Elango is unleashing local village leaders towards building economies of permanence within rural India. Having demonstrated that effective and participative planning in local governance can dramatically improve village development, Elango uses his Panchayat Academy to build networks of emboldened local leaders who embody a common vision of good democracy and governance.
As a Panchayat President of his home village, Kuthambakkam, Elango successfully addressed deep-seated issues like caste and gender prejudice through participatory reforms, and technical interventions. Through shared capital and labour contributions towards village resources, he created patterns of ownership and responsibility among local village inhabitants. With these strategies, Elango succeeded in turning his hometown into a ‘model village,’ in five short years and knew that he could equip other village leaders to achieve similar improvements.
After the success of his ‘model village’ of Kuthambakkam, Elango wanted to expand the model. Drawing from his own experiences, he created the Panchayat Academy to train potential Panchayat candidates. He used the Academy space to share best practices, where participants could both teach and learn, and work together towards good democracy and governance. Today, there are around 150 panchayat presidents, 600 women SHGs and 140 youth who have been trained by the academy.
To extend his impact into the future, Elango is prioritizing inspiring the youth and young people in the villages. Perturbed by growing unemployment and political apathy, Elango has invited groups of young people to undergo classes, and training to not just participate in the political process but to also work with existing political leaders - in the Panchayat, as well as the at the assembly and parliament levels. Through national networks like Jagruti Yatra, he is influencing young people from across the country who he hopes will spread his methods and philosophy.
Elango envisions village clusters becoming economic powerhouses in the future. Drawing on Dr J.C. Kumarappa’s ideas on building economies of permanence, Elango dreams of building village networks, where the needs of the village can be off-set by the strengths and resources of other villages within the cluster, creating a self-sustaining, interlocked economic system. Today, through participatory governance, technological intervention, and capacity building, Elango is creating sustainable, and self-propelling village republics in the country.
Note: This was updated in August, 2014. Read on for the ELECTION profile.