Have you ever heard of village ‘Taldev’?
Don’t bother. I heard about the village just last Sunday. One of my friends has started social mobilization activities in the area. He wanted me to interact with office bearers of Self Help Groups (SHGs). So, I was in Taldev.
Taldev is about 10 kilometers from Mahabaleshwar – the famous tourist spot. The village is small – about 180 households and 1000 population. It has a common Grampanchayat with one more village whose population is just 300 – that means 50 more families.
Taldev literally means ‘God of Deep/God of Lower Land’. The village has an old Mahadeva temple. The tradition credits Pandavas for building the temple. The construction is really cool and elegant. Though I had just left the crowd of 250 people outside – I felt so much away from the world when I visited the inner sanctum. The Nandi is well built; facing linga as always and the linga is not of much height.
The lamp was feebly burning and I felt that everything is alright in this universe. Funny, I should feel it in the presence of ‘God of Destruction’. I realized the meaning of ‘death’, the meaning of ‘dead end’, the meaning of ‘being in the womb’….during those few moments in the inner sanctum.
When I was interacting with Vanitajee, the Sarpanch, I learnt that she has been elected unopposed. Later, the Deputy Sarpanch invited all of us to his home for a cup of tea. I asked him about the ‘unopposed’ election. What he told surprised me.
This village never had ‘Grampanchayat elections’ as such. When elections are notified, Grampanchayat calls a meeting of villagers. They all decide together about who should work as members. The required 7 members are selected with consensus in the meeting. When couple of years ago it was clear that the Sarpanch seat is ‘reserved’ for women, the village nominated Vanitajee without much ado. All the 7 members go together to block office to fill up nomination forms. The senior, experienced members help new members to fill up the forms – so no forms are rejected.
When there is cut throat competition around, how come things are different in this particular village? Ramchandrajee, the Deputy Sarpanch had some answers. He tells: 1) At least one person from each family is working in Mumbai. The villagers have enough money coming from Mumbai. In Mumbai the villagers are bound together, they do not want any conflicts back home. 2) The village so far has all the required facilities – roads, electricity, water, post office, telephone, school, good Grampanchayat office, and specious temple… Name it and it is there. There is no infrastructure to be developed. This leaves no space for dissatisfaction of villagers. Everything seems to be going smoothly. 3) Nationalist Congress is the only party of the area. It is in power in Block and District – and even in the state. So, no other political parties have reach to divide people. 4) Out of 100 people, some are ambitious and try to divide villagers. But most of the villagers deal with the issues raised by them with maturity and wisdom, if anything needs to be done, villagers do it.
All this certainly sounds very interesting. We have equated democracy with elections but if democracy could be achieved by consensus nothing better than it. At least at village level it saves money and makes life peaceful.
Are there any other such examples? Can they be replicated on a large scale?