Learner’s Submission: A Case Study on Decentralization in India – Kuthambakkam

“Decentralization of governance has been proved as a shining feather in hat of democracy through various examples all over the world. Introduction of Panchyat Raj system in India under the Prime Ministership of Rajiv Gandhi has successfully created self-governing villages in various parts of India. Locally elected body at village level (known as Gram Panchyat) were authorised for village governance. The head of Gram Panchyat was termed as Sarpanch.

An ordinary man with extra ordinary vision named Rangaswamy Elango was living in a village called Kuthambakkam which is about 40km from Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Kuthambakkam has a population of 5000 people, around 1040 households which were consisting of 70 hamlets. This village consist of both higher caste and lower cast (termed as Dalits). Previously, Dalits were treated as untouchables and were unaccepted in society. Also village was facing issues like poverty, violence inflicted on the lower castes, widespread illicit brewing, illiteracy and unhygienic living conditions.

R Elango was of the opinion that village with such a condition can never be home to someone. Governing structure till date was failing to improve the situation of Kuthambakkam. Elango realised the potential of decentralised governance system and decided upon exploring it for the betterment of his village. He organised a group of village youths and started working over the issues prevailing in village. But this intervention didn’t give him a substantial base to bring about the change. Panchyat Raj legislation brought perfect opportunity for him. He opted for Gram Panchyat election and became the Sarpanch of Kuthambakkam. He mastered all government schemes available for a village in India and avail them for Kuthambakkam. His aim was to put local self-governance to generate local level opportunities for villagers. He was of the opinion that in order to bring an effective local self-governance, unity is of primary importance. Realising this fact, he brought in the concept of “Samathuvapuram” (The Harmony Estates), which means getting different caste & religion people to live together in same campus. The house was structured in such a way that it was partitioned in two blocks, one partition would be occupied by upper caste family and other by a lower caste family. Thus he planned to bring unity and harmony in village. He made sure that local soil and materials should be put to used for construction, also the villagers themselves did the construction work. This methodology made sure that village income stays in village and also generate opportunities for villagers.

Elango was a Gandhian follower and believed in production for people by people. Also his idea was to generate concept of entrepreneurship and self-governance among the villagers. Initially village was dependent on Chennai for its basic requirements; also the raw village produce was sold in Chennai market and nearby villages. This was creating a scenario of dependency of Kuthambakkam on others. Transforming this existing situation was a hercules task, which Mr Elango addressed effectively by introducing community based start-ups like dairies, cottage industries, small production units etc. Varity of goods such as kerosene stoves, first aid kits, soaps and eco-friendly bags were produced in village. These village governed industries were set up with a view to engage people in profitable economic activity, generate a sense of unity and ultimately empower them.

In a period of 5 years Mr R Elango with armour of local self-governance proved that even a local level governing body can make a huge difference in such a short span of time. This is a perfect example to prove benefits of decentralised governance. Elango was invited to different nations to deliver talks on local self-governance. Currently he is assisting various government agencies for effective implementation of the concept of decentralized governance.” – Mithilesh D Kandalkar – Orissa, India

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