The soil of the nation, the water of the nation, the air of the nation,

Let them be good, O God! Let them be good.

The houses of the nation and its valleys, the forests of the nation and its roads,

Let them be simple, O God! Let them be simple.

The body of the nation and its soul, the brothers of the nation and its sisters,

Let them be pure, O God! Let them be pure. —Rabindranath Tagore

In the last five years, thousands of villages in Gujarat have benefited from the Panchayati System that has taken them closer to the concept of the perfect harmonious village. The vision of an ideal society as given by the great poet Rabindranath Tagore is very similar to that of Shri Vinoba Bhave, outlined during his padyatra in the company of Dr. Dwarkadas. I feel that this shared vision is very important in creating a feeling of consensus in villages.

Vinobaji once said that it is imperative to keep the poison of elections away from the villages and ensure that an environment of mutual understanding in villages.

Shri Jayprakash Narayan had envisioned a Gram Panchayat which would have public activeness as its base. The concept of “Samras Gram Yojna,” was an attempt to fulfil the dream of harmonious villages as seen by these legends. During my experience of public life, I have seen that villages are not majorly affected by Parliament or Legislative Assembly elections, but the Panchayat elections can wreak havoc in villages, even leading to situations where married girls are forced to leave their homes and return to their parents.

Political parties may have their own agendas for competing at the state or national level elections. They may project their own goals and values during these elections, which is quite acceptable. However, our panchayats, which are the mainstay of our ancient culture, should be kept away from political biases. It is obvious that we need local partnership in order to achieve progress for our villages and provide them with modern infrastructure, but this can be done by keeping villages away from politics. The Rikhavdas Shah Committee has also supported the view that political parties should be kept away from panchayat elections and indicated that practical measures for doing this should be conceived. Some people consider the Samras Gram Yojna, to be against democracy; however if seen neutrally and in a practical manner, this would turn out to be an inspiring and enthusiastic model.