ग्रामस्वराज्यसे सर्वोदय – Upliftment of All Through Village Self-rule
Mahatma Gandhi envisaged a decentralized society based on autonomous self-sufficient village communities. Our practical interpretation of Gram Swaraj is that of a social order where people care for other members of the community, do not discriminate against anyone on the basis of sex or religion, strive for self-reliance on basic needs and adopt simple living to conserve the environment. This means empowering people to analyze, think and act in the interests of the community and environment. Thus, to address any problem, we adopt a holistic approach, which is bottom up and geared not to individuals but to village communities as a whole
We firmly believe that for a program to be effective and successful, there has to be a people’s organization in every village, to formulate and implement plans. Over the last five decades, a three-tier organization has been set up, according to the needs of the people in this region.
At Village Level: A Gram Swaraj Sabha includes the adults, with at least one representative from every household of the village. This is like a government for the people, by the people and of the people at the village level itself. The goal is to achieve self-sustainability and development of a person’s total personality.
At Village Cluster Level: About 25 to 40 Gram Swaraj Sabhas are linked with a Kshetriya Gram Swaraj Sabha. This consists of chairmen and secretaries from each Gram Swaraj Sabha. A chairman is unanimously identified by each Kshetriya Gram Swaraj Sabha. The Banwasi Seva Ashram volunteer at the cluster level is secretary of the Kshetriya Gram Swaraj Sabha.
At Central Level: Located at the Ashram headquarters in Govindpur, this level of the Kendriya Gram Swaraj Sabha is the representative body of all Kshetriya Gram Swaraj Sabhas and Banwasi Seva Ashram.
This organizational structure provides easy mutual contacts between the villagers and the Ashram. All work together for one aim: the all-around sustainable development of the local people. The idea is that people should acquire the necessary self-confidence and skills to manage their own and village affairs. In other words, the people own the responsibility of developing their society.
Moreover, we believe in working towards a need-based (needs as expressed by the village community) and locally rooted development. After problem identification, the root causes of the problem are scientifically studied. This typically includes mapping of the local resources, assessment of the economic situation and lifestyles of the people. The crucial inputs needed to address the problem are then planned on the basis of the analysis of the study. Implementation of a project is carried out by involving the community and associating with resource personnel (qualified technical and scientific specialists) as and when required. Before implementing any new idea at the village level, experiments are carried out on prototype models and/or sample groups. These experiments are used for learning, making the necessary adjustments and later as a demonstration for dissemination and advocacy. As a part of the implementation process, selected individuals in the village community are trained in technical skills as well as management skills.
Thus, in order to ensure sustainability, active involvement and cooperation of the village community are given prime importance at every stage of a project, starting from the project conceptualization and planning stages to implementation, monitoring and evaluation stages. This bottom-up approach ensures that development actors and the village community mutually benefit and the development schemes are more effective.