HYDERABAD: Establishing the Raj system in India was riddled with mixed opinions, inadequate protection to it under the Constitution and a lack of political will among the States to implement the system, which had its mention only in a single line in the Directive Principles of State Policy.
It was only through the dedicated efforts and the vision of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, that it has now become the most important institutional framework of the country, according to senior Congress leader and former MP Mani Shankar Aiyar.
Delivering a lecture on ‘Democracy and Decentralisation’ organised by S Jaipal Reddy Memorial Foundation in Hyderabad on Saturday, he walked the audience through the history of Independent India, about how Rajiv Gandhi had sown the seeds for the Panchayati Raj system in its present form.
“While Mahatma Gandhi wanted Panchayati Raj to become the foundation of our country, Dr BR Ambedkar had rejected that idea, questioning how it was possible in villages where discrimination was rampant. After Gandhiji’s death, because of the then President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad’s persistence that the one line on Panchayati Raj was added in the Constitution as a State subject,” he said.
“The situation was that the Centre and the States would have adequate powers, but there was nothing provided at the lowest level, leaving it to the State governments, and they didn’t act,” he said, also recalling how the model Panchayati Raj Act passed during former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s regime between 1957 and 1962, was created as a private enterprise of the prime minister, but with no conviction. It was only after Rajiv Gandhi became the PM, and during his extensive tours to the most rural parts of the entire country (except Sikkim) and interacting with the people in the villages, that he had started understanding what was lacking, and what could be done to give back to the people, Aiyar said, adding that Gandhi was clear about what needed to be done.