The Growing Gap between the State and the Local People


The exposure of my field visit in Gujarat which starts from its two villages of Kutch and Aanand where I interacted with the local people and it ended by interacting with the bureaucrats who are the representative of the state/government. The whole field interaction started with the question of knowing what the local people meant by the  term ‘state’ and what the state has done for them in terms of delivering services and at the later part I moved towards the bureaucrats querying them about what they do for the citizens and how people see them as a government body. As we all know, the duty of the state is to deliver services to the citizen and on the other hand, the citizen has the full right to procure the services provided by the state and into this mechanism of the state there is no such issue between the give and take system of the state and the citizen i.e. policies and schemes are being implemented by the state for the citizens but the thing that is lagging behind is the miscommunication between the state and the people. The government are not aware about the problems of the citizens and the local people are also not aware about the mechanism though which they can reach out to the state/government for their needs and problems.

During my interaction with the villagers what I came across is that the local people are less bothered about the existence of the government though there are facing lots of issues in terms of public services but they are not willing to recognize that these services should be provided by the state. They are satisfied with whatever the state is doing for them, as for example: even they are getting water supply once in a five days they have no complain against the state regarding it and they are quite happy with it. The reason behind it is that people are not aware that who are responsible for their problem; even though we have the decentralized system where the state reaches to the last people but it is not functioning in the way it should be for the local people. It might be the case at the local level that gram Sabha and gram Panchayat does not possess the authority to send the people’s concern to the high level or as an institution it has become weak and invisible for the people. It is the story of only one sided where the citizen gets benefitted from the services and on the other side the state has no knowledge about the local level. By communicating with the government officials, it can be understood from them that they are providing tool for the community participation like gram Sabha for the people but it is the people who do not attend for their benefits and other than this, even after providing free education for the children, the parents do not send their children to school. Therefore, it can be understood from this that government have no idea about the ground reality as there is no proper need assessment done and also there is no proper acquaintance regarding who are responsible for which work. This is why local people face issue of where they should go for to solve their problems. As while asking bureaucrats about the issue of construction of a road and in regard to this he replied that the road does not come under his jurisdiction and it is the gram Panchayat who is authorized for it. Hence, to make the schemes and policies to reach out to the beneficiaries there are a need of mediator who will fulfill the widening gap between the state and the citizen. We have to give the power to the local level or  prevent the weakens of the local government and if we do not work on it there is no meaning of decentralized system because it is taking the citizens more far away from the state.


Inside stories from shyamgadh and Nidana…

The people in the two villages of shyamgadh and Nidana who lived in the abject poverty are not in a position to attend panchayat meetings. Most of them are even not aware of the functions and the activities of Gram panchayat and hence cannot realize the importance of panchayats. Although we were told not educate the people but I was not able to stop myself to inform them about the functions and activities of Gram panchayat and their independent  importance in the decision making. There were many incidents of the biasedness of the Sarpanch in distributing the benefits of any schemes, where the people who are close to them are directly benefitted from a schemes even when they do not deserve or the schemes is not applicable to them.  The responses I received from the people were also quite reasonable and justifies why they don’t attend the panchayat meetings and gram Sabha as there priority is to earn money to sustain their family and sparing one day for the meeting will cost them a day’s earning. I decided that it is important to explain them about the importance of the meetings since it will benefit them in the long run.
The gender based discrimination was clearly evident from the fact that people name their daughter as marni (which means die) and batheri (which means enough).Gender discrimination was apparent to the extend that we feared if a male can even interview a female member of the community.We decided all the female interviews will be taken by Aparna and minu. It was really very hard for us to not educate or ask them to stop such discrimination.

The Anganwadi system..

The word Anganwadi means “courtyard shelter” in Indian languages. Indian government initiated Anganwadi’s across India in the year 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development services. The intention of the designers were to  combat  child hunger and nutrition but their activities now would range from pre-school education to even contraceptive counselling and supply. The institutional structure also provides for an Anganwadi helper. The helper helps in basic things like cooking, cleaning etc. The Anganwadi worker and helper are the basic functionaries of the ICDS who run the Anganwadi centre and implement the ICDS scheme in coordination with the functionaries of the health, education, rural development and other departments. Their services also include the health and nutrition of pregnant women, nursing mothers, and adolescent girls.


Today in India, about 2 million Aanganwadi workers are reaching out to a population of 70 million women, children and sick people, helping them become and stay healthy. Anganwadi workers are the most important and oft-ignored essential link of Indian healthcare. But they are often not paid adequately. This   functional aspect of Anganwadi’s deeply touched us during our study. As part of our study on citizen’s perception of state we got several opportunities to interact with various Anganwadis in and around Haryana. We were left shocked to realise that the Anganwadi workers end up paying more out of their own pockets than their salary and reimbursements put together. In most cases these Anganwadi workers are from poor economic background and are expected to first meet all Anganwadi related expenses on their own and later apply for reimbursement. This is how Anganwadi as a state organ function on a daily basis, first payoff the expenses on their own and later reimburse. When we think of it theoretically it sounds feasible but field takes you to another perspective. On field as mentioned above we realised that most of the Anganwadi workers are financially insecure who are expected to meet all expenses initially. Naturally more than effectiveness of their interventions they will be concerned of nothing but money. To our surprise they said that there were instances wherein they received the reimbursements a year later and not received at all as well.

I am personally of the opinion that this meagre salary explains the inefficiency of various Anganwadis in India to a large extend. This connects well with our Panchayats wherein each Panch is paid only 3000 rs per month. What is even more surprising is that it is through these Anganwadis and Panchayats is government dispensing most of the welfare schemes. Institutionally and theoretically both Aganwadi and Panchayat are structurally sound but outside the theoretical world, these institutions mostly fail why? Lack of appropriate reward can be a good reason as pointed out by the Anganwadi workers themselves. As any reasonable individual they will always try to ensure their security over the institutional preferences.3000 rs per month do not even ensure the bare minimum sustenance.Knowledge about the difference in various state institutions on paper and ground is a reality check and will aid in formulating effective implementation designs in future.The on-field knowledge counts here.





The invisible realities

“Education should prepare our minds to use its own powers of reason and conception rather than filing it with the accumulated misconceptions of the past” – Bryant H. McGill

This quote by B.H. McGill rings true for all of us in Azim Premji University. We are encouraged to come out of the misconceptions of the past and experience the present. But in our everyday life not everything is tangible, not everything is precise. Yet we take a stand, based on what is the question?

We hear of state everyday but what is this state?. Not even a single day in our life is independent of state. But do we have an opinion on state? The idea of this invisible but all pervasive state was exciting. Out of this excitement and intellectual curiosity, a group of six of us embarked on a journey to capture citizen’s perception of state. For this study we chose Gujarat and Haryana considering group dynamics. We travelled in and around Gujarat and Haryana to view the State through the eyes of its citizens. The interviews, conversations and observations of the people of different culture, communities, profession’s forms the major chunk of our study.

The observations were eye-opening. Suffice to say that it served to destroy many of the misconceptions that we harboured regarding those states we visited. A prominent example of is the concept of Khap Panchayats. The image of Khap Panchayats has suffered greatly at the hands of the media. Sensational stories of caste-based murders and male domination have found their way into most of our homes through the new channels or news papers. While the fact that Khap Panchayats follow an archaic set of principles may be true, the benefit of such institutions in rural communities has been ignored. As a result, the rest of India where this system is not prevalent fails to understand that it is an essential feature of the community in which it exists, woven into its very fabric. We realized the important role Khap Panchayats play in the society during a conversation with the Superintendent of Police at Karnal,as part of the study. We learnt from the SP that Khap Panchayats were not viewed as a parallel system of law enforcement, rather as a supplementary system which was even more effective in facilitating the laws. He brought to us the fact, that the constituent members of the Khap Panchayat are localities and the community is more receptive to their voice than the police. What is interesting here is not what they do but what they are capable of doing. What they are currently doing as community bodies, may not be acceptable in the modern society but can be deal with, by improving the education of members of the community and sensitizing them to modern ideas of justice. However, from the perspective of the working of State machinery, it was interesting to note how this community body garnered more respect and commanded more obedience than the police force. Apart from dispelling the negative notions we had of Khap Panchayats, as students of social sciences we realize that the enforcement of the law is as important as the creation of good law. Thus, this experience provided a valuable insight into how the law is to be enforced. This is just one instance to mention.

In the end, the study was in away like a trip that it dint force us to open our eyes but it so happened. Awareness of certain ground realities, like how in spite of all that has been done to alleviate the gender differences, it was still easier to build rapport with strangers and get information out of them if you were a man.

All in all, the experience taught us that our duty as students of social sciences was to clarify the notions of the community that have been thrust on us by the so-called informed society that we have devoted our academic lives to.