Participatory Communities and Networks*

The Predicaments

1. Among the predicaments in the modern socio-economic and political scene we note the following:

1.1. A sense of helplessness among people:

People feel cheated, pushed around, let down. They don't know whom to approach and how to effectively get things done.

1.2. A sense of alienation:

Not just economical alienation but also socio-political and cultural, wherein one feels one is a nobody, but a chaff pushed around by forces over which one has no control - a feeling like: "Anything could happen to anybody in this world without I being able to do anything about it"; Or a feeling where he says, "It is not my world; it is someone else's. It is the world of big shots."

1.3. A sense of depersonalisation:
People feel they cannot afford to be persons.

To be a person is more than just to be human.

To be a person is to be somebody. It is to be counted, to be taken into account, to be taken seriously, to be consulted, to belong, to be integrated, and to find one's place as someone of worth.
To be a person is also to be a giver and contributor and not just be a recipient.
To be a subject and an agent rather than be just an object and a faceless unit of a vague crowd.

To be a person is also to claim to be a participant, a participant in everything that affects oneself.

1.4 Growing loss of credibility of political parties:

An unsettling question that raised its head in various ways during the elections that just got over was: Can we continue to trust political parties to ensure the health of the nation? Or, to put it differently: to ensure the well being of the people of India?

We saw unimaginable types of criss-crossing, alliances and betrayals of trust by parties and party leaders of various hues. Even "ideologies" were thrown to winds.

The situation made political thinkers wonder if there was any more any relevance left in the very concept of political parties. Some called it, "The End of the Party".

Wrote Amrita Abraham in Indian Express commenting on '96 elections: "It seems likely to go down in history as the terminal phase of the party system we have known since 1957".

The answer is not, yet another party. Not even another ideal leader taking reins from the existing parties. Given the present structure and arrangement of things, every party runs the risk of encountering the same problems. And every leader, of getting submerged by the pressure of ground realities in the parties.  

1.5. Loss of control over market forces:
         Letting the market "liberalised" ends up with a situation where no market is left for the vast majority of people. A market controlled by a few could also mean poverty and loss of personhood for the vast majority.

1.6. Loss of faith in democracy itself:
 Democracy appears in the minds of many as a road that leads nowhere. It is not seen so much as the scope given to people to exercise their will to self direction, but as a wasteful exercise that ends up bringing power to the big and the rich leaving the rest weakened further and further.

1.7. Inadequacy of panchayat structures:
 Panchayats*, no doubt, are a step in the right direction. A step towards decentralisation. It brings quite a lot of power to forums supposedly more accessible at lower levels. But as forums of participation they are not small enough for "small" people to handle. And as along us the participatory forums continue to be big, only the big shots will have their say and their game. The small and the poor could really continue to feel alienated.

1.8. Lack of adequate channels to ensure:
Lack of adequate channels to ensure that helps reach those who need them most rather than those who influence most. Influence, of course, takes various shapes leaving those without the wherewithal to influence desperate.

1.9 Disorientation among NGHOs:
Non-Governmental Humanitarian Organisations (NGHOs) too seem, of late, to develop a tendency to empower themselves rather than empower the people. They too, in growing number, tend to become another set of middlemen dividing people and slowing down people's process of empowerment.

1.10. Over-dependence on bureaucrats:
In the absence of people's own viable structures for participation in decision-making, a good lot of the decisions are left to bureaucrats and politicians. But even the well-meaning bureaucrats who initiate relevant programmes and processes leave themselves and people frustrated when they get transferred and someone not sharing their ideals and commitments succeeds and turns the whole process upside down. And they get transferred often enough depending on the whims of the various politicians.

1.11. Inadequacy of trade unions and similar organisations:
Though such advocacy organisations have indeed played and continue to play and will continue to play a great role you cannot expect them to handle the ordinary nitty-gritty of day-to-day decision-making that living as a people involves. Again, each such organisation with its specialised emphasis and being open only to special interest sections could neither be universal in its concerns nor speak on behalf of all.

1.12. Monopolising and alienating trends of the media:
Media tend to be more and more monopolistic accumulating vast communication power in the hands of just a handful. Traditional values of media ethics, based on right to information and the role of public opinion, are giving way to commercial considerations.

Of equal seriousness is the media-created situation where people are made to be more passive recipients than agents of communication. They become so to say objects on the receiving end of "messages" aimed at them by those in or with power, rather than subjects who decide together in partnership.

The Media communication, in addition, tends to play the role of an escapist ritual preventing them from facing up to the painful fact that the world is slipping from under their feet and lulling them to inaction.

 

2. The dream

We need to bring the world back to people. And by people, we mean not just the moneyed and the powerful, but also the vast majority of those who are poor and voiceless.

They too must feel that it is their world. And the world, being theirs, must respond to their needs.

This means the poor, the people at the grassroots, must have their say and what they say must carry weight.

And when decision-making power is shared or decentralised this way, the people will be able to circumvent the various problems listed above and live with dignity and peace.

 

3. The Why and How But how to bring this about?

Our assumption is that people do not have their say because they do not have adequate and viable forums to express themselves.

The present participatory forums are too big. And this seems to be the crux of the problem.

And, the bigger the forums, the bigger the voices you need to have to get you heard. Bigger in terms of volume, back up provisions, etc. When the forum on the other hand, is small, any small person can express himself and be heard. He will also feel at home there. The forum, being small, can afford to listen to his problems however small they might be. He will feel that he too is somebody. He will also feel competent to affect the course of decisions made there.

The forums we have now, i.e. parliamentary constituencies and assembly constituencies, are so big that you need to be really big, even to be seen throughout the constituency let alone be listened to.

And thus "big people" with big voices get elected for parliaments and legislative assemblies. And end up having governments of "the big", by "the big", and for "the big", leaving the small and the poor helpless. Even the panchayat wards for that matter, as we mentioned earlier, aren't small enough for such small people and are thus inadequate.

The solution then lies in going beyond panchayats** and setting up forums that are even smaller ensuring that the small do talk, and in networking them in such a way that what they talk matters.

And the participatory provisions should be such that they talk not just once in five years but throughout, having a constant monitory and directive role over the course of affairs that affect them.

 

4. The Proposal

Our proposal along this line is: Grassroots Participatory Communities and their networks.

We need to know what we mean by the words.

 

What is a community?
Or what are the characteristics that make a mass of people into a community?

We need to have consensus on this. Some of the guiding principles are:

1) A community is not a crowd. It is not a transient aggregation of passers-by. Community has a certain amount of permanency.

2) A community presupposes commitment to one another. And this commitment is actually the most identifying factor.

3) A community has a shared vision. Consensus on objectives holds the community together. In this sense, a community works together.

4) A community means its members feel with one another. A community, devoid of feelings, is not yet a community. It may be just a task force.

5) A community celebrates together. It brings imagination, feelings and art to play in the collective affirmation of persons and events and mysteries of life.

6) A healthy community heals not only by the explicitly therapeutic programmes it offers, but also by its process of affirmation and the strength of relationships. Community is an antidote to alienation, loneliness, insecurities, and the resultant psychosomatic problems.

7) A liberating community, consequently a healing community is a participating community. Participation in decision making is what makes a mass into a people. When people decide together they become conscious of their dignity as partners in progress, as subjects and equals and not just objects and the ruled.

8) A community that is empowering, hence liberating and healing makes its members not only to decide on the choice of various solutions proposed but also to see the problems together. Knowledge is power. A community that has been enabled to identify the problems and constantly to evaluate them is an empowered community. Few will dare to exploit that community.

9) A community that is effective is necessarily small. This follows from our earlier principles. A big community can neither offer powerful relationships nor scope for participation.

10) A community that intends to have wider macro level impact ensures linkage with other similar communities through representative structures at various levels. This ensures not only the smallness of the community and the wider level effective action but also effective grassroots participation for the various campaigns undertaken.

These communities have to begin from grassroots. We need to have small neighbourhood communities of about thirty families at grassroots that include all and leave out none.

These communities are to be a kind of mini panchayats**. And just as in panchayats, everybody who resides in a particular area will be considered a part of the community whether one is actively involved or not. And participation is to be the hallmark of these communities.

Participation levels differ. One can be a participant just by being a recipient. Surely, this is not the type of participation we aim at. We rather want people to be agents of their well being.

Levels of this agent-participation can also differ.

We can have people participate just at the level of implementation while a few others do the planning.

Or, a step further, we can have people participate at the level of decision-making, while someone else has offered the various alternative solutions.

A step or two still further, we can have people begin participating at the searching for various alternative solutions to the problems identified and presented by others.

We have the ultimate level of participation when the people are involved not only in finding solutions to problems but also in the very process of identifying problems. When people involve themselves in the very process of identifying the problems they will tend to be more equipped, thus more empowered, to handle vicissitudes that arise while implementing a decision, than those who just hop in to make a decision while alternatives have already been found.

The same way those who were associated with the very process of identifying the problem tend to be more capable of coming up with further creative and still more relevant solutions than those who were limited to what others have reported about the problem.

And Networking should be at various levels: Neighbourhood Sabhas lead to Gram Sabhas and successively to panchayat, mandal***, district, and state, national and global links.

Such a network could be an alternative political structure that could demand that the government provisions be routed through them. Such a network could also mean –

1. Structures for people's response to and co-operation with government programmes.

2. Structures for people to help themselves.

3. Answerability and fixing of responsibility by people themselves.

4. Infrastructures where benefits go to those who need them most as per the high-risk scores concerned.

5. Effective functioning of panchayats.****

6. Scope for people at the base to derive utmost benefit out of every penny allotted for them by Government and other agencies.

7. Better spirit of working together, better participation and better self-reliance.

8. A permanent scope for watchdog role by people at various levels.

9. Scope to undertake economic self-help programmes like thrift societies and income generation projects at various levels of the network. *****

10. Freedom for people from the middleman role of politicians, bureaucrats and even NGHOs.

11. A new role for NGHOs i.e. as catalysts and empowerers and assistants at peoples' empowerment and liberation process

 

5. Viability
 Fortunately various efforts are underway throughout the world to bring about such a movement and structures of empowerment from below. Basic communities of Latin America are well known and they are being adopted in various other parts of the world.

As joint efforts of the Government and UNICEF, programmes like Urban Basic Services for the poor (UBSP) Community Based Nutrition programmes (CBNP) Convergent Community Action (CCA) etc. are being promoted. So too the Prime Minister's Urban Poverty Eradication Programme. They are all along the lines of what we envisage. In Kanyakumari District too we have more than 10,000 such grassroots groups in various stages of formation and networking.

Mr. M.P. Parameswaran of Kerala has even called for a new electoral process based on such networks.

And so too are initiatives like the resource mapping efforts by people at the base as done recently in Kalliassery panchayat in Kerala by KSSP.

Said recently an Urban Poverty Eradication (UPA) official in Kerala: "We must get in the next five years a constitutional amendment to integrate these neighbourhood communities in the national civic setup".

We shall wish all such efforts Godspeed and hope for a world that is in people's hands.

 

*Keynote address by Edwin M. J. at the National Consultation on Grassroots Participatory Communities held at Chunkankadai,Kanyakumari District, south India on 22nd July 1996.

**Panchayat, in India, stands for an inter-village governance unit.
***Mandal stands for an inter-panchayat block.

.**** Recently, a whole lot of planning from below process was implemented through neighbourhood community networks in the half of the panchayats of Kerala.

*****It provides also scope for an alternative marketing network where the communities themselves become sale outlets.

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America Was Not Meant to Be a Democracy (NoamChomsky)

Question: The video (“Manufacturing Consent”) mentions that 20 percent of the population that goes to college and holds important positions within the capitalist democracy – these are the sections of the population that need to be brainwashed under freedom. Do your books address this 20 percent of the population, trying to strip them of their illusions, or whom are you addressing?

Noam Chomsky: The 20 percent figure is not mine. It is a standard notion in political science called the “political class”, the class that is actually active in public and economic affairs. This roughly constitutes about 20 percent of the population. From the point of view of the propaganda or the doctrinal system they are a different kind of target than the rest of the population.

Remember, the United States is not a democracy – and has never been intended to be a democracy. It is what is called in the political science literature a polyarchy. A polyarchy is one in which a small sector of the population is in control of essential decision-making for the economy, the political system, the cultural system and so on. And the rest of the population is supposed to be passive and acquiescent. They are supposed to cede democracy to the elite elements who call themselves (rather) modestly the “responsible men”. “We are the responsible men and we take care of the affairs of the world.” The rest are sometimes called a “bewildered herd” or a rabble or something like that. Actually, I am quoting Walter Lipman, the leading figure in US journalism, and a leading public intellectual of the 20th century.

This goes right back to the constitutional system. The system was designed that way…. It is not exactly what you learn in school. But if you read the debates of the constitutional convention, which are much more revealing than the published documents, you find that the main framer, James Madison (1751-1836), who was very lucid and intelligent, understood all this very well. He was a democrat. He wanted to have a kind of democracy in which the primary role of the government – I am quoting now – “is to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority”.*

That is the fundamental role of the government. What he (Madison) called “the permanent interests of the country”, are those of property owners and that they must be protected. He was thinking very concretely. Remember, this was in the 18th century and the model they had in mind was England and the question of the English framework of the constitution kept coming up. And Madison pointed out that if in England the general population had the right to participate freely in the political system, then they would have to institute the kinds of programmes, which we nowadays call agrarian reforms. They would want to take over property and have it used for the general population, not concentrated in the hands of a small number of wealthy. And, of course that is intolerable.

The US system was designed so that power was to be placed in the hands of what Madison called “the wealth of the nation” - people who are sympathetic to property and its rights and will not allow infringement on them. The rest of society is supposed to be fragmented and broken up so they do not do too much.

Well, that is the form of system. A lot of things have changed in the last couple of hundred years. Franchise has extended unions; and popular groups have formed; and many things have changed. But the main structure of the system remains about the same. Going back to the question, the decision making class has to be indoctrinated into the right forms of belief. They have to understand the permanent interests of the country, the rights and needs of the opulent and powerful. The rest of the people – 80 percent, it is just a rough number and not to be taken seriously, has to be distracted so that they do not interfere.

There is a huge industry that is devoted to this, developed primarily in the more democratic countries – England and the United States. That is where the industry developed – it is called the public relations industry. The advertising industry is a part of it. Their concern is to distract the public. Alex Carey, an Australian, in a scholarly analysis of corporate propaganda, wrote a book called “Taking the risk of democracy”. When you have a formal democratic system, when people have won right after years of struggle, like the right to vote and participate in elections, you have to take risk out of democracy by ensuring that there is very little substance to their democratic choices.

This is done by organizing the world so that the major decisions are not in the public arena. And by imposing on the people – I am now quoting from manuals of the public relation industry – a “philosophy of futility”*. This is done so that the attention of the people is focused on the superficial things of life like fashionable consumption.

From infancy children have drilled into them, from television, advertising and in every possible way, that they have to have a “philosophy of futility” as far as serious decisions are concerned and that they have to perceive themselves as passive consumers. It does not really matter what you know about the world. The less you know the better.

That is the model. It does not work, but that is the model. The rabble never accepts this. It continually resists and struggles against this. That also requires the use of other techniques to try and control people. The elite media are mostly directed to the small decision-making sector people who make choices in decisions that run the society. They have to be properly indoctrinated by not just the media but by the education system and everything else.

The true mass media that go to the general audience, they mostly distract, making people pay attention to something else – popular music, purchasing.It is not surprising that indoctrination and propaganda should have reached their highest forms in these societies. In the 20th century, in particular, these are largely contributions of the US and England. It grew out of the First World War when England had what they called a Ministry of Information, which was to convince the US – meaning primarily educated Americans and the intellectuals – that they better get into the war with England. The Ministry concocted all kinds of tales. It brainwashed the educated elite, including famous people like John Dewey, magnificently. The population of the US was mostly pacifistic and did not want to get involved in European conflict. Others like Adolf Hitler were impressed too.

Who am I talking to? Mostly the 80 percent. The 20 percent do not want to hear about this. They already know what truths they are supposed to believe. But the general population is much more open, inquisitive, concerned and wants to act to change the world.
(Taken from Frontline) *Emphasis ours

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Neighbourhood Parliaments and Governance by People

Participation on the way-out?

The much-touted word, “participation”, is fast loosing its glamour among social change agents. True, the concept had its heyday. In a world where only a few people determined the destiny of the world and where a vast majority of people felt alienated – socially, economically and in various other ways – the concept of a world where everybody is an equal partner in decisions that affect one, held its appeal.

The dream is still valid. But the problem is one of the meanings and connotations the word evoked in the minds of certain people. And the meaning, theoreticians of semantics would say, is not in the word, but in the minds of the people - Right?
The word, participation, itself tended to give, in the minds of certain people, a
secondary role to people at large. “Participation for what?”; “Participation with whom?” Such were the questions they asked.

Certain ill-oriented governments too could walk away, giving people just a token role at nearly the fag end of the implementation of programmes, and still boast that they ensured the participation of people!

Such aspects of participation as getting the people themselves identify the problems and solutions, involving them in decision-making, etc. could easily be overlooked.

Hence, the search for a more powerful word that would represent with more impacts the all-inclusive ideal of a participatory world.

 

Governance in!

The incoming ruling deity in this regard is the word governance. Here, the people - especially the presently disadvantaged - are not just to “participate”. They are rather to “govern”.

That reminds me of a dictum of Thomas Moore, who once served as the chancellor of the British Government and authored the much-maligned Utopia. Utopia represented the vision of a more just and humane world, which for those not adequately concerned about such values were too idealistic. Thus, the word, utopian, became along the process a synonym for the impractical.

Thomas Moore, had a very thought provoking statement when it comes to governance.

 

Government: plot of the rich

Governments, in his view, are a plot by the rich. Nobody needs to ask, “Against whom?” Naturally, it could only be against the poor.

What really is the modus operandi of this plot? Or the trick on which the plot is based? It is simple: just make the tools of governance unreachable to the poor.

The tools of governance in a democracy are the various decision-making forums like parliaments – House of Lords, House of Commons, Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha, Legislative Assembly, and Legislative Council etc. – where the fate & rights of the people are mostly decided.

A clever plot ept refusing accessibility to those who needed most the backing of the decisions of such forums.

 

Big constituencies for big voices

The plot was to make the electing constituencies too big to be handled by the poor and get elected. Thus governments ended as governments by the rich, of the rich, and evidently for the rich. It is not hunger, nutrition, health, clothing, and such basic issues of the poor that preoccupied such governments of the rich but rather the concerns of the rich. Like making profits, more comforts, status in international realms, the most up-to-date gadgets, and the like.

And the plot was so effective that the people could be kept poor even after years and years and centuries and centuries of “democratic” governance.

What if instead the hungry and the poor are made to govern? Naturally, the first issue they will address will be the hunger of the people.

Would it be possible to make the hungry and the poor govern? Is it possible to bring them too to parliaments, so that what they talk matters?

This would need redefining the scope of parliaments.

Parliaments must come to where people are, rather than make the people go to the parliaments. Parliaments should come to the grassroots, to neighbourhoods in streets where people live.

They must also be of the right size for the "small" people themselves to participate. The bigger the forum the more difficult the small voices would find to get across.

 

Forums for direct democracy

These parliaments at the base, again, should allow scope for direct intervention by people.

The pity is people talk only indirectly in the existing parliaments. That is, except for a token intervention during elections, people do not have parliaments where they can talk directly. This is not enough. People must have the scope for intervening directly at least in some forum on an on-going basis.

The gram sabhas as provided in the Panchayat Raj Act are supposed to offer this scope for direct participation by people. But gram sabha as provided in the above mentioned Panchayat Raj Act is supposed to be normally an inter-village affair, where “all the eligible voters” are to participate and as such it is unwieldy for participation by people.

Suppose a panchayat has 6,000 voters or even 500 voters for that matter. How do you get all of them to discuss together seriously in a gram sabha? It could end up as a mere token exercise. It could even lead to violence and bloodshed in unmanageable crowds.

 

Neighbourhood Parliaments

A better option is the neighbourhood parliament system as has been promoted now in some 215 panchayats in Kerala, India. Here the parliament begins at base in the neighbourhood sabha or "ayalkoottams" of 50 families each.

Each of these neighbourhood sabhas offers scope for participation. In each of these neighbourhood forums, people come together to assess their situation, to prioritise their problems, to make goal statements, to evolve micro-plans, to budget, to fix monitoring standards, etc. They also involve in the social auditing of the programmes launched by panchayats and other government structures.

These neighbourhood parliaments are networked through their elected representatives at the village parliaments called "village sabhas" (and they in turn, could be networked at the level of panchayat parliament). And panchayat committee is supposed to be accountable to these parliaments. Beginning from the neighbourhood parliaments, eachThe Predicaments level has its own office bearers.
 Strengthening this provision is the Kerala government’s effort to converge as much as possible all its action at the level of these neighbourhood sabhas. In one district in Kerala i.e. at Malappuram, there was also an effort at having such parliaments at the levels of block and the district.

Kerala government has further made it a point to integrate the self-help groups that are promoted throughout India, within these neighbourhood sabhas. In fact, in Kerala they are called Neighbourhood Groups rather than by the usual term, self-help groups, thus emphasising the territorial orientation of these groups.

 

Children's neighbourhood parliaments

Kerala has also started, by way of bolstering these structures, parallel parliaments for children or "Kuttikalude Sabha" in some panchayats, beginning from the level of the neighbourhood.

These children, who include adolescents below 18 years, have been showing greater involvement, turning out with sharper analysis and more concrete and specific proposals and steady monitoring. Similar experiments by children are undertaken in other countries too with remarkable achievements.

 

Elections as if people matter

Mr. M.P. Parameswaran of Kerala Sasthria Sahithya Parishath has called for new election system that involves such various levels of parliament. For him the election should start at the neighbourhood parliaments. Those elected at the neighbourhood parliaments will form the village parliaments. These in turn would send elected representatives who will form elected parliaments at the level of the Panchayat. Thus, it will go on at the levels of the block, the district, the state, and the nation.

The parliaments elected this way at each level are not to have more than about eighty persons at any level. Such parliaments could turn out to be face-to-face communities where members will be known for their worth and where it will be pretty difficult to go on cheating for long.

Parliaments of such size could also make viable a call back facility wherein if more than half the number of people at any level find that their elected representatives are not functioning properly they can be called back and new representatives elected.

Being small in number, members can meet together more easily. The election this way would be economical too.

When such structures are evolved, we can definitely look forward to a situation where people are really in governance not just indirectly but also directly. (2001)

Edwin M. John