Nagrik Dialogue

SDGChoupal Empowering Communities Enabling SDGs

By Deepak Dwivedi

United Nations Development Model MDG (Millennium Development Goals) failed And SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) arrived to take it’s place. The common man neither knew about the MDG nor knows anything about SDG. The people have never been told the meaning of SDG. It is high time that we tell the common man what SDG means and how he stands to gain from it.

It is indeed difficult to imagine that a common man would find time from his busy schedule to research and know in-depth about the Sustainable Development Goals. The simple reason for this is that he neither cares about it nor sees any benefit of SDG for him.

The deprived sections of the society or the aspirational groups are struggling with poverty, unemployment, hunger, and several other existential problems the world over. If we want to develop a village, town or state in the true sense of the term, then we must start a movement for the all-round development of the people of that area. For this, the citizens must be told about the meaning of the development in their language.

Development is an all encompassing word and so it is essential for the development of the village, block, town or district that people should be made aware about it so that they can grasp its meaning and become socially and economically developed. Thereafter they must be made stakeholders and beneficiaries in the government schemes. This would enable every family in the region to grow which in turn would increase the development index of that village, block Tehsil or district.

In simple language, it means that if we are to develop villages, blocks, tehsils, and cities then we must act for the development of the people of that region. In this was the development index of the region will automatically get a fillip. Therefore for the success of SDG, it must be rephrased to mean Self Development goals and the people should be made aware of the various policies of the government for development.

Now let’s talk about Choupal. After all, what is SDG Choupal and what it means for the common man? In Indian traditions, Choupal is a place where people of the village assemble to discuss and find solutions for their problems. Unfortunately this tradition is almost dying out. We intend to revive this old tradition and connect it to regional development. We envision it as a tradition where people can sit together to discuss the issues of development and reach some conclusions for their welfare by taking advantage of government policies meant for their development.

The discussions held in SDG Choupal will enable people to know whom to meet and resolve the problems that they face while availing of the government policies. This would increase the people’s participation in the government projects and bring together people and government officials on a single platform to iron out misunderstandings and problems. This is how we will conduct SDG Choupal at the local level (at the district level) for the all-round development of the region.

Now a big question is why we need SDG Choupal in the first place. You should never lose sight of the fact that when the government makes policies (be it center or state government), it wants to ensure one hundred percent implementation at the ground level. For this, with strong determination it ensures people’s participation (different NGOs, various agencies of UN and other international organizations) by inviting them in process. 

The reason for this is that if the people become partners in the development process then development projects would reach every common man’s home. This would benefit the regional people. As a result, the credit for this would go to the government because the government projects which have people’s participation are bound to be one hundred percent successful.

Let’s understand it with an example. At the time of general elections, people are more enthusiastic about it than the government itself. No matter which party makes the government, the real winners are the people. In India, the general election is a bigger festival than any festival celebrated by any caste or religion.  At the time of elections every individual is a political person and elections are subject of a talk in any Choupal at village or district level. Only politics is discussed day in and day out.  We have to establish the SDG Choupal on this pattern where only development is discussed so that the government projects can reach and benefit the people living in districts down to the villages.

Apart from the participation of the people, the contribution and help of national and international organizations working for social causes are also vital for the government. To make this clear, just have a look at the map of the contribution of UN agencies in the national development. Since independence various agencies of the United Nations like UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Melinda Gates Foundation, TATA trust, Aziz Premji Foundation, Action Aid, Plan India, and many others have played an important role in India’s development. These organizations along with many others are working round the clock for the social cause at the national, international, regional and local levels. Many such organizations are still to be recognized for their efforts.

Governments the world over generally rely on civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the policy implementation because they are flexible and efficient. The media is even more active and flexible as it works 24X7. There are no holidays, thus, no gaps in its functioning. So if a media organization or a media foundation becomes a stakeholder and an active partner in the project, it gives its hundred percent for the success of that program.

It is worth mentioning here that the government machinery works only five days a week. If you add government holidays to it, the working days go down even further. Whereas media works round the year round the clock – no holiday, no weekdays, all days of the year are workdays in a media organization. If any organization of media is roped in for implementation of a project then one can expect, it will be a complete success because it works seven days – night and day. It is a given fact that the efficiency of media organizations would always be more than the government sector. Just ponder over this fact – government office works nine to five while media personnel work from dawn to midnight when the paper goes for printing.

Now let’s talk about the ground reality of implementation of government schemes. The truth is that the bureaucracy works for the implementation of projects under pressure of the leader and till the fear of punitive action looms large. Let us understand this difference. The interests of the political class are in sync with the people’s welfare whereas bureaucracy is neither accountable nor its fate depends upon the implementation of these programs.

In a democracy, the government is representative. Its representatives must work to garner the confidence of the people once elected and act accordingly. Since all representatives have to face the elections, they have to perform and work for the welfare of the people. Their present performance decides their future. Those who fail face the people’s wrath.

The politicians like the media have to work beyond the working hours of ten-to-five and give their best. Various national and international organizations also work in the same fashion as bureaucracy. Unfortunately with the time-bound bureaucratic approach, we can only hope for the success of SDG on paper and not on the ground level.

Now let’s talk about the real issues. This is all about the successful implementation of the welfare schemes on the ground level. For this the help and cooperation of the local people are mandatory. Our SDG Choupal will work to ensure to fill this missing link.

The foremost task of SDG Choupal is to ensure that the government policies made for the welfare of the rural people reach them so that their social and economic upliftment takes place. “Rest not till thy goal is achieve” will be our motto. Indeed we will work tooth and nail until our goal is achieved. We are determined to make India rank number one on the scale of SDG success!

The functioning of the SDG Choupal has been designed in a very simple, yet effective and people-friendly way. The NITI Aayog gave its seal of approval to SDG Choupal in a glittering function of its inauguration held in New Delhi on December 20th, 2019. The NITI Aayog broadcast the function live to 112 aspirational districts to communicate its endorsement for the initiative. This was proof enough of the effectiveness and need for such a program. It sent a clear message that SDG Choupal would act as a catalyst in implementing government policies on the grassroots level by ensuring people’s participation.

SDG Choupal would be held in 718 districts by 2030. It would be held in 112 districts in the first year itself! These Choupals (public meetings) would be conducted on district headquarters. The people’s representatives, who represent the villages in different panchayats at the village level. This would be an open platform where the members of district panchayats, block panchayats, village panchayats, town areas, municipal corporations, and village cooperative society would be invited to discuss the issues relating to development projects and come up with solutions and suggestions for the best results.

Moreover, in these Choupals District Magistrates and various officials at the district and block level, observers of NITI Aayog, representatives of the United Nation’s implementing agencies and the honorable citizens of the district along with media would also be invited.

This is for the first time after India’s independence that in all the 718 districts such Choupals would be organized; 6,612 block-level representatives, 649,481 village representatives 5,816,673 primary school teachers, 2127,000 junior high school teachers would be given information about the development projects which are in sync with Sustainable Development Goals like health and nutrition, education, agriculture and irrigation, social inclusion, literacy, skill development, and many other basic amenities. Our endeavour is to showcase India as the best example of SDG success by ensuring people’s participation in government policies meant for their welfare!

Add comment


Nagrik Dialogue is the face of Nagrik Foundation’s communication skills that comes in the form of a monthly magazine. It will work as a bridge for those working at the grass roots level and those who support them in any form and manner.