A Forum For Gandhian Societal Perspective and Action
Swaraj as networking programme of Peaceful Society was formed in November 1996 in a three-days national consultation on growing fundamentalism and the adverse impact of globalisation. The aim was to bring solidarity and provide a common platform for like- minded individuals, voluntary organisations, social action groups and people’s movements who have deep convictions in Gandhian philosophy.
As follow-up series of state level consultations were organised in Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Kerala, Maharashtra, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu and state level committees were formed between January to July 1997.
The Participatory Strategic Planning (PSP) process was adopted to develop common structure and the vision, mission, role, strategy and programme (VMRSP)of Swaraj. This was carried in 72 districts of 7states till June 1998. The national level VMSRPO was based on state level VMSRPO.
State Units: Swaraj – Bihar
The Bihar unit of Swaraj was formed in 1996. North Bihar has many rivers and the issues related to these are many. Therefore the main focus in Bihar has been the issues in the river basins of Koshi, Gandak and Ganga. These are dealt with separately in the chapter on IRN. The three consortiums constitute the state unit and as such the state does not have a separate programme. The consortium committee members are represented in the state committee.
Swaraj – Jharkhand
Swaraj was first programme which was bifurcated with Bihar and recognised separate state as Jharkhand. The state unit was formed in Feb 1997 in a meeting held at Madhupur. The state like others went through PSP processes, shaped it own VMSRPO and followed the state and national plans. Indian River Network was launched in a national meeting held at Jamshedpur, Jharkhand in 1999 as an offshoot of Swaraj programme.
Maharashtra joined the Swaraj process late and although many NGOs, people’s organisations, social action groups etc. working with dalits, women and other weaker sections showed interest and took part actively in the PSP process, the programmes did not take off. The process was revived in 2000 and the activities are centred in a few villages in Loha taluka of Nanded district. The focus is largely on dalits , women and droughts.
The Swaraj processes started bit lat also due to unstability among the founders in Gujarat. There were about 10 organisations associated with Swaraj and 2 fellows associated with the programme.
Swaraj – Tamil Nadu
The programme in the state was in the districts of Tutucorin , Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari Districts. The state unit was closely working with the Swaraj Kerala. Like others, state adopted PSP processes and developed its VMSRPO.
Swaraj – Kerala
The Kerala Swaraj started in 1997 during the first phase of the programme. During this period, 3 regional meetings and one state level workshop were organised on – ‘Issues in the state and addressing these through Gandhian ideology’. During the second phase, training on PSP was taken up at state, district, panchayatand community levels. 345 villages in 10 districts were covered under this process. During the current phase, the activities are focused in 8 districts. There were 7 fellows working in the state including the state coordinator and an accountant. However, only 4 districts have fellows. Although the fellows work under the 5-village concept, in most places they are covering entire panchayat, which has more than 5 villages. Save Idukki Campaign (SIC) is part of the IRN network and coordinated at the state level.
In the given situation of growing fundamentalism, economic imperialism and increasing trend of cultural and environmental degradation, we wish to intervene and stop further detonation and the other hand we aspire for a society which will be based on Gandhian ideology and certain humanitarian values for the restoration of peace and communal harmony and harmony with nature.
Economically, people will be self-reliant on the basic needs and amenities for a happy and comfortable living. People will be free from the clutches of debt, exploitation and alcoholism.
Politically people will be self-ruled. There will be decentralisation of power and resources. There will be democratic system, structure and policies. There will be real participation in decision-making process by both women and men.
The people will feel proud of and take care of their unique cultural heritage and healthy traditions. But, the superstitions and blind belief must go away. There will be unity amidst diversity.
“SWARAJ” a forum for Gandhian societal perspective and action comprising national Swaraj and seven state units which also consists of various VOs, NGOs, people’s movements, action groups and like minded individuals working among and with marginalized sections of the community, particularly among adivasis, dalits, women and other vulnerable groups in seven states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
We want to ensure self- rule of the community to re-establish its rights and access on natural resources and other means of production for sound and sustainable development.
We want to realise transformation in all spheres of life namely, social, political, economic, cultural and environmental with special emphasis to brush aside issues like gender inequality, fundamentalism, casteism, alcoholism and cultural deterioration in the next ten years. We also strive to reject the influence of internal and external exploitative forces operating in the society through NEP, WB, WTO and MNCs.
Organisational Structure of “Swaraj”
National Forum (NF)
Members of the core team of the various state committees constitute NF also called Swaraj Parliament. Besides these, every state unit also nominates/ elects three to five members (out of which one/two are women) from the community to the forum. 50% of the total members of the forum shall be women. Currently, there are 116 members in the NF. Besides being the designing and implementing body at the national level, the NF also elects the national team. The forum meets annually and the event is termed as national convention. (See Swaraj – Organisational Structure).
National Coordination Team (NCT)
The national team has 19 members (7 women and 12 men) and comprises of the state coordinator and at least one-woman representative from the state. In addition there are three nominated members from the NEU. The NT is elected for a three-year term and works in coordination with the NCC. It meets twice a year.
National Convener Collective (NCC)
The national team elects the NCC and has three members who are elected for a three-year tenure. It is mandatory that at least one among the three is a woman. The chief functionary of the project implementing institution (in this case Peaceful Society) is a permanent member. At least one of the members must devote full time and he/she should not hold major responsibility of any other organisation.
NCC is entirely responsible for the overall implementation and monitoring of the project. NCC meets at least four times in a year.
National Executive Unit (NEU)
The head of Project Implementing Institution (PII) is a member of the NEU and assists the NCC in its task. NEU is located at Peaceful Society, Goa. The NCT members can join NEU. Members of the NEU shall be paid persons and the NCC should finalise their remuneration.
Swaraj has constituted six working groups at the national level. The six groups are capacitation, finance, coordination, publication and documentation, fund mobilisation and family affairs. Each working group has three members including the convener.
The state and consortiums have a three-tiered structure. At the village level there is the Village Council (VC). The members include one male and one female member from each family. One fellow of Swaraj is also a member of the VC. The local facilitator is the coordinator and there is a chairperson. The VC elects the village committee. It has a chairperson, convener and treasurer. At the district level there is a district council in which all the members of the village committee are members and the facilitator and documenter for each village. The district council elects the district committee, which has 7-21 members. At the state level there is the state council and the state working committee. This is the structure in most states and consortiums with some minor variations in some places.
PSP CONVENTION Berhampur ?
The concention finalised the VMSRPO of Swaraj and ten years programme at state and national level.
Thiruvananthapuram Convention: – The Second National Convention held in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, from 30th January to 2nd February 2001. Theme of Symposium held alongside was “Gandhian Strategy in the 21st Century. The 248 delegates elected the new National Team and unanimously resolved that Kumar Kalanand Mani should continue to be the National Convenor.
The Convention discussed questions of SWARAJ structures, struggles, training and publications.
Third national convention and symposium was held on the occasion of Centenary years of Jayprakash Narayan from 8th to 10th October 2002 at the Town Hall, Bettiah in West Champaran in Bihar. A total of 268 delegates from eight states – Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat – participated in the event.
States put forward their action plans for the next two years. An overwhelming majority of them decided to concentrate on the five-village concept. All states unanimously decided that Kumar Kalanand Mani should continue as the National Convenor. The National Forum and the National Team was elected after this.
Capacitation for SWARAJ meant – Orienting, Motivating, Directing and equipping all relevant actors associated with ‘SWARAJ” to become aware of the values, worldview and programmatic perspective of SWARAJ and to be able to translate the same into the respective realities in our Society with the requisition to knowledge and skills. The capacitation was divided into two parts– Organisational Capacitation and Programme Capacitation. Organisational Capacitation would be on, values, enhancement and strengthening and philosophy of the Forum and concept of People’s Organisations and networking. Programme Capacitation was to be on: – Self-Rule, Rights over Natural Resources, Sustainable Development, meaning and implications of social evils and divisive forces like Casteism and Fundamentalism, New Economic Policy and Globalisation, Economic Literacy, Gender Sensitisation and Cultural Degradation.