The RSS Shakha itself is being modernised in these pandemic times. From a May 2020 story in the Economic Times:
“We have shakhas in various parts of the region which operated from playgrounds and open spaces where volunteers used to gather on a daily or weekly basis. After the lockdown was enforced, we began audio conferences around April 1,” [Sangh’s regional functionary Madhukar] Jadhav said.
Later, video conferences were also started by shakhas as per the availability of internet and other facilities there, he said…”Now, activities have changed a bit as meetings are not being held on playgrounds. Sitting exercises are practised, and lectures and discussions are held more,” he said.
ThePrint had an April 2020 story headlined “Online shakhas, free ebooks, an app contest: RSS makes big web push amid lockdown.”
As we all know and sense, the challenges India faces going forward in the aftermath of Covid are immense. Government actions have been limited and inadequate. Economic difficulties are on the rise for many in a shrinking pie. Could a new generation of shakhas help foster the creation of local political entrepreneurs who could lay the foundation for a new freedom movement in India?
An idea which came back to me was of Neighbourhood Action Committees, which I had written about in 2010.
These will be apolitical and based on volunteering. They will focus on making the neighbourhood better across the country, especially in urban India. This means ensuring delivery of local services, working to solve local problems, creating citizen activism. This idea came up because the weakest link in the governance chain in India is the delivery of local services. The neighbourhood is where we all live and where we also have the greatest angst and frustrations.
What we need to create a society which starts to think and solve its own problems at the local level. Governance is weak in India, and to strengthen it needs work at the lowest level. We need to show people how to self-organise, how to create proposals, conduct meetings, debate issues and arrive at decisions, and finally get action done.
People should be able to help out in the NACs with as little as an hour or two a week. They can use the Web and mobile to help inform, educate and organise.
To bring about change in India, it would need a bottom-up movement. What would these Neighbourhood Action Committees – combined with the shakha idea – look like in the 2020s? How could a new construct help build India’s missing social infrastructure? What would motivate political entrepreneurs to create McDonald’s-like franchises across India?
Tomorrow: Part 7