Mr. Barnabas has thrown a great deal of light on the question of loka-sakti and I think the conclusions that he has arrived at, after analysing some action projects in different parts of the world, and the ways he has shown how peoples' enthusiasm is generated for loka-sakti, could be taken up for discussions as we proceed. Now, I shall very briefly try to give you the concept of loka-sakti as understood in the Gandhian movement.
Before I do so, it should be emphasized that loka-sakti is a concept which is being undertaken to achieve certain goals, and the goal is the creation of a new kind of society, a new society in which the greatest good of all is attempted to be achieved. I think the whole process of achieving this goal lays a much greater emphasis on the movement for loka-sakti and much less on rajya-sakti, though it does not completely eliminate rajya-sakti or refuse to take into account the fact that the State is to play a role in the creation of this new kind of society. But the role assigned to the State is a minor one.
Some of us who are active in politics, often feel why does the Sarva Seva Sangh not pay any attention to what happens in Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha or other legislative bodies? But the Sarvodaya movement is interested in building up from down below and therefore it hopes that if a sufficiently powerful movement is created, it will be reflected in the legislatures and this movement may lead to building up 10-ka-sakti. A question is often raised why Sarvodaya movement does not become a political party and enter the legislative bodies, or try to establish the Sarvodaya society of its concept through legislative action? But the Sarvodaya view is that the Sarvodaya worker, himself remaining out of politics, should work for the creation of a mass movement and that ultimately the Government will have to take notice of it. From the nature of the society of its concept, and of the concept of Sarvodaya itself, it is implicit that a major part in the process is to be done by the masses themselves. The role of the State in the whole process is a minor one and that even that role is also to be influenced by mass movement based on loka-sakti.
In my view there are four different ways in which the word loka-sakti is being used in the Sarvodaya movement. They are as follows: (1) The first is 10-ka-sakti in the sense Mr. Barnabas described it, which refers to reconstruction of small neighbourhoods and communities. I remember in only one case he referred to the whole nation-society. In this sense, loka-sakti may be described as the voluntary collective endeavour of groups and masses. If the people are able to identify their problems and do their utmost to solve their problems, or even if they are able to make others to give them the help, for example, compel the community development organisation to give them the help that they require, this will create that kind of lokasakti.
I have found in the course of my work that in certain areas of this country where the zamindari system of the permanent settlement variety existed, people seem to lack completely in a capacity for collective endeavour. In the royatwari system, the situation is somewhat better. The records of our villages referring to medieval and ancient history point out that there used to be a lot of voluntary activity in our villages-kingdoms and dynasties came and went, but the village self-government in one way or other did continue. During the British rule this was completely destroyed, as would appear from the dialogue that-took place between the servants of the East India Company and its Board of Directors, for example, in the letter of Sir Charles Metcalfe to the Board of Directors of the Company.
The whole dynamism and spirit seems to have gone out in this country, but in some parts this has been more and in others a little less. One thing that Sarvodaya wants is to create this kind of loka-sakti. This has also been the objective of community development, panchayati raj and of some other constructive work agencies like the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi. I do not know if much has been achieved by all of them. I do not also know if the Sarvodaya movement has been able to do this. Some villages, given the proper leadership, have been able to do something, but even after fifteen years of freedom it does not appear that the people in the village are on the move. It is an important question as to how the people could be made to do something, either on their own or, if they do not have the resources, to demand the resources from others-from the government or the money-lending agencies, banks, etc.
The second concept of loka-sakti is used in Sarvodaya in the sense of people's power as an action of resistance. According to Gandhiji, this meant building up the capacity of the people to resist any wrong, or to resist authority when it is abused. Real loka-sakti will come not only when people are able to solve their own problems or work for their own development, but also when they can demonstrate that they can regulate and control their own affairs. Such dynamism is absent not only from villages but it seems to be going out from the whole society and it is for the social scientists to say why it is so and how to restore it.
Thirdly, loka-sakti as a concept means force, which can bring about changes in the institutions or changes in the situation in which people find themselves. It can even overthrow Governments to bring in its own concept of Government. This implies non-violent resistance, non-cooperation, and other means through which a wrong is resisted, or the existing state of things is changed.
The fourth concept of loka-sakti is a combination of all the three I have described earlier. This means that the people should not only do something for themselves, but so long as they do not become a force strong enough to be self-governing, and so long as they cannot manage their own affairs, the real loka-sakti will not be achieved. A great deal of Vinobaji's writings dwell on this concept.
This would mean that loka-sakti, as a result, should take the form of a political institution, a structure of society, which makes it possible for all people to participate in their own political life and in so much emphasis on community, Gramaraj, Nagarraj, etc. There is so much emphasis on community self-government, because it is only at this level that the people can really participate in the management of their affairs. At the State level there will have to be some sort of a representative system, though I think the present representative system is much less representative than the structure visualised by the Sarvodaya movement. Though the loka-sakti concept was there in Gandhiji's time, Vinobaji has given some more thought to it and further developed it. He has developed another concept which goes with loka-sakti and this concept is loka-niti. The meaning of loka-niti is somewhat akin to the fourth concept of loka-sakti. It is that the people should manage their own affairs. Loka-niti also implies the idea of partyless government. I would not go into it further.
I have tried to give you the four different concepts of loka-sakti and also tried to relate loka-sakti with rajya-niti at the higher level.
Now what happens at the lower level where there are certain institutions of the people. There it will be more possible to have loka-niti. If loka-niti is properly developed and rajya-niti is subordinated to it, the State will be a gradually shrinking entity; though it may not vanish completely, its coercive concept will be reduced to a large extent. Ideally, to the Sarvodaya philosophy, the concept of State does not exist at all. But in practice, at least it should be possible to reduce its role to the minimum, and as Lenin said, it should mean "management of things by men and not of men by men." Mr. Barnabas talked of welfare state or welfare society. According to this concept of Loka-sakti, if there is such an institution as state at a long distance from the people, say at the centre, then the welfare of the people looked after from the centre might be a danger to the people; it will be something undesirable and undemocratic. This would mean that the individual citizen is a less responsible member of his community. Welfare, to put in the context of loka-sakti and loka-niti, will be something which people will look after themselves, at least at the spontaneous level, or at the level of the small community.
Inspite of so many years of Gandhian constructive work the fact is that its ideal still remains an ideal, and we are very far from creating enough loka-sakti even in certain reconstruction areas. The difference between loka-sakti and rajya-sakti would be that you have attained a certain level of 'force' in order that rajya-sakti may be used to achieve certain ends. In some villages, loka-sakti has been built up to some extent, and in those villages it has been possible to do something. But whatever has been done, has been done partly through loka-sakti, and partly through the sakti of the Sarva Seva Sangh and Gandhi Nidhi, etc. However, people did participate in whatever was done. The attention of some of the trained social scientists should go to this problem as to how people could be activised and enthused to do something. Even if they do not have enough material resources, they should be able to demand them for themselves. This will lead to a result which may be much more revolutionary. Mr. Barnabas had dealt with certain concrete cases. This exploration will have to continue.
At present, the Gandhian constructive workers are engaged in some constructive programmes like Gramadan, which is one of the items of the threefold programme of Sarvodaya today. We have thousands of Gramadans now. In Bihar we have about 4,000 villages in Gramadan, We have been looking at the problem of providing some kind of a catalytic agent which may bring a ferment in the life of the village folk so that they could join together in a cooperative endeavour. We think if certain psychological changes are brought about, other changes would follow as a matter of course. The psychological change may come in the form of sharing what you produce and what you have. If there is this kind of change-mainly an ethical change then it may be possible to create a new spirit in the Gramadan villages for cooperative endeavour. It is more or less agreed that if people have to cooperate with each other, they must have some spirit of self sacrifice or self-negation. Otherwise their egos will conflict and their interests will clash. Everybody may not have an equal share in a common cooperative endeavour. Suppose, a well is to be built, it will mean that the people who own land and people who do not own land will benefit from it in different measures. Therefore, a certain degree of self-sacrifice is necessary. On this, the Gramadan movement lays a great deal of emphasis, though I am not quite sure if in these thoysands of Gramadan villages there is an automatic birth of this urge for collective endeavour. When the decision for Gramadan is reached, the village people agree to share certain things; they agree to share zoth part of land and 40th part of their annual income.
This is very important. The other way you can do it is by legislative action by a democratic government, but even if you do that, we know, this does not come automatically. What is required is a catalytic agent so that a Gramadan village is able to pull itself together and go ahead, which would not be possible in non-Gramadan villages. Gandhiji was able to create this urge for change in the people through the force of his personality and circumstances which then existed. He could motivate the dormant Indian people to rise to the highest level of mass action. But as far as reconstruction is concerned, as far as the achievement of the goal of society in which the greatest good of all has been attempted is concerned, we are far from that.
We have tried to work through the State; through the Planning Commission, for the new society, whatever its shape is. That seems to be an effective way to do it, but it is a confession of the weakness of the movement. Mr. Barnabas has given 13 conclusions in his paper. Let us consider them in the context of the Indian situation. Unfortunately, those who were expected to create this loka-sakti the village level worker, etc.-have failed. The panchayati raj institutions were created to do this; to bring people's participation in development, but I do not think these institutions have been able to do that either. Today, panchayati raj institutions are as much dependent on the State as the villages. They have not been able to create self development, excepting the villages where they had good leadership. On the whole it has not worked. It is for the social scientists to find the reasons.
Voluntary Leader; Social Action Theoretician and Practitioner; Leader of the Freedom Struggle and Founder of the Congress Socialist Party
Towards a Philosophy of Social Work in India,
Edited by: Sugata Dasagupta, Popular Book Services, New Dehli-3.