By Col C P Muthanna (Retired)
Mahatma Gandhi said that the future of India lies in its villages. Today, when we see heart wrenching visuals of lakhs of poor desperately trying to leave the cities and return to their homes, we are reminded of his words. Decades after Gandhi, a hero named Anna Hazare championed their cause in a village named Ralegan Siddhi in Ahmednagar.
With water shed management as the main area of focus, he strengthened village communities, fought corruption – brought prosperity to the villagers and reversed migration to cities. He also brought about social change by improving the status of women and Dalits.
The present exodus from the cities back to villages has brought out the glaring fact that the rural poor have been exploited to enable the growth of metropolises that are imploding under their own weight. It is also time to pause and reconsider the very paradigm of ‘Development’ and the mad rush towards improving the ‘GDP’. When we talk about GDP, there is a need to look at the Bhutanese philosophy of ‘The Nine Domains of Gross National Happiness’ are : Psychological well being, standard of living, good governance, health, education, community vitality, cultural diversity and resilience, time use, ecological diversity and resilience.
Surely, these domains cannot have meaning if village communities across the country are compelled to leave their homes and made to live in crowded, unclean slums in faraway cities!
While it is fine to plan for ‘Smart Cities’ perhaps the time has come to think about the need for ‘Flourishing Villages’! Anna Hazare’s vision, coupled with the Bhutanese philosophy of the ‘Nine domains of Gross National Happiness’ could be the Mantra for the Rediscovery of India!
[The author is former President, Coorg Wildlife Society & Vice Chair, Kodagu Model Forest Trust]