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The Perfect Republic – A Village in India

April 17, 2011

After an entire semester of political theory, all of you will be very apprehensive when you read the words ‘perfect’ and ‘republic’ in the same sentence and more so when they put next to each other. I want to tell the story of “Ralegan Siddhi”  – a small village in India.

It’s population is a mere 2500, quite normal for an Indian village. In 1975 it was a dismal place to be in. It was just another drought prone poverty stricken places in India where almost everyone was impoverished, had a bad illicit alcohol problem and were living on less that $2 a day. They lacked basic amenities and necessities. Comfort did not exist. Fast forward to today and Ralegoan Siddhi is one of the most thriving and productive place in the country. Every person in the village now earns close to about $11,000 a year, which is miles ahead of their previous state. It was truly a miracle.

So what exactly happened? No it wasn’t foreign investment, and no it was not industrialization. The man who brought about all of this is a social activist who goes by the name of Anna Hazare. A retired soldier, he was the pioneer in turning the place around by involving people in social restructuring schemes, which centered around environmental preservation and natural resource development.

He identified that the lack of access to water was the main reason the village was impoverished, and urged the villagers to donate their labor in reconstructing the village water tank and embankment. With these fixed, the village wells filled up for the first time in memory, and water for agriculture was ensured. Many improvements followed, which included building human capital through education, building up a thriving dairy industry, environmental conservation efforts and many other things such as health reforms and massive self-sustenance efforts such as biogas and solar power. Seems that the villagers managed to lift themselves out of a state of nature (Hobbesian or Lockein is up for debate) almost where they were suffering and are now in a pretty nice place financially and socially.

But that is not the best part. A participatory form of government was set up within the village. Here is a diagram of the structure of governance:

Societies of citizens work on all important issues relating the village, and on the other hand, committees that represent the interests of all factions of the population (youth, women, education, religion) are present as well. These (and more not shown in the diagram) are answerable to the head of the village or the Sarpanch.

This structure reminds me of the lectures professor LaVaque0Manty gave on Marx. I think Marx would be proud to see this village.

In conclusion, Ralegaon Siddhi is an example of a model village. It brings together a lot of concepts which we talked about – a strong leader (Machiavelli), State of Nature (Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau), reformation and revolution (Rousseau) and economic motivations (Marx).

Do you think it is?

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