The list goes on, cities across India are crying for local governance that is responsive to local needs and directly accountable to the local community.
Unfortunately more than 60 years after Independence, Local Governance continues to be at the mercy of centralized bureaucracies and the vagaries of State and Central politics.
The third Freedom Movement shall have many connotations but primary amongst them is the one issue that every sagacious leader from Gandhi to Gowalkar agreed on – trusting the wisdom of local communities to shape their autonomy through autonomous Local Self Governance.
The new Big Tent must draw a stark distinction from the Progressives by standing clearly and unambiguously for directly elected Local Self Government that takes responsibility for all local services.
As this post goes to press, comes news from the United States of Towns that want to de-incorporate their local governments in the face of recession. Also comes news from the United States of the perils of Direct Democracy with voters in California rejecting fiscal measures to balance the State budget through a referendum. This follows other vagaries of direct democracy on a host of issues.
All of the above will be cited by critics in favor of the current Indian system of centralized bureaucracies and toothless local bodies.
It is important however to recognize that the excesses of the variety witnessed in the United States are precisely the reason why the White Umbrella shall come to represent “Freedom with Responsibility” with Dharma as the moral compass.
From Article 370 to urban crowding to flexible labor laws there is a case for taking Federalism in India to its original intent as envisaged by the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution which even Swadeshi Socialists like Govindacharya recognize.
A defining feature of the new Big Tent must be autonomy to the States and freedom to the people of the State to decide the most appropriate and practical unit of Local Government.
Local Governments must have the freedom to raise money through taxes and bond issuances while giving them more control of Urban planning and development. Such autonomy will also come with the responsibility for the Local Government to provide day to day services like Law Enforcement, Public Safety, Water and Waste Management.
Freedom to the Community must not stop with the banal issue of Local Governance and every day services.
There is a larger purpose behind a building sense of ownership and responsibility within Local Communities for solutions to a swathe of intractable socio-economic issues lie in participative direct democracy via Local Communities.
From cultural preferences leading to Moral Policing as in Vadodara to Land Acquisition for economic activities and public projects, there is a case for direct democracy within the Local Community to make decisions by involving all stakeholders.
To legitimately push for a specific course of action on behalf of the entire community, the new Big Tent must clearly and unambiguosly stand for a ground up democratic consensus within the community.
The White Umbrella shall stand for protection of the rights and freedom of local communities from the tyranny of Centralized diktats and vocal demands by lobbies which are neither democratic nor representative.
In the new Big Tent Central and State Governments when dealing with public projects cannot ride roughshod over the different stakholders interests through legislations or rule by decree.
The White Umbrella shall clearly and unambiguosly stand against centralized legislations in implementing public projects.
The White Umbrella shall also also clearly and unambiguously stand in favor of a process of stakeholder consensus that is democratic and representative involving local communities.
It is only through such a process can we create an Ownership Society that engenders a Culture of Responsibility.
More on this and the Spirit of Enterprise in the next post.