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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section IX : Political Ideas > Village Panchayats

61. Village Panchayats

True democracy cannot be worked by twenty men sitting at the centre. It has to be worked from below by the people of every village…

In my opinion there is no law which can stop a Panchayat from functioning wherever the people want it. Every group (of villages) or its member can have the Panchayat system whether the rest of India has it or not. True rights come as a result of duty done. No one can snatch away such rights. The Panchayat is there is to serve the people. In the true democracy of India, the unit is the village. Even if one village wants Panchayat Raj, which is called republic in English, no one can stop it.

Harijan, 18-1-48, p. 519

Panchayat has an ancient flavour; it is a good word. It literally means an assembly of five elected by villagers. It represents the system, by which the innumerable village republics of India were governed. But the British Government, by its ruthlessly though method of revenue collection, almost destroyed these ancient republics.

Young India, 28-5-31, p. 123

Independence must begin at the bottom. Thus, every village will be a republic or Panchayat having full powers. It follows, therefore, that every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs even to the extent of defending itself against the whole world. It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without. Thus, ultimately, it is the individual who is the unit. This does not exclude dependence on and willing help from neighbours or from the world. It will be free and voluntary play of mutual forces. Such a society is necessarily highly cultured in which every man and woman knows what he or she wants and, what is more, knows that no one should want anything that others cannot have with equal labour.

Harijan, 28-7-46, p. 236

Distinguished travelers from the world came to India in the days of yore from China and other countries. They came in quest of knowledge and put up with great hardships in travelling. They had reported that in India there was no theft, people were honest and industries. They needed no locks for their doors. In those days, there was no multiplicity of castes as at present. It is the function of the Panchayats to revive honesty and industry. It is the function of the Panchayats to teach the villagers to avoid disputes, if they have to settle them. That would ensure speedy justice without any expenditure...

Then, the Panchayats should see to cattle improvement. They should show steady increase in the milk yield.

The Panchayats should also see to an increase in the quantity of foodstuffs grown in their village. That is to be accomplished by properly manuring the soil… Then, they must see to the cleanliness of their village and its inhabitants. They must be clean and healthy in body and mind. I hope that they would have no cinema house. People say that the cinema can be a potent means of education. That might come true some day, but at the moment I see how much harm the cinema is doing. They have their indigenous games. They should banish intoxicating drinks and drugs from their midst. I hope they will eradicate untouchability if there is any trace of it still left in their village. The Hindus, the Muslims, the Sikhs, the Parsis and the Christians should all live as brothers and sisters.

Harijan, 4-1-48, pp. 499-500

The greater the power of the Panchayats, the better for the people. Moreover, for Panchayats to be effective and efficient, the level of people’s education has to be considerably raised. I do not conceive the increase in the power of the people in military, but in moral terms.

Harijan, 21-12-47, p. 473