Eminent social scientist Bharat Dogra has trashed 'swaraj', the decentralisation model being propagated by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), as the answer to the ills of the country.
Speaking at a seminar organised by the Haryana Institute of Rural Development on Monday to discuss "two decades after 73rd Constitutional Amendment", Dogra blamed the bureaucratic and political class for being disinterested in empowering the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).
A former senior fellow at Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), Dogra said that key subjects like agriculture and health had been snatched from the ambit of the panchayats.
He said that by inviting the multinational companies in seed production and basic vaccine manufacturing, the government had left the rural sector at the mercy of private players.
The panchayats are even deprived of their rights of protection from industrial pollution and toxicity and the rights and duties of the elected members of PRIs have been diluted by the indifferent political system, he said.
Dogra said that the panchayati raj was converting into "sarpanchi raj" where an individual or a group of individuals was running the show.
He favoured adopting a strong model to promote true decentralisation by introducing district level governments on pilot basis where the stakeholders were given a chance to formulate policies according to their local needs and requirements in the transparent manner.
"Arvind Kejriwal and AAP are supporting a model of self-governance where the mohalla and gram sabhas should decide various policies including expenditure of development funds as per their choice. It is an absurd idea in the existing Indian system where a small section has a tendency to dominate the weaker section," said Dogra.
He said that people should not given the right to spend money as per their will, as being promoted by AAP, as it would lead to misutilisation of public money.
"Our studies have shown that with more funds are pouring in the rural development sector, the mafia has entered at the panchayat level to loot money," he said.
Dogra said that it was unfortunate that strengthening of PRIs was restricted to the advocacy of elections and favoured fixing time for every panch to work as sarpanch.
He said that unplanned green revolution had caused irreparable loss to the Indian agriculture sector. "By 1965, India had 20,000 known varieties of rice but all were lost in the next few years. Policy makers lack vision on protecting indigenous crop varieties and opted for exotic seeds in the name of food security. In the later years also, no efforts are made to get feedback from farmers, the crucial stakeholder while forming such agriculture policies including the promotion of the genetically modified seeds," he said.