Swaraj by Arvind Kejriwal – A Review
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ended up reading a Hindi book after many years, ‘कथेतर’ (non-fiction, new word learnt!) on that.
I haven’t followed Kejriwal’s or Anna’s movement from the beginning. I first gave serious attention when AAP managed to win a substantial number of seats in Delhi last December. Since then, I have come to admire Kejriwal’s clarity of thought, his ideas and his mission, all of which can be ascertained in any of his recent interviews or QA’s with audience where neither the interviewer nor the public leave any stone unturned to grill him.
In a couple of months since then, I realized, he and his team have managed to gather a good amount of support at least among the young educated middle class. But I could not imagine how his ideas appeal to the larger population of the country. I decided to find out by diving further.
This book lets one understand what Kejriwal means when he uses words like Swaraj or when he says if we let the current status quo maintain, “ये देश नहीं बचेगा” (the country won’t survive).
Most of us reading this review can’t claim to fathom the problems faced by people at the lowest level of social hierarchy. The author describes those problems, how they came to be in the present system and how things can radically change. Both the problems and their suggested solutions are backed by facts, examples (from other democracies) and experiments demonstrating years of research.
We have all heard that definition of democracy by Abraham Lincoln – “government of the people, by the people, for the people” – but probably never gave a thought about how that could work out in reality. By real life examples, author manages to convince how participatory democracy at the grass root level could be a solution to many of the country’s basic problems, how empowered people are responsible people.
You read the book with a critical eye and tend to raise doubts or find flaws in the presented ideas but don’t get too surprised when you get all your answers before you reach the last chapter. Just to cite one (spoilers ahead), I was skeptic when most of the book talked about gram sabhas and not how the idea of Swaraj would play in big cities. Come the last but one chapter, and I learn why – our constitution recognizes gram sabhas but doesn’t talk about any such general meetings at city level, but experiments done at Delhi in the form of muhalla sabhas illustrate how effective these meetings could be.
Go, read the book to understand the positive ideas behind all the ‘negativity’ spread by Kejriwal. If not for that, then just for a small, thoroughly enjoyable and hard to come by non-fiction.