Still (‘still’ because he’s always been so and still is) ever-active, ever-agile, ever-green Rashpal Malhotra continues to be pensive about fully empowered Panchayats, Panchayati Raj in the country for democracy in this country to reach upto the grassroots in the country. According to him, once that happens (or the day it happens), India, the country, will be true democracy for all. By all, of all in the real sense. ‘Ageless’ Malhotra continues to strive in that direction whole-heartedly. He is fully optimistic that “one of these days” it will be a reality what with all states are presently inclined towards Panchayti Raj and its full empowerment. He exclusively speaks with LOK PANCHAYAT.
“Some more time is needed for Panchayti Raj to be completly full fledged. Three elections are over, at least two more elections are needed for Panchayati Raj all through out the country to be fully effective, complete, self-sufficient. People in the country want fully empowered ‘Panchayati Raj’.
“This is evident in Kashmir where despite rampant militancy, people amounting to 84 percent voted for the panchayats of their choice, of their liking. They (People of Kashmir) voted in such large number because they know fully well that only with the help of the Panchayti Raj, their individual collective problems will be solved. Only with the help of their respective Panchayats, the villages will be all-round developed. For a villager to meet an MP or an MLA is very difficult (due to large distance, accessibility, time etc). The villages are fully aware that they can reach at all elected representatives like the MPs, MLAs etc through their elected, concerned sarpanches. This is the reason why the villagers went out of their way, risking their lives and voted whole heartedly in the militancy, ultra-affected areas. …I know it fully well because I have been associated with Panchayati Raj, Panchayats Since long. Late Rajiv Gandhi asked me what could he do which his late Grand father (Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru) could not do and which he could do. Also what wrong he (Grand father) which he did and that he (Rajiv Gandhi) could correct it. I did not respond to the second one but to the first one, I said that Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru always wanted Panchayati Raj to be the fundamental right. He also wanted elections of the Panchayati Raj after every five years so that democracy could be firmly established in the grassroots of the country. During Pandit Nehru’s time, Sardar Patel’s status was very high and he was a very big leader. He (Sardar Patel) did not want voting rights for any one. In this context he took a position that voting rights to the people should not be given. The result of it was that voting as a fundamental and basic right was replaced by the state governments and their directives, rules and regulations. As a direct result of this, no elections took place in the Panchayats for 25 years. Pandit ji led the foundation of Panchayati Raj in Rajasthan in 1959. …They are still running Panchayati Raj in that same line even today. I told Rajivjee that whatever Panditjee could not do then, you can do them now. Rajivjee asked me what would be the use of that I told him about the uses, I gave him a facts and figures, Statistics, Data etc. And told him that so many lakh panch, Sarpanch would be elected. Also there should be elections in cooperative societies. He agreed and prepared 87th Constitution Amendment Bill. But it could not be passed in Parliament. After that Narashimha Rao came and took Rajivjee’s task ahead. Rao also understood this that there was only one way to Bharat Nirman : one, Panchayati Raj. Two, Population Control. What ever relations I had with him, I learnt a lot from him. He put in a lot of funds for Panch, Sarpanch, did a lot of conferences. The government is doing a lot of work in that direction at present. Now the government wants Panchayati Raj to be all round successfull…. According to me, a lot of talented people are now deeply engaged, Involved in doing very good productive researches on Panchayati Raj, imparting training on Panchayati Raj, teaching Panchayati Raj etc to make Panchayati Raj fully successful, empowered. …Panchayati Raj Ministry is doing a lot of relevant and important works. Some states are making full use of it. Like Kerala, Karnataka, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat etc. A lot of Panchayati Raj related works have been done in these states through Panchayats. In Haryana Chief Minister (Bhupinder Singh) Hooda has done wonders in the field of Panchayati Raj. He is supporting devolution of power upto the grassroot. He is giving money directly to the Panchayats so that they can meet their requirements and not depend on anyone.”