Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav: A template for India at 100
The recent cabinet expansion proves once again that gender inclusion and social equity are an integral part of the Government’s agenda. This is evident from the increased representation in the cabinet with 11 women, 27 from Other Backward Classes, 12 from Dalit communities and 8 from Schedule Tribes. This has once again revived the debate of participatory democracy and the commitment of this government to continue the guiding principle of inclusive politics as propounded by Dr. BR Ambedkar.
In India, the idea of participatory democracy was central to Gandhi’s political thinking and practice and inspired many during the freedom movement. He articulated this idea through the concepts of Swaraj (Self Governance) and Swadeshi (community’s control over resources) and by invoking the imagery of the village republic (Gram Swaraj) as representing India’s democratic tradition. However, these ideas gradually disappeared from the mainstream political discourse after independence and democracy in India over a period of time transformed into an oligarchy – where a selected family refused to take the aam janta of the country into confidence.
Since 2014, there has been an attempt to change course. The core thought has been to expand citizen participation in governance. India is the largest democracy in the world and citizens are keen to collaborate in shaping a participatory governance framework. Dr. B.R Ambedkar stressed on people’s participation in governance and said “I venture to suggest that unless the Indian Citizen is made to feel that it is he who can make or unmake the government, we shall never be able to succeed in establishing the true foundation of a responsible government in India”. This government envisions a similar belief and has resulted in many unique initiatives where the PM has directly involved the people. The success of Government programs can be attributed to the Prime Minister’s ability to directly talk to the people and make them believe that the government will deliver on its promise. The old cynicism of government schemes being implementable only on paper has been replaced with an enthusiasm to avail of these programs. Many of the schemes such as Ujjwala and PM-KISAN have seen an expanded coverage due to their popularity. Some like Swacchh Bharat and Saubhagya Yojana have achieved their stated objectives and have been recast with larger goals. The Prime Minister also makes it a point to speak directly to the people and take their views directly. The Man Ki Baat program is one such visible platform but there are many other platforms that work seamlessly behind the scenes that empower direct conversations between the stakeholders in government and the citizens of this country.
Taking forward this core principle, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, had launched Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav to commemorate our 75th year of independence. Azadi Ka Amrit Mahostav kicked off in March 2021 and started a 75 week countdown to our 75th anniversary in August 2022 and will end post a year on 15th August, 2023. In this spirt the events are intensive, country wide campaigns that focus on citizen participation, in the true spirit of Jan-Bhagidari. The Mahotsav will work to enhance interaction and promote mutual understanding between people of different States and Union Territories by conducting activities in the areas of language, learning, tangible as well as intangible culture and heritage, paving the way for systematic process of mutual engagement and appreciation amongst people.
Long before India became a nation state, India started as a civilizational state. We achieved independence from British colonial forces 75 years ago, but our civilizational identity has transcended many millennia. Democracy too was an integral part of ancient India. Panini’s and Kautilya’s texts talk about ideas of grass-roots democracy in ancient India. The Prime Minister has spoken in the past about how Lord Basaveshwara 12th century academy ”Anubhava Mantapa” highlighted the importance of people’s participation in governance. The 10th century inscriptions found recently in Tamil Nadu highlight a village governance system similar to the panchayat system. As a part of these celebrations, as we celebrate the unsung heroes that fought against British colonialism, we are also highlighting underappreciated heroes who forged our civilizational ethos for thousands of years and vowed to protect our civilization heritage over the past 750 years of invasions and colonization.
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