Villages have lived in all developed countries. In UK, the glories of the countryside is celebrated. There are any number of legends and folklore!
So too in the continental Europe. Go to any country, Germany or France. There are strong rural communities. There is a strong agricultural base in these countries. So too in other developed countries.
As for the big countries, big geographies, there is no doubt that villages are still their strengths. Russia, China or Japan.
In India, it is an ancient country. Our history is long.
So too our rural side. What is now the critical question is how we look at our rural India. What will be the look, its ethos in the future? Both the short and long-term future?
Surely, the three areas we like to concentrate here are: the village economy. The rural land holding. Second, the rural administration. The Panchayat Raj system.
Third, the rural society, the castes groups, the political formations, and the way the rural society would evolve. As for the rural economy, rural wealth and wealth holding. There will always be the landownership pattern.
After 1799, after Tipu Sultan was defeated, killed in the Sri Rangapattanam battle, the land ownership in the South passed on to British administration. The Ryotwari system created direct link with the government and the peasants.
Today to, the very same system persists, though the extent of land ownership had drastically changed from big landowners to small, marginal land holders.
There is now no legally described big land owners. But there are now a net set of realities that make us to see the emergence of big land owners, who emerged as land grabbers, land buyers, the real estate market today makes any rational discussion of this extremely sensitive and complex subject very tentative and also very secretive.
Certain realities can’t be discussed so openly. The point is there is always in the rural economy a great deal of inequality and also inequity, if you so desire, in the ownership of landed property.
In every village there are only one or two big land owners. Call them by any name you fancy, they are land lords, or big land holders or land owners by so many descriptions.
This unreality of land ownership today has come about through populist politics. There are also as many laws pertaining to the holding of landed property. You ask any land owners, big or small; you can’t get an exact answer to the extent of land he or she owns!
Also, there is the reality that there is a great deal of inequality in the rural society, old or new.
That is as it is. Once you conceded or recognise the existence of big land owners you have to admit there is bound to be inequality. With inequality comes also the question of inequity.
This is only for politicians to discuss and debate. Politicians these days typically are hypocrites. They, the practising politicians are themselves are money makers by dubious means and one way of holding their wealth is to buy land or better still grab others lands though illegal means.
That is how the land grab has become a hot property in states like TN and elsewhere. May be in every state of India!
So, the future of villages, as they are today will continue to be an unequal society.
But to the surprise of many, rural society has always lived in this unequal society, learnt to exist as a cohesive society, in fact, to the point of like a family unit. The villages are like joint families. This, in our view, is the greatest strength and foundation of a village society.
There is much justice, truth and honesty in the lives of village people, unlike in the anonymous urban societies.
In the cities you often don’t know your next door neighbour for years together!
But villages are different. Of course there are now changes here too. Villages are changing. There are urban migration. There are new faces coming into the villages. So, there will still be the rural .highly closely knit rural societies.
So, what is the future of landownership like we must opt for?
In our view we have to encourage having some big land owners to live in the villages. That way the villages acquire some character, some value system, there will be the comfort level for other castes, other lesser economically viable professions like dhobis, other professions like rural farm labour and other unnamed castes and their traditional professions. The rituals and ceremonies during birth and death and other such occasions, the very fundamental reality of the Sanskrisation of society has to be given a life of its own.
Who are you, be a politician or a reformer to change this tradition?
No one has any right over others. The Indian society would thrive only on some such foundational values. It is tradition, history and social beliefs and convictions, religion, tradition and what have you.
Such forces only would shape Indian villages and their future stability and more so their sustainability!
Then, the newly created Panchayat raj. It is okay so far. But it needs much more radical changes and reforms.In short, let us follow some states like Karnataka where the panchayat raj was given a serious try by Ramakrishna Hegde and it needs further democratisation in decision making at the district and grass roots level.
The third component. Rural development. Land acquisition etc.
Here too we need some deep thinking and new policies to help the rural, district level life more meaningful and more democratic and more freedoms in decision making.
Now it is still an inspector’s raj!
It is still an autocratic rule. All this has to change.
We invite a debate afresh on these very sensitive and critical questions of the future of the Indian villages.