Lokayat demonstrates local ingenuity that can bring about a global change

By Devinder Sharma

People’s participation is a catch phrase that every donor, NGO and civil society group uses. In fact, we have become so used to the usual NGO way of ‘people’s participation‘ that I think the word has lost its true meaning. I wasn’t therefore expecting anything different when I went last week to address a conference on education at Pune, organised jointly by Lokayat and the Pune University Teachers Association (PUTA).
Arriving a day earlier, I spent some time speaking at a management school, and then went to talk to the Lokayat members. It is here that I met a group of youngsters, all volunteers, who changed my perception of what constitutes people’s participation. I had forgotten if people’s participation could ever be without donor’s financial support, and outside the reach of a project. I am not talking of people’s movements like the continuing struggle against displacements in the Narmada valley and the likes, but when enterprising young people come together to create awareness about the inequalities that are being perpetuated.
They meet every Sunday at 4 pm. They sit through the evening discussing various crucial local, national and international issues, often till 7 or 8 pm. They thrash out the issues, plan strategies, take responsibilities, and plan activities to reach the people in the street. Someone makes posters, someone writes the pamphlets, others get involved with printing. They all walk to a busy street corner one planned day, and stand with the posters. People walk by, some stand and take a look. They get involved in talking, and more often than not, a new member joins in.