Movements for Improving Internal Strengths, Integrity and Resilience of Rural Communities

landless farmers

Social movements in the context of rural areas have generally been discussed at two levels. Both involve a plea for  justice, or a reduction or removal of perceived injustices. Both are highly relevant. Firstly, there are movements  which relate to perceived injustices of an external agency. The external agency may be the government or a private party, or a collusion of both. Secondly, there are movements against some perceived exploiter within the rural community. For example  farm workers may protest against big landowner farmers or landlords for not paying proper wages, or small farmers may protest against private moneylenders for their exploitative practices, or for  trying to grab their land.

However there is a third kind of movement which has a great potential but has not received the kind of attention that it deserves. This relates to  overall strengthening and reform  of the rural community with the perspective of reducing distress at all levels and improving mutual cooperation so that overall the community becomes stronger, more equal and just, more united and harmonious, more democratic, more capable of handling decentralization, more willing and capable of promoting potential and talents of all members, more inclusive ad pluralistic, more confidant, more capable of protecting interests of its members, more healthy and protective of environment and sustainability, more compassionate towards humanity in distress as well as other forms of life. These efforts give more space also to non-confrontational ways of making improvements with much greater continuity of efforts ( in fact such a movement is always on-going to a lesser or greater extent!), although some confrontation will always be there with those who are big exploiters and collude with big exploitative forces.

Such movements with a comprehensive approach related to present needs and priorities are rare but many sporadic efforts with a partial agenda can be seen at several places. Even the smaller efforts should be encouraged and helped to adopt a more comprehensive approach with greater continuity.

A more comprehensive approach would include the following—

  1. Ending discrimination at all levels, such as caste, religion and gender.
  2. Taking steps to end all domestic violence and violence against women.
  3. Minimizing consumption of liquor, drugs and all intoxicants.
  4. Trying to resolve all village-level disputes within the village in just ways.
  5. Getting united in such ways that no bribes have to be paid by villagers.
  6. Getting united to stop all corruption in development and welfare schemes.
  7. Increasing cooperation for greening the village, soil/water conservation.
  8. Increasing cooperation for ending/reducing poverty and hunger in village.
  9. Increasing cooperation for a protective attitude towards all forms of life.
  10. Promoting diverse livelihoods in villages by mutual help and cooperation.
  11. Increasing efforts for reducing external inputs of farming, reducing costs.
  12. Cooperation for reviving crafts and artisan work, food processing, folk-arts.
  13. Improving , strengthening panchayati raj or decentralization.
  14. Cooperation with neighboring villages for matters of common interest.
  15. More cooperation for protection from disasters, drought-proofing.

Of course others can add to this but this gives a rough idea of the kind of efforts and priorities that are involved here.

Such efforts can also extent to urban communities but scope in rural areas may be more.

Apart from being very useful at community level, such efforts also help to create a  good base for the success of wider initiatives of justice, peace, democracy and environment protection.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author who has been close to several social movements and initiatives. His recent books include Man Over Machine ( Gandhian ideas for our times ) and Earth Without Borders.



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