I don’t know who coined the idea of ‘back to the village,’ but whosoever advised the administration in this matter must be a real administrator. In almost entire subcontinent, more than seventy percent population live and earn their livelihood in a rural area—the countryside. And most of them are directly or indirectly engaged with agriculture and the allied sectors. Maybe in the present economic order, they do not contribute to currency, but survival and sustenance of humanity are guaranteed through every activity of the rural population. A few decades earlier for most of the people, food clothing and shelter were produced in villages. Now the scenario has altogether changed. The materialism has overtaken our economy, and prosperity is no more assessed through the quantity of food grown and contentment of populace. Contemporary economies are driven by Gold, dollars, and foreign exchange reserves.
Anyways, growing food is a compulsion now and materialism a passion! Under these compelling circumstances, anyone floating an idea to bring the administration at the doorstep of rural people is a noble mission. The unfortunate part of our system of governance is that after the departure of British, we adopted the administrative policy the British had tailor-made to suppress, subjugate, and fleece the people of the subcontinent. The British bureaucratic system was so imposing that any voice for accountability was brushed aside as challenge to the state. The instruments of governance were sharp and ruthless giving message that only ‘Raj’ had the right to order and implement it come what may. And for last more than seven decades, there is no change in administrative hierarchy anywhere in the region except we have decorated the adopted system with democratic rights as envisaged in the constitution. Excluding the concept of panchayat raj rest our governance flourishes and flows down from the top. Thus most vital aspects of political, social, economic, and environmental activities in rural areas get neglected. And the engine of the real growth and economy [villages] remain underutilized.
A saner voice and rational act of listening to the rural people through the idea of ‘back to village’ can be acknowledged as a prelude to an act of constructive administrative reforms. However, the intentions and the motives of the implementing authorities will determine the success of this idea and its longtime fallouts. Mere sloganeering and propaganda of getting the administration to villages will serve no purpose. Administration at the highest level has to draw a comprehensive plan for village centric administrative format. The organizational tables cannot be turned overnight to change the centuries-old system, but continuous and sincere efforts will bear fruits. And a more significant part of the population[the rural people] will feel a sense of possession vis a vis the governance.
The present week-long efforts when prominent and energetic representatives of the government were seen rubbing shoulders with the rural people can be a positive step towards change though it has to be a routine and consistent schedule of the government. Instead of involving all the segments of the administration in ‘back to village’ program government must strengthen its existing frontline agency, the Rural Development Department and make it more accountable. The feedback collected by the officers through present visits to villages can prove a vital data bank for devising the future strategy of widening the administrative net into the rural areas.
While appreciating the efforts of the administration, it won’t be out of place to mention that by proper planning the program could have been more interactive and inclusive and much more can be achieved for better comprehensive governance. To earn the confidence and goodwill of village people, some specific areas can be identified and explored for improved rural administration. The thematic administrative interaction and intervention in rural areas can prove more effective. With a lack of awareness and a lower percentage of education, the executive actions in villages have to be more practical and demonstrative. In rural communities, the traditional saying ‘ seeing is believing’ holds good and is more effective. At present most of the villages suffer from lack of sanitation. Any effort to improve the village sanitation will be the best way to earn village peoples trust and make them believe that administration is here to resolve their essential issues. Likewise, in phased manner health and education sectors can be strengthened to get the villages into the fold of real and justified administration and make them fountainhead of government. In reality, the real ‘back to village’ concept has to be implemented beyond the circuit houses and confinements of canopied official gatherings. The epicenter of the program has to be the mind and heart of rural people who will, in turn, become more participatory and the concept of the focused village administration will pull out the remains of feudal mentality otherwise abolished some seven decades earlier. If envisaged and implemented rightly the ‘back to village’ perception will inevitably change the concept of governance.