Thursday, November 01, 2007

Reality Bytes: India Revisited

What is your caste?

Within minutes of landing in the village, I faced this question and I was almost shocked. This was my first interaction with real India. So I am back from my village tour, somewhat wiser about India, little more curious about Bharat.

The village we went to was Mehandwas, in Tonk district of Rajasthan. In a way it was somewhat a developed village. It was on the national highway, so definite signs of development were present. There was eight hour electricity supply, a primary health center, four schools, many motor cycles and innumerable mobiles present in the village.

We received a royal welcome there. In fact their hospitability touched our hearts. Everyone wanted to meet us. I do not know if they trusted us but they liked that someone from government was hearing their woes. There was that old lady who took us to her house to show how bad road to her house was. Then there was that SC sarpanch who was so happy because we ate at his house against the wishes of elites of the village.

You must have guessed by now that caste was the most dominant factor in the village. And I found the caste system exactly in the way I felt was extinct in India. The village habitations were divided in caste clusters, one of Yadavas, one of Brahmins, another of Bairavas etc. And if you feel that this is it, you are mistaken.

Untouchables lived outside the village and they were treated different from schedule castes. In fact schedule castes treated themselves to be much higher than untouchables. The untouchable still had to go to the city for haircut as the village barber refused to touch them. In roadside hotels they were served tea in disposable cups!

A heartening thing to discover was that there was complete communal harmony in the village. There was no history of any communal clash. The authorities said that this is the case in nearly all villages in India. This is a big thing that urban India has to learn from its villages.

Now being a government servant, I should also talk about the government schemes. There was a great enthusiasm for National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). In fact that has made Panchayats all the more meaningful. The second scheme doing wonders is Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Now a lot of money is being pumped in mid day meal, school infrastructure and that is showing. In case you have no idea, 65000 teachers have been recruited in Rajasthan alone in last one year!

So what did we do? We tried to convince the villages that they have to be an agent in their developments. Other people can come and help them but they ultimately have to be the primary drivers. People looked to panchayat and government even for simple things. And you know what; most of the villagers were convinced.

If you want to know our concrete achievement, a lady member of our group shook the entire district administration to get a Below Poverty Line card of a widow made. Then there was this overseeing committee for education of panchayat which was meant to check teachers absenteeism, quality of educations etc. We tried to give a new birth to it as most villages complained about the quality of education in schools.

I do not say that we changed the face of that village; neither have we learned a lot. But yes, we felt that being in our jobs; we can really make difference. And trust me, even the feeling of getting just 1 BPL card made for a deserving widow is beyond words!

PS: I will write in detail about this and what I feel can be done about village development. I also have to tell what was my score in perceptions about village in last post. But in many devious ways, LBSNAA is keeping me too busy these days.


hanumanth rao said...

you have done a great job, by providing bpl card to the lady..

you can do much greater things.. bring a lot of positive changes in the country.... Keep up the good work!!

Shailesh said...

MOre than anything else, the eyes of that widow would have given yuo mre warmth at tht time thn anything else.

Ladhte raho!!!

Anurag Srivastava said...

@hanumanth rao : The job was done by a lady member of my group. Anyways appreciation is always welcome :)

@shailesh: we will do that :)

Saagar said...

India is written off by Indians as a country with huge population and a lot of poverty. If only, we could reduce the red tape and bureaucracy to at least half of what is present, we could progress. And believe me, if anything can erase caste system, that is Progress. Agreed that educated people do believe in caste till now, but at least they are lot less rigid than the illiterate villagers..

Cage said...

case is a dominant factor, No doubt about it. therefore, any policy of development must this implicit factor in mind. Good job Anurag, I hope all the probationers have same thoughts as you do and I am sure, India would see developmet along with growth.

Cage said...

caste is a dominant factor, No doubt about it. therefore, any policy of development must include this implicit factor in mind. Good job Anurag, I hope all the probationers have same thoughts as you do and I am sure, India would see developmet along with growth.

Anonymous said...

hi officer
nice to read your blog.
your updates are motivating,thank you
you are at LBSNAA,in himalayas..its really fine

i just wanna share with you that-
if you have not read the book "Himalayan Blunder" by a Brigadier,please read it which tells the story of himalayan soldier

Anurag Srivastava said...

@saagar: Not a nice thing to tell a civil servant about red tape :)

Anyways I agree with your point, but believe me, when every system fails, bureaucracy works. Also red tape has been considerably reduced in last few years.

And yes, progress is the key, but how to have socio political progress along with economic one is the dilemma

@cage: Caste is a big reality that we tend to forget at times. Of course most probationers show the same or better concern and let us all work for a better India.

@anonymous: Thanks!
I will certainly try the book as soon as I get it.

praveen said...

[pl note that I'm in support of caste system, but just looking at the other side]

"May be" caste system has it's own merits besides the numerous critics it faces. May be it brings a sense of competitiveness among people who belong to a particular "band" of castes. As some castes are based on the type of work(heriditary art's) they do may be caste system helps to keep those arts alive.

BTW: What's your caste? (J/K)

Amit said...

True to tell you that you have excellent command in writing (and probably that's why it lead you to LBSNAA).

Yaar, tum baad mein jaroor bahut acchi saari kitabein likh sakte ho (Trust me!!)

Your Shopping blog, this Reality bytes blog, blog for mains preparation and others as well cover divergent areas of discussion and explanation. And you do it very simply.

I hope that your coming busy life of an Administrator will not dampen your zeal of writing blogs (and ours of reading your beautiful and informative blogs).

A Civil Services Aspirant

Anurag Srivastava said...

@praveen: yes caste system had some merits. But it was made to maintain the existing social order, and without change there occured a stagnation. I feel caste system killed competition, brahmins knew they have to take care of learnings. Even among brahmins they divided areas, one to be in Rig vedas to be called Agnihotris, another in sam and so on.

About keeping various arts alive, I agree. Actually some artisan groups practiced an art, and in caste system they were branded as a particular caste.

@Amit: Thanks a lot for the appreciation.

I will try to maintain this zeal, actually I feel good when I am able to put some words or events in words and better when people like it :)

ASP said...

I am an aspirant myself and was wondering if I could get a first hand account of the academy and the much talked about "Bharat Darshan".
I will come back to this blog again and again!
Wishing you all good luck!

Deepanjali B Sarkar said...

Was reminded of Kavita Chowdhry's "Udaan", the 1990s TV serial on a lady IPS officer, which shows how caste doesn't just permeate day-to-day living in villages, but even in the higher echelons of the services.

Anonymous said...

good one

Ranjit Kumar said...

in a nut shell....Love u india,love u anurag sir for this blog,Dear Anurag Sir,I am in queue, next to come for india...

Ranjit Kumar said...

in a nut shell....Love u india,love u anurag sir for this blog,Dear Anurag Sir,I would be next to come for india...