Thursday, April 07, 2005

Hivre Bazar trip

I was discussing about IITians doing great work at the grassroots level in one of my earlier postings, with a friend, so thought should write something about it.
Last weekend, our class went to Hivre Bazar, near Ahmednagar, about 122 kms from Pune. You can read about it here. The experience was amazing.There the connection of cities and villages became all the more apparent. Mr PopatRao Pawar (yes, the name makes you laugh!)has done a pathbreaking thing at this village. Within 2 decades, this village became a self-sustaining village, which earlier was deep into alcoholism, smoking, fights, crime and all the other vices. What can you expect out of hopelessness and frustation! But PopatRao focussed on developing a system (Water shed management), which not only solved the problems of drinking water and irrigation system but it also brought a social change. Now very few people are in the holds of such vices. By 2006, no family of this village would be Below Poverty Line. They plan to venture into marketing milk and milk products, produced at the village. In fact, they are also going to make HIV test mandatory before marriage, within a couple of years. The gram sabha of this village made certain things compulsory for everyone like no grazing, no personal bore well, no deforestation, family planning, etc.
The point is if all our villages become self-sufficient in respects of health, education, water facility, power supply, etc, the villagers wouldnot need to move out of their house to make headway to cities. Nobody likes to leave their house to make roads or dirty, diseased places, their home. Secondly, we should move away from idolising cities so much. Villages as well as cities have their importance, and we need to understand the connection between them so as to make life better at both the places.
Once a villager understands that he would not leave his village. A large number of migrations would stop, and the cities would also be saved from the threat of bursting of its seams, because of slums. The slums make a bad picture of the cities. Any system installed to manage the urban development falls apart because it is unable to cope with the migrations and the number people in the cities increasing at an unnerving pace.
If villagers stay in villages, get good education, relevant education, all facilities of a good life; and if a city dweller also plays his role well, then only we can dream of a civilised society and a balanced growth, otherwise there is no other way!
We need professionals who can bring change at the lowest level, and make a difference to the lives of people at that level.Actually, we should focus on need-based planning and not blindly ape the West. We have to see what we need. Surely, what US needs would be different from what we need! In fact, what different parts of India needs would also vary, after all, we are a heterogenous country!

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