The Spectator


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Comment on Village idiots by Amrit Dhillon (26/10/2002)

Amrit Dhillon's article on the village panchayat paints a very horrifying picture of grass roots democracy in India. Indeed, by his account, it looks no better than a macabre and cruel parody of what those who framed the constitution had in mind when they thought about introducing this traditional Indian form of village-level government. I think Dillon is quite right to suggest that where there is ignorance and illiteracy, there can be no real democracy.

Nevertheless, in the way Dillon piles up the horrors, he seems to let his investigative zeal get the better of his journalistic balance. Surely, those running the panchayats are not ALL a bunch of ignorant and cruel bigots; and, though not a pastoral idyll, village India is surely neither some grotesque scene from a Hieronymus Bosch nightmare.

Abuse of a good system will happen even in the most