Over the last 70 years India has seen a massive transformation. We were a rural country, locked in our villages, but we have transformed using democratic principles. 70 years ago in India you would have seen a rigid caste hierarchy, with no mobility, people couldn’t aspire to do more, they were stuck. This is what India has been fighting and what we have been successful in beating – not entirely but in decent measure. China saw a similar transformation, however, while the ideas was the same, the methodology was vastly different. Our transformation was decentralised, anybody can do what they want, anybody can travel where they want, it’s organic, it’s even chaotic. The Chinese method is centralised, it comes from the Communist Party and it has seen much more violence in the early phase of its transformation.
If we look at India’s success over the last 70 years and before, you will find that we have been most prosperous when we decentralised power. It’s all about dividing power equally and breaking monopolies. It’s about giving power back to the people. We believe it is imperative to respect the intelligence of our citizens in our approach to their problems and take a bottom-up approach towards policy design.
When it comes to policy decision we believe this should come from the grassroots level. The corridors of Delhi are quite often unaware of the realities on the ground and as a result the schemes that are decided at the centre have flaws which lead to dissatisfaction among people. It is the local people who understand their problems best, hence, they should be given as much power as possible to deal with these problems.
By following this methodology, we have created policies that have been immensely successful. NREGA, one of the world’s largest employment schemes, was born out of an observation made by a junior Congress member. He noticed the local tehsildar applying an NREGA-like scheme to successfully reinvigorate farmers and labourers into improving their circumstances through honest employment. The same has been true for RTI, food security and Right to Education. This is the kind of powerful impact that can be achieved by a government which does not seek to control its people, but rather aims to uplift and empower them.
This mode of thinking does not merely apply to matters of social development programs or policy design. It is only effective when the same ideology is carried forward to how we view governance in the country. Decentralisation of power is key to a government’s success in implementing programs. When a government operates at the periphery rather than occupying a starring role, it works more swiftly and effectively — to the benefit of its people.
We believe this methodology is key to organising society as well. The RSS and the Congress have many differences, one of the key points is how we believe in creating order in society. The RSS vision is top to bottom hierarchy, where knowledge is centralised – hence power is centralised. The Congress’s vision of organising India in a decentralised structure where knowledge is available to everybody, thus reducing hierarchy.
Decentralisation of power is made possible when the thinking behind it begins at home. In the Indian National Congress, we are committed to ensuring that our party members are empowered to help their people, effect grassroots change, and champion for their beliefs equitably. This is reflected in the rise of members from even the district levels to key positions, where they are able to make an impact at a scale greater than ever before. These are not glamorous principles that are accompanied by catchy slogans. Rather, these are principles that are vital for effective governance.