At Agri Restore Foundation, we firmly believe that the multiple socio-economic and socio-political crises of the 21st century plaguing mankind, earth and every other living being in it cannot be addressed without radical departures from the prevailing understanding of ‘economy’, which is heavily driven by GDP and other similar measures of growth and development, which by definition alienate nature and its’ resources, quality of life of mankind and terms them as mere ‘externalities’. A clarion call for a renewed localization, sustainable economics and sustainable development is what we believe to be an alternative to the current status quo of things.
Hence, ‘Localization’, ‘Economics of Permanence’ ‘Gandhian Economics’, and ‘Panchayati Raj systems’ serve as central to the philosophy of Agri restore Foundation’s mission.
‘Localization is said to be a process of economic decentralization that enables communities, regions and nations to take more control over their own affairs. It does not mean encouraging every community to be entirely self-reliant; it simply means shortening the distance between producers and consumers wherever possible, and striking a healthier balance between local markets and a monopoly-dominated global market’
– Local Futures
Localizing economies can strengthen community cohesion, build strong democracies and lead to greater human health and material wellbeing, all the while reducing pollution and degradation of the natural world. Seventy per cent of India’s rural population is said to reside in its’ 645,856 villages. What is alarming is that more than 70 percent of India’s poor are also said to live in our villages.
Given the havoc in recent years caused by unsustainable economic models, influx of globalization principles and our neglect of rural areas that have threatened local economies and have led to a disproportionate wealth distribution. We, at Agri restore, strongly believe that rural economics need to be strengthened to give birth to an era of localization and sustainable holistic development, that revolves around ideals of self-sustenance which will redistribute well-being and wealth in a more harmonious manner at the national level.
J.C. Kumarappa in his book ‘Economy of Permanence’ says that,
“Nature enlists and ensures the co-operation of all its units, each working for itself and in the process helping other units to get along their own too -- the mobile helping the immobile, and the sentient the insentient. Thus, all nature is dovetailed together in a common cause. Nothing exists for itself. When this works out harmoniously and violence does not break the chain, we have an economy of permanence.”
We hope that sustainable economics focused on a renewed strengthening of local resources will lead to an economy of permanence with self-sustenance and localization at its’ core. This very self-sustaining economics of permanence, in turn, is what we believe will result in nation-wide economic vibrancy and strength. Hence the key to neutralising most of the crises today in India and the world lies in proposing localization as a systemic solution.
Gandhian Economic Model also had Localization and its’ ideals as one of its’ cornerstones. Gandhi claimed that “True economics stands for social justice; it promotes the good of all including the weakest and is indispensable for decent life”.
Gandhian economics boils down to a simple injunction in that “never advocate actions or policies that lead to material advancement at the cost of social, moral or spiritual impoverishment”.
Gandhi had a strong opinion that the key to a country's progress lay in the strengthening of the decentralized, self-sufficient village economies. India lives in her villages and hence the village economy must be revived. In order to create village swaraj, he suggested that Khadi and village industries must be established.
He wanted people to consume locally produced goods and particularly village industry produced goods instead of imported or factory goods. This movement of localization was what was called as – ‘Swadeshi Movement’.
He said, “I refuse to buy from anybody anything however nice or beautiful if it interferes with my growth or injures those whom nature has made my first care”. He pointed out that “Swadeshi is that spirit in them which required them to serve their immediate neighbors before others and to use things produced in their neighborhoods in preference to those more remote. In doing so, they served humanity to the best of their capacity.” Gandhi also went ahead and paraphrased John Ruskin’s book ‘Unto This Last’ into Gujarati with the title ‘Sarvodaya’. In the economic context, ‘Sarvodaya’ meant the ‘economic welfare of all’. Literally, Sarvodaya means the rise of all human beings. The Gandhian Economic model is proposed by scholars as a partnership model, one that believes in inclusion and development with dignity where everyone is treated as equals and where everyone benefits.
In line with Gandhian thought, India has a remarkable achievement of continuing Panchayati Raj System, which is an integral part of its culture and civilization. The 73rd amendment of the Constitution of India provided the constitutional status and institutional framework to Panchayats to strengthen grassroots level democracy through elected self-governing local bodies in the rural areas of the country. The Constitutional amendment also emphasized functional and fiscal decentralization of powers to achieve good governance through people’s participation and thus enabling transparency, responsiveness, equity, efficiency and accountability.
The Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution of India contains the following subjects in which many of them are for developing the local economy and hence role of Panchayats are highly critical in building the local economy.
Article 243G of the Constitution of India even mandates the Gram Panchayats (GPs) to prepare and implement Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) for economic development and social justice by converging/ integrating all such programs of the Panchayat, State and Centre within their geographical area. Further, as local governments, GPs are responsible for the delivery of basic services to local citizens and address vulnerabilities of poor and marginalized sections of the population. This can only be achieved through implementation of well thought out plans through efficient and responsible utilization of resources available at the disposal of the GPs and by expanding the resources to meet their priorities. We, at Agri restore, believe that all plans made centrally should be adapted to and followed at the grass root level to ensure permeation of stipulated growth till the last mile. As a country, it also becomes highly imperative to work on Panchayat level planning and handholding to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, listed by the United Nations.
Local governments are at the core of democratic development around the world and it is the everyday work carried out by villages, towns, cities, municipalities and regions that create change that is fundamental for equitable, inclusive and sustainable global development. Since we live in a time when global phenomena such as climate change, urbanization, migration and unemployment have repercussions in people's everyday lives, functional local, democratic institutions are more important now than ever before.