News to Cheer You Up

Something to cheer one up on a cold cloudy day. Violence and threats bring a government to its knees:
Through the second half of October and for most of November this year, Rajasthan was engulfed in an unusual form of protest, spearheaded in the main by gram panchayat officials. Joined in some places by elected MLAs and MPs, and backed covertly by a section of District Collectors, the panchayat staff held meetings, sat in dharna, issued threats, and when these did not suffice, blocked highways, to get a single point across. They would not tolerate civil society participation in social audit of works done under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).

The protestors filed cases in two courts and obtained stay orders against the inclusion of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and social activists in future social audit exercises. It would have been easy enough for the Ashok Gehlot Government to convince the courts that civil society participation brought credibility to the audit exercise. Not only did the government not do that, it went a step further and called off the audits it had announced for one panchayat each in 32 of the State’s 33 districts.

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