Manoj Chaurasia in Patna
At a time when cases of crime and corruption filling the pages of newspapers may well be causing people to tear the hair from their heads, so to speak, this story from Nawada district, in southern Bihar, comes as a whiff of fresh air.
Residents at Padia village, tucked away in Roh block in Nawada district, claim they don’t recall having filed any cases either with the police or in the court in the last 100 years as they have no history of quarrels involving bloodshed or major violence.
This comes at a time when millions of cases are pending in the courts awaiting disposal, many of them from decades back.
Villagers of Padia say petty cases of disputes indeed occur at intervals but whenever such situations arise, they convene a meeting of the local panchayat and sort out the dispute cordially with the help of elderly citizens, rather than involving police or the judiciary.
The initiative, they say, has not only ensured peace in the village but also saved them both time and money.
They add that the village panchayat never imposes monetary fines on any of the culprits given the poor financial background of the villagers. Instead, the "criminals" are asked to do sit-ups or tender apology before the entire village as punishment for their crime.
The village comprises some 150 families, dominated by backward class people.
The local sarpanch, Mundrika Prasad Chaurasia says on an average two to three cases of petty disputes reach the village panchayat every month. “But we are always careful that the disputes do not turn violent… we try to sort out the case at the earliest in a cordial way”, said Chaurasia.
Citing a recent example, he said a dispute over a piece of land occurred between two brothers, Suresh Prasad and Saryoo Prasad, but the panchayat resolved the land dispute and both parties to the dispute returned home happy.
A 90-year-old resident, Babulal Chaurasia, claimed he did not recall any dispute going beyond the village panchayat in his lifetime.
“Why do we need the police or the court when we can solve any dispute at our own level? Our own panchayat is very strong and capable,” said another villager, Sahdeo Mahato.
The local deputy superintendent of police, Shaharyar Akhtar, said he could not confirm the village's claim of not filing any case in the last century until he checked the police records, but he described as praiseworthy the villagers’ commitment to resolving disputes peacefully.
Ironically, the villagers claim that the peace that prevails in the village, has virtually blocked development work at Padia, where basic facilities like metalled road and power are a far cry. Their logic is that no official bothers to visit the village unless there is some serious problems there.
The local block development officer Ravi Kumar Sinha, however, said welfare measures would be taken up for the village as a "reward" for maintaining pace.