Nawein lok ne, nawin soch hai, nawan yug hai aaya; Jaago jaago neend tyaago, suraj ugg hai aaya dosto… Hun tey naa kehlaiye yaaron… Jaahil soch gawaar pindaan di… Badal daiye, badal diye nuhaar pindaan di… Banaiye gram sabha tey khud baniye sarkaar pindan di… (New people, new thinking, new era. The sun has risen. Let people not mock villagers and say they are backward and dumb. Come, let’s change our villages. Let’s constitute a gram sabha and govern our villages)”.
Days after the panchayat elections in Punjab and villages getting new sarpanchs and panchs, a unique theatre campaign, called “Pind Di Sabha”, is aiming at educating villagers about the power and importance of gram sabhas.
The play which had its first performance at village Sosan in Moga will be travelling to other villages in Moga, Bathinda and Gurdaspur. The play tells voters that their work is not over just after voting and electing a panchayat. Instead, they need to act as watchdogs and keep an eye on the working of panchayats by organising gram sabha (a legal right of all eligible voters to meet and discuss important issues) and get development work done by passing resolutions and demanding funds. Most importantly, work of gram sabha is to keep party politics out of panchayat working.
A play titled Pind Di Sabha, written and directed by Tirath Singh from Shaheed Bhagat Singh Kala Manch (Charik), was performed amid cheers at village Sosan. It starts with a family of a drug addict and people are told that they can speak and initiate action against the sarpanch (head of village) if he/she fails to address their issues. Through the gram sabha, they can pass resolutions and get funds sanctioned for schools, de-addiction centres, cleaning of ponds, health centres and parks. Each eligible voter in the village is a member of gram sabha and can raise issues.
Rachhpal Singh Sosan, a villager, said that the play was conceptualised after getting idea from “Mission Gram Sabha” — a movement being run by a group of NRIs to educate villagers about their rights to organise gram sabha and its powers. “The motive was to tell villagers that they are the government of their own village. Also, party politics cannot stop the development of villages and the gram sabha must work to keep it out. There must be at least four gram sabha meetings in a year. Badal daiye nuhaar pindan di… (Let’s change the condition of our villages) is our message to people,” says Sosan.
Pind Di Sabha, adds Singh, the director, was conceptualised after getting a request from some villagers of Sosan who wanted to tell voters about the powers of gram sabha. “Many other villages have already booked the play and we are happy to spread the word,” he says.