In “the discourses”, Machiavelli has a passage on the religion of Romans. He compares two great Roman rulers: Romulus, one of its founders and a later day ruler Numa. He says that if one were to question which of these two was a greater ruler he would pick Numa because he was responsible for introducing religion to Rome. Through the introduction of religion, Numa could introduce unconventional laws into Rome which would otherwise have been difficult. Many of these laws would go on to make Rome a great state. But the most important advantage of religion, Machiavelli suggested, was that it inspired a sense of self-governance among the people. And because of this self-governance introduced by religion the state continues to function inspite of its good rulers passing away.

Self-governance is also a goal held in high esteem in Hindu history. Every living entity in Hindu culture is meant to have a svabhaav (self-character) and a svadharma (self-duty), the latter also includes the concept of self-governance. If Narendra Modi is to be judged by any, his performance in engendering this feeling in people should not be ignored. And that is turning into a focus for most of his next generation reforms. To be taken seriously by the people on this idea, he first needed to prove himself as their benefactor. This was performed to an extent by speedy execution of big ticket projects under Modi. Other factors needed are good quality education, self-initiatives from the people and decentralization of governance. This is exactly where Modi’s reforms are heading. I will review of some of these items below which are set to change the face of governance in Gujarat in the near future.

In the iCreate scheme for instance, a college like campus is shaping up at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar. It is meant to support individuals with high entrepreneurial potential towards executing entrepreneurial ideas. The scheme covers a wide variety of fields such as information technology, electronics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, non-conventional green energy, bio-medical equipment and devices and agro and food processing. If this scheme becomes operational, Gujarat might start hatching start-ups in all these areas. An obvious spin-off of this scheme would be that the experts hired at iCreate can help impart research ideas at Gujarat’s universities and kick-start scientific research in the above mentioned fields. But the takeaway message from this scheme, we should remember, is that it is meant to engender self-initiative in fields India lags behind compared to developed nations.

“Sakhi Mandals” is another such scheme endorsing self-initiative. Each Sakhi Mandal is a group of 15 – 50 women, who are tasked with saving money from their monthly budgets to build up reserves. Amounts from these are loaned to needy people at low interests. The government too steps in with contributions if the reserves are managed well for a period of 6 months. Usually, these amounts are used in running small businesses. The net worth of these businesses has now reached Rs 5,000 crores. I take the success of this scheme as a state endorsement of self-employment and a growing public awareness of the benefits of fiscal responsibility.

Another case where people power has been deployed and reaped results is the check dam building initiative. With rural initiative and government funding, 6,50,000 check dams have been built in the past 7 years along with several other smaller improvisations the purpose of which is to allow greater ground water percolation. This initiative has allowed Gujarat in becoming the only state in India where ground water levels have started rising. Modi has taken a similar model for girl child education under the Kanya Kelavani program. He himself goes to select houses in villages and convinces parents to send their girls to schools, resulting in a significant reduction in school dropout rates (to less than 10% for standards 1 to 7). While the centre’s idea for allowing college education access to tribals would have been more quotas, Modi’s move was to increase the number of science stream schools as well as engineering and medical colleges in the tribal regions. Result: the number of seats for engineering colleges has jumped from 13,000 from the time he came to power to 90,000 at the moment.

Modi has deployed a similar scheme based on self-governance for improving sex ratio in Gujarat, which currently stands at a lowly 1000:900. He goes to communities with the most severe problems (such as the Kadva Patidar community) and convinces them to stop the practice of sex selective abortion. For malnutrition too, a similar solution has been deployed, the CM has taken up the task of convincing people to donate some milk from their daily use for the poor and the pregnant (for the latter so as to avoid miscarriages out of malnutrition). In comparison, our PM merely regrets that malnutrition is a problem facing the nation followed with his trademark. No action. But with the socialist underpinnings at the centre, we can be assured that any solution would border on the ‘right to food’ bill. Now a question arises, can people by themselves be disciplined enough to work in their interest? At first pass, such emphasis on self-governance might not work. But led by a role model with proven credentials can convince people they too can achieve self governance.

Another initiative that goes towards aiding this principle of self-governance is decentralization of administration. This is happening currently under ‘Apno Taluko Vibrant Taluko’ (ATVT) scheme. Under the scheme, the talukas are responsible for generating their own financial resources, manage spending, coordinate and implement various government programs and prospects. This decentralization should also allow for elimination of red tape and harassment by middlemen.

One prominent challenge that stares Gujarat in the eye is to keep up with the current pace of development forever. It is likely that successors to Modi won’t be as able an administrator as him. Hopefully enough people are inspired by his vision of development to carry on the pace without him and are able to spot such benevolent administrators in the future. To an extent his vision of development has started inspiring the destitute. Recent reports suggest that migrant workers from UP in Gujarat travelled to their home state to cast votes. The success of Gujarat in packaging development and taking it to people’s doorstep should similarly continue to inspire development as an agenda in elections elsewhere. Our country is at a crossroads one again with another BOP crisis around the corner. At the same time, a new model of governance based on projecting development as a mass movement needing the ‘sadbhavna’ (goodwill) of all elements of society is emerging. We would be foolish not to accept this easily available self-organizing principle to amend the ways of functioning of our democracy. The future of governance has arrived and you the reader need to be a part of it. Are you willing to join?

Image from here.

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