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Bhoodana, Gramadana, Gramaswaraj, and Sarvodaya : Nature, Philosophy and Performance
By L. M. Bhole*
"Gramadana is the most creative thought coming from the East in recent times.".
Louis Fischer

Background and Introduction
When India became Independent in 1947, there were various paths or models for socio-economic-political reconstruction and development before her to choose from. They were Gandhian path, Nehruvian path (socialism), communism (the State), and capitalism (Market). Officially, the Nehruvian path, which involved Central Planning, was chosen and the first Five-Year- Plan was launched in 1951-52. This approach, along with the Community Development Programme (CDP) and Panchayat Raj (PR), was pursued till 1991. After following this path for about 40 years, the authorities felt that the above-mentioned Nehruvian approach has not done well, and, therefore, they introduced New Economic Policy of Structural Adjustment Programme, and Stabilization Programme of Marketization, Liberalization, Privatization, and Globalization. In other words, the authorities adopted the Market model in 1991. The simultaneous adoption of the centralized (Central Planning) and the decentralized (CDP and PR) approaches reflected the disoriented thinking of the policy makers; they failed to realize that such conflicting approaches would ensure the failure of both of them.
Since 1951 -to this day, the authorities have rejected the Gandhian path. Notwithstanding this, there were compassionate, social workers who have tried to guide the nation towards the Gandhian path. It is interesting to note that in 1951 and 1952, in which Central Planning was introduced by the State, the people of India, largely unaided by the State, had adopted the Gandhian path in the form of Bhoodana and Gramadana (B-G) movements. Certain considerations given below make B-G model very appropriate, relevant, and important for India and for the whole world:
  1. The Government of India is in the process of replacing the 19th century Land Acquisition Act by the new Act.
  2. India is largely an agricultural country (Krishi-pradhan desh) and a country of villages (Gram-pradhan desh).
  3. The availability, control, acquisition, and possession of land have remained contentious issues during the ancient, medieval, and modern times in all the countries. With the passage of time, people have grown more and more restive regarding the land-use policy of the State, corporates, business and industry.
  4. It is widely accepted now that mankind is facing the crisis of survival, as a result of ecological and agricultural crisis. The issues and aspects relating to agricultural crisis are many: the maintenance of the quality of land is one such issue. History tells us that in the past, the civilizations that did not treat their land properly have tended to die down. There are other issues like impoverished farmers, the agrarian reforms such as abolition of Zamindari, high cost of agricultural production, absence of farmers' control over the prices of farm goods, food insecurity, creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), converting agricultural land into non-agricultural land, acquisition of land for public and private sector industrial projects, deaths due to hunger and malnutrition, suicides by farmers on vast scale, widespread landlessness and so on.
These umpteen number of problems related to land cannot be solved quickly and easily. In fact, the solutions to the land problems have eluded the mankind for a number of years. Technological advancement, changing class relations and changing interface between agriculture and industry, greater monetary investment in agriculture, are only temporary, short-term solutions to a huge set of problems. The world-view contained in Bhoodana-Gramadana- Gramaswaraj-Sarvodaya (B-G-G-S) System alone is capable of creating a sustainable social order or the Economy of Performance.
The B-G-G-S paradigm as enunciated by Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave offers the best, lasting, equitable solutions to the problems of humankind. As we shall elaborate later, this paradigm has been called "third power", "a new-age harbinger", or "non-violent revolutionary paradigm". This paradigm had attracted serious attention of many wise people from India as well as abroad during 1950s. They had come to believe that Gandhi and Vinoba had shown the path, which, if followed, can halt the inexorable march of mankind towards self-extinction. However, the euphoria created in the interregnum by things such as development, modernization, and technological resulted in the amnesia about this redeeming paradigm. It would be in the survival-interests of human civilization if the discussion of the content, appropriateness, etc. of this paradigm is seriously revived and resurrected now. It is in this context that the present paper discusses the meaning, nature, philosophy, motivation, organizational set-up, and relevance of Bhoodana-Gramadana-Gramaswarajya-Sarvodaya (B-G-G-S). It attempts to show how this is non-conventional and superior to any known, conventional "isms". The paper is divided into 9 sections. Section 1 gives the meaning, nature and philosophy of Bhoodana and Gramadana. Section 2 presents prerequisites for the success of Bhoodana movement. What is Gramadana, the process and conditions, and organizations of gramadana are discussed in Sections 3, 4, and 5 respectively. Sections 6 and 7 present a brief sketch of Gramadani social order and performance of Bhoodana and Gramadana respectively. The comparative natures of Gramadana and Panchayat Raj are explained in Section 8. Section 9 contains summary and conclusions.
Before we proceed, it would be interesting to present certain quotes about this paradigm which succinctly state its content and nature:
  • Gramadana is the most creative thought coming from the East in recent times.
  • Danam Sanvibhagh (dana means equitable distribution).
  • Sabai Bhoomi Gopalki, Na Kisike Malkiki (All land belongs to Gopal, i.e., God; it is not owned by anyone).
  • Mumbai, Delhi me hamari Sarkar, ham are gaon me ham hi Sarkar (There will be our government in Mumbai and Delhi, and in our village, we ourselves are the government).
  • Gramaswaraj i¬£ our birth right and we must get it.
  • Hamara mantra Jai Jagat, Hamara tantra Gramaswaraj (our sacred words are, Hail the world, our path or method is gramaswaraj).
  • Think globally, act locally.
  • Vishvam pushtham grame aasmin anaturam (Let there be a view of prosperous universe in our village).
  • Yatha grame tatha Vishve (As is the village, so is the universe).
  • Mata bhoomi, putro aham pruthivyam. (Land is our mother, I am the son of planet Earth).

1. Meaning, Nature and Philosophy of Bhoodana and Gramadana
What is Bhoodana? Bhoo means land and "dana" means giving or donation or gift by someone when giving comes from the heart and out of love. In "dana" no one demands and yet the giver gives because he feels like giving. Although the term "dana" is mostly used to mean gift or donation, Shankaracharya has defined "dana" as "danam sanvibhagaha", i.e., "dana" means equitable distribution. Bhoodana thus means gift or donation or giving of land with love to those who are landless by those who possess at least some land. The first bhoodana took place on April 18, 1951 at Pochampalli in Andhra Pradesh (AP) in India when Ramachandra Reddy gave 100 acres of his land to landless people in that village.
What were the goals of Bhoodana? What was it that Bhoodana had sought to achieve?
The goal of Bhoodana was to get land and to redistribute it. But this was only one of the many goals. Vinoba, the apostle of Bhoodana and Gramadana has explained the goals of Bhoodana through his innumerable speeches. A gist of his teachings on the subject is briefly presented below: According to Vinoba, the work of Bhoodana was the work of revolution, sacrifice, and worship. It was the work of changing life and joining hearts. It was to reduce the deluded attachment to land. Bhoodana and other daily donations or "givings" would keep the balance and harmony in the society. The work of bhoodana was the work of turning or revolving the wheel of Dharma - or religion (dharma chakra pari vartam). The intent of bhoodana was not to avoid revolution, the intent was to save the country from violent revolution, the intent was to bring about non-violent revolution in India. The peace and happiness in the country vitally depended on solving the land problem, and it was certain that this problem could not have been solved through legal means or violent killings of the fich. The best way to solve this problem was through love and compassion. Bhoodana provided this path; it had and it has the potential to bring about three-fold change: change of heart, change in life-style, and change in society. It is to be realized that ultimately speaking, bhoodan is the first step of total giving or total sacrifice. Bhoodan teaches us that total self-sacrifice alone can bring Sarvodaya or the welfare of all. Bhoodana movement includes industrial labor movement also; ultimately, the practice of Bhoodana in all earnest will result in breaking of the shackles or removing the slavery of the industrial labor also.
Thus, the long-term aim of Bhoodana was to enhance the qualities (Gun Vikas) of every one and to bring about the spiritual growth or progress or development of every one, along with the short-term material aim of tackling the land and other problems. An important lesson of the Bhoodana is that if we appeal to the goodness of heart of people, all types of spiritual and material issues of mankind can be solved.
Bhoodana demonstrated that it is not poetic imagination to think that it is possible to get land from the people in a peaceful manner or non-violent way. Bhoodana is not only a movement; it is a Yajna, it was an experiment in Ahimsa; it is a peace-Yajna. It contained the seeds of world revolution. Vinoba has said that he realized the God through bhoodana, and he saw that there is a goodness is every heart, and it can be appealed to. Bhoodana was Yajna of non-violent revolution. Bhoodan was not an ordinary or simple event; it axed the existing order deeply; it was a demand of "yuga-purusha". The work of bhoodana gave me, Vinoba said, "the feeling that I had become the mouthpiece of the poor; that "rajchintamani" (the King of philosopher's stone) had come in my hands; that I had experienced God's love."
Bhoodana movement has been called "bhoodana Yajna" because the donation of the land is regarded similar to the "voluntary sacrificial act" or offering ablutions. It was also called as "diksha" i.e., an initiation into the life of sacrifice and social responsibility. Bhoodana was never a mere movement or charity or bhiksha(alms) or a reformist activity. It always had a revolutionary, spiritual purpose par excellence towards creating a socio- economic-political-spiritual-moral order that is marked by love, compassion, Ahimsa, equality, justice and absence of exploitation. It aimed at creating a new man. There was no place for hatred towards anyone, including those who did not donate any land.

2. The prerequisites for the success of bhoodana movement
  1. We should have a correct perspective on Nature.
  2. The ownership of land and other factors of production can be of God alone; no human being can be their owner or master.
  3. The equality is important for peace and harmony in the society.
  4. The bread labor or physical work is important in any society.
  5. The time-appropriate or temporally relevant meaning of Yajna should guide the mankind in its activities.
  6. We should adopt a correct meaning and path (marga) of revolution.
  7. The mankind badly needs an integration of science and spirituality.
  8. It is essential to work for the unity and integration among the people.
  9. The people-dependent and people-supported social service ought to spread out in all directions.
  10. The attitude of non-attachment should grow in everyone and every society with the passage of time.
  11. Walking on foot (padayatra) is the best and universal means of transport for revolution.
  12. People's language is the best medium for communication for revolution.

3. What is Gramadana?
Grama means a revenue village or a "pada" or a "tola". Gramadana does not mean gift of the village to some entity, some individual, some institution, or some organization inside or outside the village. Gramadana means the gift to or sacrifice for the village. It involves the solemn resolve or vow undertaken by the villagers, entirely by their own volition, to give their land and other wealth to the village. A gift of the village(s), for example, by the Kings to someone in appreciation of his service to the King cannot be called gramadana. The Gramadana is a fully developed or advanced (or wider and broader) vision of the Bhoodana. In bhoodana and gramadana (B-G), "dana" may not be a one-time act; it may be a continued and a repeated act, and, therefore, there is a continuous "bhagadana" (gift of a part) or "dandahara" i.e., stream of "dana". This idea of a possibility of a repeated "dana" is reflected in the term namely, "bhoodan Ganga", widely used in this context.
The first gramadana took place on May 24, 1952 in village Mangroth in Uttar Pradesh in India when all the village landlords from Mangroth attending Vinoba's meeting unanimously announced that they had decided to donate their entire land in bhoodana. This decision heralded the voluntary abolition of private ownership of property, and vesting it in the community or village as a whole.
During the years which followed the Mangroth event, the revolutionary ideas of Bhoodana-Gramadana (B-G) flowered into many related ideas and ideals such as Sampattidana (gift of wealth), Sammatidana (gift of consent), Shramadana (gift of labor), Buddhidana (gift of intellect), Prakhandadana (gift of tehsil), Zilladana (gift of district) and so on.
Gramasabha, panchayat, gramakosha, the village as one family, absence of political parties in the village, the abolition of right to private property, satyagraha, absence of the majority rule, constructive works programme are some of the important components or aspects of gramadana.
The synonyms of gramadana are: gramaswaraj, sarvodaya, ramraja, lokniti (people's politics), lokshakti (people's power or strength), loksatta (people's power), and village republics.
The aim of gramadana is equitable resources - sharing and spiritual development. The initial aim of gramadana was that there should not be anyone in the village who is landless. Its second aim was that no one in the village should have ownership-right to land individually or collectively. The land in the village belongs to everyone in the spirit of "sabai bhoomi Gopalki" (all the land belongs to Gopal or God). It would establish a non-violent revolutionary social order, build the inner strength of the people and empower the people. It is a divine vision and mission; it is not merely a programme or a movement, its goal is ascension.
Gramadana is the unique approach to revolution because it cognizes all dimensions such as religious, spiritual, moral, social, political, cultural and economic of the society. In the last analysis, it seeks to revive the teachings of Gautam Buddha. It is an alternative body of thought, and an alternative social arrangement for the daily wordly activities and business of human collectivities.
Gramadana gives great importance to the family and ownership rights. It envisages that eventually every village in the country would be transformed into one family or "gramakutumbakam" without compromising or sacrificing the spirit of universalism. Gramadana has given a greater sense of realism and practicability to the ideal of universalism by choosing the ideal "gramakutumbakam" over the ideal of "vasudhaiva kutumbakam" (i.e., the whole earth is a family). Vinoba has given the mantra of "Jai Jagat" (hail the world) while simultaneously choosing the ideal of "gramakutumbakam" over the ideal of earth-family. Therefore, gramadana is very much today's "Yugadharma" or the spirit of time. All this is very much consistent with Vinoba-enunciated advice that "think globally but act locally". This approach is promotive of the ideal of Swadeshi also.
It is worth reiterating that this enlightenment by Vinoba on universalism is the best way to reconcile the interests of the individual and those of the whole world. The idea of village-family is the middle path between atomistic. family and world-family. It may become practicable or attainable in due course.
In gramadana, nobody including the sovereign king has the right to own the land. There is no private or public ownership of land and other assets in this social order. The entire land in the village belongs to that village. As per the ancient wisdom, land is our mother and no one can own the mother. To end the private ownership of the land (and other assets) is itself a great revolution, which gramadana brings about.
Some more explanation on the issue of land ownership may not be out of place here. Whom does the land really belong to? Some people would say it belongs to the tiller. Some others would say it belongs to the whole village i.e., to all people in that village. Some would say that it belongs to God (sabai bhoomi Gopalki) in principle, but in practice, it belongs to the Gramasabha on behalf of the God, and on behalf of all the people in the village.
Gramadana also seeks to ensure that the land in any village must always remain with that village. There cannot be any buying and selling of land between a given village and any outside party. To sell the land to any outsider is regarded as disloyalty to the village (i.e., gramadroha).
The continuous thinking by Vinoba and his co-workers on B-G has resulted in modifying from time to time the conditions to be fulfilled by the villagers in order that their villages are designated or registered as "gramadani" villages. One comes across certain terms in the literature on B- G which we need to understand clearly. These terms are: Simple (saral) Gramadana, quite new (abhinava) Gramadana, attainable (sulabha) gramadana, and total (samagra) gramadana. These are not different types of gramadanas. They reflect the desire and thinking in favor of relaxing or softening the conditions so that more and more villages come in the fold of gramadani villages.
Thus, the issue of practicability has not been ignored in the gramadana model. The philosophy of gramadana has been made more and more acceptable by making the conditions of gramadana more and more easy. In "sulabha" gramadana, for example, efforts were made to balance the two opposing motivations, viz., "social responsibility" or "social commitment" (samaja prerana) on the one hand, and self-interest (swartha prerana) on the other. We may talk about "saral" or "abhinava" or "sulabha" or "samagra" gramadana, but the meaning of gramadana remains the same in all these cases. After this terminological clarification, let us elaborate on the meaning and aim of gramadana.
Gramadana is the foundation of gramaswaraj or Hind swaraj. As explained by Vinoba, gramadana means land belongs to all, it belongs to God. Just as air and water belong to God and they are for everybody, land belongs to God and it is for everybody. Gramadana means all land and all wealth in a given village belong to that village or they belong to all people in that village. To put it differently, gramadana means all the land and wealth in a village belongs to gramasabha on behalf of the God and all the people in the village. In gramadana, everybody must give to the village a part of whatever he possesses (land, skills, mental and intellectual capabilities, physical strength etc.).
Is there a difference between bhoodana and gramadana? According to Vinoba, yes, there are certain subtle differences between the two. As said earlier, gramadana is a wider and broader vision than that of bhoodana. While gramadana is an ocean, bhoodana is a river. While love and compassion inspired bhoodana, compassion and pursuit of justice or equality (samyayoga) inspired gramadana. Intelligence, splendor of knowledge, and intuition (pratibha) have been the forces in gramadana. The philosophy of bhoodana progressed in the form of total comprehensive programme of gramadana. Bhoodana was an individual "dana", while gramadana was a collective experiment for creating a new social organization or order which would serve as an alternative to current social order.
Gramadana is a "new-age harbinger" tantra. It is not going backward in history. It is a complete life-philosophy, a complete people's democracy, the newest of thought, and mighty unconquerable (Ajeya) universal thought. The gramadana movement helped to spread the message of social, economic, and moral revolutions. Gramadana showed the possibility for the first time that the rural development as envisaged by Gandhiji can be brought about. It advanced Gandhiji's idea of non-violent total revolution. Gramadana showed the possibility and practicability of non-violent world revolution; it also brought forth the total outline of non-violent social order.
Gramadana is not only compassion-induced "danadhara"; it is compassion-induced total village planning. It has tremendous peace potential. The gramadana'programme is more powerful than the atom, and it is a path for redistribution of wealth and land through love. It has been rightly claimed that gramadana is the purest of pure religious, economic, and scientific thought. It has the potential to solve all our issues and problems such as untouchability, casteism, land management, economic, social and inequalities etc. It would not be wrong to say that gramadana is an ancient as well as post-modern thought at the same time.
The gramadana programme is "trusteeship in action"; it is a practical form of trusteeship; and gramasabha is the best instrument of continuous revolution. Vinoba has made wonderful efforts to inculcate spiritual values in collective and social life through programmes such as gramadana. It has been a great experiment to "create a new man", to bring about humane revolution, and to effect progress in human qualities.
Gramadana is the best path for fulfilling the mankind's quest for democracy. It is "poorna prajatantra or lokatantra". It has presented before us a picture of future social order. Gramadana is a total revolution; it is not a revolution for any one class or value or caste or religion. This revolution would result in social order which will work on the basis of decision by all, strength of all, and interests of all. In this total revolution of all, there is no scope for war and antagonism between labor and capital. Today's villages, towns and cities are mere collectivities of residences. There is no unity, brotherhood, and village spirit (gramabhavana) among them. This picture will be altered and there will be a stateless, self-dependent village system, and party-less governing system in gramadana social order.
There is a fundamental unity among human beings, and gramadana makes use of this unity for revolutionary, social transformation.
After gramadana, what would be the political, social, economic superstructure in India? It is envisaged that for sometime to come, the present geographical, political, economic governing entities will continue till they are transformed into the gramadana mode. Ultimately, the world-structure will be such that there will be world Panchayat on the one hand and village panchayat on the other. Between these two units, there will be nations, provinces, zillas, etc. which will primarily do the coordination work; they would serve as connecting links for sometime, but ultimately they would wither away.
Ultimately, there will be only the world and the village. There may be different nations, but it will be marked by the existence of only the world and the village. All the powers related to material aspects of life will vest and rest in the village. The states, districts, etc. will be only the representatives of the village societies. The whole structure or system will thus be founded on the village. There will neither be private nor the State ownership of money, capital, wealth, property; there will be village ownership of all these. The goal of the system will be to replace the current power-politics, party politics, party representatives by the village representatives, and people's politics of service and sacrifice.
The strong centralized nation-states rule in all the countries will have to summon the necessary political will and pass suitable legislation to help the villages transform themselves from their present status to the status of "gramadani" villages. Ultimately it is the will of people which will initiate the transformation process. Both the people's will and the political will of the government will determine the success of the transformation process.
After gramadana, in Government's land records, only the names of villages will appear; the names of individuals will not appear in those records. Although the ownership of land in gramadani village will vest in gramasabha, gramasabha cannot sell the land of the village to anyone, particularly to outsiders.
The Leftists (communists, socialists) believe that every society is divided into two classes namely, "haves" and "have-nots". Gramadana roots out this notion of class division of the society. It believes that everyone in the society is a "have" or everyone in the society is a "have not" depending on how you look at the matter.
Gramadana is not a formal co-operative organization, although the value of co-operation is very much existent in it. In gramadan, every individual can cultivate his land separately or independently, while in co-operative farming the farming takes place or is done collectively in a group. There is also a danger of bureaucratic interference, corruption, apathy, red tapism, inflexibility in co-operative farming, while such ills are absent in gramadana because there are only "sevaks" and not bureaucrats or masters in gramadana.
How does gramadana deal with issues such as absentee landlords and hereditary rights of people? The landlords staying outside village will have to surrender their whole land to the gramasabha. Since the final goal of gramadana is to establish gramaswaraj, this goal cannot be achieved if part of the land in a village is owned by the landlords staying outside the village.
The land which remains with the farmers after they have given a part of their land in gramadana will not be owned by those farmers, but they will have the right to cultivate that land, and to pass on that land to their heirs for the purpose of tilling. In case of any dispute on this matter, the decision of the gramasabha will be final.

4. The Process and Conditions of Gramadana
When is a given village said to be a gramadani village? When does a village get designated or registered as a gramadani village?
At the outset it should be noted that a given village becomes a gramadani village only at its sweet will; no one (no government, no other body) can force any one village to participate in gramadana. It is entirely a voluntary act. Subject to this, any given village comes to be called a gramadani village when it satisfies or meets certain conditions formulated by the state governments and the Sarva Seva Sangh. The State Governments have passed the Gramadana Act and the village which fulfills the provisions of this Act, becomes a gramadani village legally also. For making gramadana, the villagers of a given village have to fill the Declaration Form as per the legal provisions of the Gramadana Act. These forms have to be submitted to the revenue officer who needs to scrutinize them, and accept or reject them after the scrutiny. The villages whose forms are accepted and approved are declared as gramadani villages.
The process or steps involved in this connection are given below. There is nothing rigid about these conditions. There are some regional (state) variations in them.
  1. The landlords or owners of land in a village would declare to the collector in writing that at least 60 percent of the land privately owned by them in that village would be donated by them to the village. They would do so through a gift document and by their free will and without taking or expecting any compensation whatsoever.
  2. The number of land owners whose gift documents (danpatras) are approved should be at least 75 percent of land owners living in that village.
  3. The number of adult landless who have accepted to be members of gramadana society (gramadana samaj) should be at least 75 percent of the total population in the village.
  4. When the collector calls a meeting for declaring a given village as gramadani village, at least 51 percent of the adult population of the village must be present in that meeting, and at least 51 percent of those present in the meeting should vote in the favor of gramadana. If and when these 4 conditions are fulfilled, the collector would announce through gazette that the said village had become a gramadani village.
  5. The villagers will surrender to the village all their ownership rights.
  6. They will give (donate) one-twentieth part of their cultivable land to the landless in that village.
  7. After donating the land to the landless, the land owners may keep the remaining land with themselves for cultivation; and they may be entitled to the income from that land generation after generation.
  8. The villagers every year will have to give one-fortieth part (or the part decided by gramasabha) of their annual income to the gramanidhi or gramakosh of the village for public purposes.
  9. The villagers will form a gramasabha of one adult from each family in the village, which will monitor the work of gramamandal or panchayat samiti.
  10. Gramasabha will perform all work in the village unanimously or by consensus.

5. Gramadana Organizations
In revolution through gramadana, three institutions namely, Gramasabha, Gramasamiti or Sevaksamiti, and Gramakosh or Gramanidhi play an important role. Here, it is essential to make some terminological clarification. Gandhiji has referred to gramaswaraj as panchayat raj. But this Gandhian panchayat raj is different from the state panchayat raj. And yet, many people tend to use Gandhian panchayat raj and the state panchayat raj synonymously. The mixing up of the two panchayat raj has enabled the authorities to make claims for the state panchayat raj which really belong to the Gandhian panchayat raj. The similarity of terminology to describe two diverse ideas or concepts has enabled the government to hijack the terminology and there is a need is guard against such misuse.
Similarly, there is a gramasabha in both government panchayat raj and Gandhian panchayat raj but, the nature, scope and authority of these two gramasabhas are quite different from each other. The same is true of gramapanchayat and panchayat samiti also. It is apprehended that the word gramadana or gramaswaraj may help to establish stateless ideal sarvodaya raj only for the villages. If so, what would happen to towns and cities? In order to avoid such a dilemma, it is suggested that we should use terms like lokswaraj or nagarswaraj instead of gramaswaraj. In our view, in a country that is overwhelmingly agricultural and rural, gramaswaraj can be continued to be used as the apt term. There need to be revolutionary changes in mind, heart, thinking, life-styles, etc. in urban areas also.
Gramadana's gramasabha would be constituted by all the people in the village who are 21 years old or older. Sometimes it is said that all adults in the village will be the members of gramasabha. Specification of age would be a better option.
Gramasabha would be the "gramamata" or "gramadurga", and its strength will be derived from the strength of each individual in a village. Gramasabha will deal with the government and other institutions on behalf of the villages.
- Another important organization in gramaswaraj would be "gramasamiti" or "sevak samiti" or "grama mandal". Every year, a panchayat (i.e., i gramasamiti) consisting of about 5 to 8 persons will be selected unanimously by the gramasabha for running the day-to-day administration, planning and policy of the village. The gramasamiti will enact laws, dispense justice, and manage the village affairs unanimously, but it would not have the right or authority to punish anyone. Similarly, the gramasamiti will not have any i right or authority to own anything belonging to the village.
The third important organization in gramaswaraj is the "gramakosha" or "gramanidhi". This fund will be built up out of the gifts or donations or danas of 40th part of everybody's yearly income. This fund will be utilized for the development and welfare requirements of the village. This contribution to gramakosh is not a tax, it is a "dana", and if someone does not pay this contribution, the gramasabha cannot punish him because gramasabha does not have punitive powers. But such a situation can be handled by resorting to satyagraha by the villagers.

6. A Brief Sketch of Gramadani Social Order
Before turning to discussion of gramdani performance, let us briefly discuss the main features of gramadani social order, as in the words of Mahatma Gandhiji and Vinobaji.
The elimination of the right to own private property is the foundation of gramaswaraj or gramadana. It will have the walls of village industries, and the windows of Nai Talim (or basic education). The village would be the basic unit for thinking, policy-making and planning in gramaswaraj. The primacy for the village and the people is the sine qua non of gramaswaraj. There will be a sovereign government in each village in this social order, or there will be a republic or kingdom in each village; all the powers will vest in the hands of the village. The provincial governments will not exercise authority or power over the villages; they will only create and maintain cordial relations among the villages, if needed. Gramapanchayats will form zilla panchayats which will form provincial panchayats, which is trun will form the national panchayat. These will be a federation of villages. Every village will function as per its own intelligence, and the governments at higher echelons will provide only advice or consultation to the villages. The gramasabha at the village level will have the right to elect representatives for the provinces.
The power and the level of government will be inversely related to each other: the higher the level of government, the lesser will be its powers. Every village will be a powerful and free republic; it will also be independent vis-a-vis other villages. Such a sarvodaya samaj will not be organized like a pyramid, it will be organized like a oceanic circle. The individual will be at the center of such a circle, who will be ever-ready or ever-willing to make sacrifices for the villages. In such a society, there will be an improvement in the quality of the individual (Gun-vikas). The outer or bigger circles will never try to destroy inner circles; in fact, they will strengthen the inner circles, and while doing so, they themselves will become progressively stronger.
The priorities of such a samaj or republic will be (in a descending order) to increase the output of food grains (Annam Bahu kurvit), to increase the production of cotton, to maintain grazing grounds for cows and other animals, to maintain sports grounds, to grow commercial crops, etc.
There will be compulsory education through Nai Talim. Ahimsa, Satyagraha and non-cooperation will constitute the support system. Rearing livestock and increasing milk output would be given high priority. In other words, the efforts will be made to ensure that the rivers of milk, curd, etc. will start flowing once again in this blessed land. The society would also take all steps to protect and maintain the quality of land. There would hardly be any need for complex judicial system, huge police department, and vast army in such a society.
Agriculture would continue to be the main economic activity in India during the gramaswarajya. Khadi and gramodyoga will become an inseparable part of economic activity. The village government will regulate the role and size of modern industry, business, commerce, and trade, and it will actively encourage the development of village, cottage, tiny, small-scale industries. The villages will prepare their own plans, and they will regulate imports and exports. Today, the land has become fragmented and inequitably distributed.
In gramadani ideal social order, everyone, irrespective of his or her status, position, and riches, will do work on farms at least for a few hours daily. Everyone would be in touch with nature. There will be withering away of the cities over a period of time and every village will become a family, every village will become a "gokul".
Gramadana is visualized to eliminate the global crisis of survival. It would help to transform our endangered, dying, modern civilization into a civilization of permanence. Gramadana will improve social, political, economic, cultural, moral, and spiritual development of the villages.
According to Vinoba, every village will be transformed into one family. The end of the right to private property also would help to increase the wealth and economic freedom of the villages. It will also stop the internal as well as external drain of resources from the villages to the urban and metropolitan centers. It will also enable the villagers to determine the prices of their produce in the villages. All such changes will increase production, prosperity, and wealth in the villages.
The justice pertaining to all matters concerning the villages will be done in the villages itself. All the necessities and vital goods will be produced in the villages themselves. All the villages will follow the ideals of swadeshi, self-sufficiency, and self-reliance. The importance of money will go down drastically; there will be a significant increase in barter exchange.
Gramadana will result in a true economic, political, social, cultural freedom for all the people. The increase in love among the people will resolve conflicts such as majority-minority, rich-poor, high caste-low caste. The culture of peace will be established in villages in due course.
Gramadana will promote face-to-face, direct, partyless democracy through economic, political, administrative and technological decentralization. Gramadana will establish self-sufficient, self-reliant, self- dependent, self-governing "sarvodaya village republics". The gramadana will revive and redevelop "grama sanskriti" (i.e., village culture). In such a civilization, every village will be a "grama swaraj mandir".
The major features of the ideal gramadani social order can be stated in summary as follows:
  1. The villages will become economically free, and the material life of these villages will improve.
  2. There will be an increase in love among the people, and, as a result, they would become "aanandi".
  3. The people will increasingly become free from attachment.
  4. The village or a group of villages or a comity of villages will become self-sufficient, self-reliant or self-dependent. Self-dependence is the prerequisite of freedom.
  5. The village means of production and the village wealth will be under the control of the village.
  6. It will be the responsibility of the village to meet or fulfill all the educational and cultural needs of the village.
  7. The villagers will enjoy individual liberty or freedom and equality. There will not be casteism, and everyone will get equal opportunity in all spheres.
  8. The security or protection of the village will be the responsibility of the whole village; there will not be a separate or special "varna" (such as Kshatriya varna in the past) for this purpose.
  9. The disputes in the village will be resolved or settled by using the means of Ahimsa and satyagraha.

7. Progress and Performance of Bhoodana and Gramadana
As said earlier, Bhoodan-Gramadan movements were launched in 1951 and 1952, respectively. They had short-term, long-term, qualitative and quantitative aims which have been discussed so far in this paper. There have been differences of opinion as to whether B-G movements have succeeded or not.
A serious difficulty in the way of arriving at any firm conclusion in this context is the non-availability of reliable data. Some information on this matter that is available to us is presented below in Table 1. It tells us about (a) the number of acres of land donated by the people in bhoodana. (b) the number of acres of land distributed to the landless through bhoodana. (c) The number of donors of land, (d) The number of gramadani villages, (e) The number of gramadanas that are registered with authorities, (f) The state- wise distribution of the information on bhoodana and gramadana. The information pertains to the period of 1951-1984. The total bhoodana of about 53 lakh acres took place between 1951 and 1984. A part of this donated land was disputed land, another part was taken back by the donors, and still another part of donated land was non-cultivable or barren land. If we deduct such "useless" land of 11 lakh acres from the total donated land, we still have to accept that bhoodan resulted in the donation of 42 lakh acres of good, cultivated and undisputed land. About 25 lakh acres of this (42 lakh acres) land has been actually distributed to the landless people in India through bhoodan. In comparison with this achievement, the Land Ceiling Acts in different states could make only 9.93 lakh acres of land available for redistribution, of which mere 7.5 lakh acres of land was actually distributed to the landless people in India. Table 1 also shows that about 5.83 lakh people received land through the bhoodana movement.
One of the aims of the bhoodan was that there should not be any one landless person in India. If this was to materialize, it was estimated that about five crore acres of land should* become available for redistribution. Thus, bhoodana was able to redistribute only 0.25 crore acres of land as compared to the required 5.0 crore acres of land. To put it differently, bhoodana obtained only 10 percent (50 lakh acres) of required land for redistribution, and actually redistributed only 5 percent (25 lakh acres) of the required land.
Similarly, Table 1 shows that 38464 villages declared gramadana, of which only 3103 gramadanas were registered with the government. If we assume that there were about 6 lakh villages in India around 1985, only 6.33 percent of these villages had become gramadani villages by 1984.
Thus, did bhoodana-gramadana movement succeed or fail? The answer to this question would depend on which part of the proverbial glass we look at. On the face of it, B-G movements have failed to achieve both the long- term and short-term goals. They have failed in solving the land problem; they could redistribute only a very limited acreage of land when compared to the total size of the land in the country, and compared to the acreage of land required to achieve zero landlessness in the country. It is a matter of little comfort that the extent of land redistribution through B-G was much greater than what was achieved through legal approach. The persistence of violence perpetrated by the so called revolutionaries, and its spread in many areas or states also indicates the failure of these movements.
But this perhaps is a harsh judgment. The enthusiasm exhibited by the vast population, the willingness of lakhs of people to part with land voluntarily (though in small measure) do show the huge possibilities and potential of what can be achieved through peaceful means. Bhoodana-Gramadana movements have not failed; they have remained incomplete, and they ought to be completed. If there appears to be a failure, it is of the movements and not of the thought, ideals, and philosophy.
In this context, some scholars and social workers have argued that the success or failure of a new revolutionary thought such as bhoodana and gramadana must be assessed by applying certain qualitative standards, and if we do so, we will have to come to the conclusion that B-G movements have been successful. These standards are: (a) whether the mankind got a new or elevated or generous aim or goal through such a thought? (b) whether the mankind got a path to reach that goal? (c) whether that path progressively became more and m6re easy and commendable? (d) whether the aim came near at least to some extent? Since we get a positive answer to these questions in the case of B-G, it has to be clearly and undoubtedly adjudged to have been successful. Although we do not have any qualms in following this way of thinking, we cannot, at the same time, ignore the fact that the impact of B-G lasted only for a short time, perhaps till 1965, after which it fizzled out. Similarly, the success need not be confined to the qualitative standards, it must be seen concretely in the form of a change in behavior, change in values, change of heart, and suitable change of economic, political, social, cultural institutions and systems. Just as the success (or failure) of the new model should not be judged only in quantitative measures, it similarly cannot be judged only in terms of certain abstract standards. Sooner or later tangible standards should become a part of repertoire of assessment standards.
Table 1: The State of Bhoodana Gramadana in 1984: (Land in acres)
State Land
Number of
Number of
Gramadana Received
Number of
Gramadana Registered
Andhra Pradesh 195,510 99,530 32,312 4181 1
Assam 877 877 851 2200 285
Orissa 1353,440 778,238 - - 1309
Karnataka 20,000 8000 - - -
Kerala - - - - -
Gujarat 103,530 50,984 10,270 1119 -
Jammu-Kashmir 121 121 - - -
Tamilnadu 24,375 22837 16,000 1962 243
Punjab 5138 1026 233 - -
Haryana 2074 2043 553 - -
Bihar 2117,756 590,496 433,754 2581 1046
West Bengal 16000 9000 - - -
Himachal 4000 2400 - - -
Madhya Pradesh 410,151 238,629 59,805 - -
Maharashtra 110,000 79,990 15,546 500 19
Rajasthan 546,965 142,699 14,124 195 195
Uttar Pradesh 436,054 417,621 - 25,726 5
Total 5346,021 24,44,491 5,83,448 38,464 3103
Source: Samyayoga Sadhana, 16 April, 2001.

8. Gramadana vs. Panchayat Raj
Gandhiji termed gramaswaraj as panchayat raj (PR). As a result we have two notions of panchayat rajs in India; one "Gandhian Panchayat raj" (GPR) and two, Panchayat Raj introduced by the Government or the State around the year 1958 for democratic decentralization, which can be called "Government or State Panchayat Raj" (SPR).
The authorities have been on implementing the SPR claiming that they are following the Gandhian path of gramaswaraj. There is a vast difference between these two PRs. In Vinoba's opinion, they are different from each other. The politicians do not part with the power; there is no genuine political will to decentralize power, and yet they are pretending that they are working for empowerment of the people through implementing SPR. This section shows how the "State Panchayat Raj" (SPR) is different from the "Gandhian Panchayat Raj" (GPR) and how the former does not have the potential to revolutionize the present system in the country.
The SPR was meant to bring about democratic decentralization; it has brought about only the deconcentration, delegation, and devolution. At present, the administrative, political, and economic power is concentrated in the hands of the Central Government. Some small parts of this power have been deconcentrated in the hands of the SPR. The SPR has not helped to decentralize the Center's and the State's power. The SPR is a "decentralized plan for exploitation". Since present panchayats are characterized by jealousy, power-seeking, lack of love and compassion, the consequences of their existence and working have been to make body-politics of India thoroughly sick. The panchayats have become the centers of conflicts.
Further, SPR functions with the "rule of majority". It is afflicted by party-politics, election-politics, vote bank-politic; and is incapable of preserving individuality of each village. The Government PR institutions are the "institutions of power" and not the "institutions of services". Therefore, they have not been able to arouse the "people's power".
The SPR set-up has created "welfare villages" and it has promoted the "culture of theyism" i.e., the attitude or the mind-set that the authorities would do everything for the people. In such a welfare state, people are made dependent on the governments and expectant of the share in largesse, compromising their self-respect, self-esteem, and self-dignity. Gramadana on the other hand, frowns on the welfare schemes of the welfare state; it teaches the public the virtues and values of self-sufficiency, self-reliance, etc. Gramadana would end the welfare state, welfare villages, welfare schemes, and welfare programmes.
The nature and features of gramadana and government PR are very much different from each other. The institutions which are being referred to here are: gramasabhas of the two models, gramapanchayat of the government PR, and panchayat samiti of the gramadana. The existence of gramapanchayat does not require that the village should have done gramadana. The number of members of a gramapanchayat is limited; it depends on the population of the village; it can vary from 10 to 30.
The members of gramapanchayat can be (are) members of political parties, and they are elected through periodic elections. The decisions of gramapanchayat and gramasabha of government PR are taken on the basis of majority principle, while those of gramasabha and gramadana are taken unanimously or on the basis of consent of all members.
The formation of gramapanchayat is based on population; generally, the population of 2000 to 5000 makes one unit for gramapanchayat. It means that gramapanchayat is not a natural unit; it is an artificial unit carved for the purpose of administrative convenience. The quorum for the meeting of gramasabha of SPR is mostly kept at a low level. For example, in Maharashtra state, the quorum has been kept at 15 percent or more of the total number of members of gramasabha. It has also been prescribed that the gramasabha should meet at least twice in a year, which again is quite low frequency. It is laid down that gramasabha can discuss only less important issues, and it can give only some suggestions to the gramapanchayat which has the power to accept or reject those suggestions.
In short, the gramasabha of the SPR is a powerless and meaningless institution. It is an artificial entity which has been conceived by the centralized state. On the other hand, the gramasabha of gramadana is a natural, self- born, and sovereign institution. It takes decisions unanimously or by consent. It is not bom of state laws. Between gramasabha and panchayat, while panchayat is more powerful than gramasabha in SPR, it is gramasabha which is more powerful than panchayat in GPR.
In SPR, the people have no decision-making power. While the birth of gramadana is from the womb of collective decision of the people in the village, which is subsequently approved by the Government, the birth of SPR is from the womb of state decision which is then approved by the people only technically. Gramadana works on the basis of strength, consent, authority, and co-operation of the people. The SPR is merely an extension of the representative parliamentary democracy, and since the latter also is a type of the state, SPR is also a part of the State. The people are supreme in GPR while parliament is supreme in SPR.
SPR has helped to disintegrate villages or rural areas; its working has led to the penetration of the power of the state to the innermost parts of the hinterland. The elected representatives in the SPR have become the instruments and agents of the State for exploitation of local areas. In other words, the SPR system has tended to increase the exploitation and State intervention. Gramadana would reduce the exploitation and State intervention.
The SPR is a part of the modern Nation-State and the modern industrial civilization which Gandhiji has aptly called satanic civilization. Gandhiji has also said that SPR is the progeny of modern western civilization, and it is unlndian. Gramadana is an alternative to modern civilization and its aim is to wither away the Nation-State.
The manner and process of introducing SPR in India reveals how it is a state-engendered and not people-engendered system. The failure to even mention villages in the Draft Constitution, taking their cognizance subsequently but only in the Directive Principles and not the main body of the Indian Constitution, giving states powers to create PR institutions, making the State governments responsible for passing necessary PR laws, the empowerment of the State governments to supersede, abolish, intervene, and interfere with them, show that SPR system is not born from the womb of people's will, it has been installed or thrust upon the people by the government, and people's approval has been taken only technically. The SPR institutions in India are not independent, powerful institutions. They have come into existence as a result of delegation and devolution of powers and resources by the Central and State Government in India. These institutions function at the will of politicians and bureaucrats. Across the states, PR institutions have not done much important, meaningful development work. This is contrary to the ideal of gramaswaraj.
After introducing SPR, only the big landowners, wealthy and powerful, get elected; inequalities and all power games continue to persist; and greater concentration of economic and political power in the hands of those who are already rich and powerful is taking place. On the other hand, it is worth noting that gramadana is against not only authoritarian systems but also it is a social order which is beyond the current type of representative parliamentary democracy. Decentralized modern democracy is not the aim of sarvodaya; it is the aim of government PR. The aim of sarvodaya is face-to-face, direct, participatory people's democracy.

9. Summary and Conclusions
In this paper, we have studied the meaning, nature, philosophy, and merits of Bhoodana-Gramadana. Gramadana is one of the names of Sarvodaya and it is a body of thought on a ci vilizational paradigm which is an alternative to the modern industrial civilization. It has been rightly pointed out by some scholars that the problem which India is facing today is essentially the problem of development of 6 to 7 lakh villages. Gramadana is the best solution to successfiilly deal with this problem. In gramadani civilization, the village would be the basic, natural unit which would get the primacy in everything. Each village would be a family and the interrelationship among the people would be founded upon truth, love, ahimsa, compassion and so on. Similarly, there would not be a right to private individual ownership of land and other wealth. The gramadana paradigm goes beyond paradigms such as the State, the Market, Marxism, Socialism, and even the decentralized modern democracy. Gramadana would spread the message of harmony and upliftment of all.
We have to work now towards rebuilding India so that we again have a free nation with free villages. We need to work now towards creating self- sufficient, self-reliant, self-dependent, and self-governing village republics and the federation of those village republics. The sincere, serious, whole­hearted implementation of gramadana philosophy is the best way to achieve this very desirable goal. The government embraced Central Planning, Community Development Programme, Panchayat Raj, co-operativism, and capitalism. The adverse consequences of this are galore and have several negative effects.
Gramadana is yet to begin in India. Gramadana has so far been a non- starter in India, but it must be completed sooner than later. Gramadana, must succeed for our own benefit.

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Source: Anasakti Darshan, July 2011-June 2012