Those who think children aren’t capable of catalysing change haven’t heard of Makkala Gram Sabha.
Introduced by the government of Karnataka in 2006, the Makkala Gram Sabha initiative mandates every Gram Panchayat in the state to conduct Gram Sabha for children every year.
The initiative was started with an aim to bring a greater understanding amongst the young about how a democracy and its governance functions.
Enabling children to play a pivotal role in the prevalent issues looming in their villages, Makkala Gram Sabha is a one of its kind initiative in the entire country.
Just like how a regular Gram Sabha is held twice a year – where people in the villages raise their concerns to their elected representatives, Makkala Gram Sabha presents a constructive platform for children on similar lines.
Facilitating the process further are various non-profit organisations in the state who have collaborated with local bodies so that the voices of children are heard and considered for initiating change.
One such organisation is Bengaluru-based Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness (CMCA), that has been instilling ideals of democracy in children through experiential learning programmes.
Founded in 2000 as a programme and joint initiative of two NGOs – Public Affairs Centre and Swabhimana, the organisation strives to transform young Indians into concerned, thinking and active citizens for an inclusive and sustainable India.
Currently, they reach out to 17,000 young people in nine cities and 43 villages, in over 300 educational institutions.
“The initiative of Makkala Gram Sabha seemed tailor-made for our organisation’s work philosophy. Although mandated in all Panchayats, over the years we had observed that there was a laxity in the way these were held in various villages,” says Marulappa P.R, who heads the regional school programme at CMCA.
He also mentioned that in many villages, these were not even conducted by the Gram Panchayats.
“Often underestimated and overlooked, children showcase more observational and retrospective skills than most adults. Probably, that could have been one of the major reasons why the Gram Sabhas took a backseat. Unaffected by social stigmas and corruption, their opinions and questions posed the risk of whistleblowing the inefficiency in the enactment of promises made by elected members,” he explains.
In 2010, the organisation stepped in to help facilitate the Gram Sabhas in the districts of Chikkaballapur and Tumkuru.
“By facilitating, it doesn’t mean that we only oversee that the proceedings of a meeting. Attended by kids starting from class 6, our local representatives make sure that officers and representatives who are delegated by the state government attend the meetings without fail. Making note of the queries and grievances raised by children, we keep a track on the progress of the issues”, Marulappa says.
So far, CMCA has powered close to 40 Makkala Gram Sabhas in these districts.
“Through these meetings, many significant reforms have been brought to the communities. From a bus service in Hettappanahatti to immediate action by the police against miscreants who had vandalised a school at Jangamanakote, these children are doing the spadework for making their villages a better place to live,” he adds.
Involving young minds in the governing process and igniting their minds to become the flag-bearers of tomorrow, the Makkala Gram Sabha is a remarkable model that should be adopted by all the states in the country.
A short film made by the CMCA on the democratic initiative of Makkala Gram Sabha:
You can reach out to the folks behind the organisation at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 25538584.