Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bharat Darshan Chronicles-I

As promised earlier, I shall share with you all my experiences of Bharat Darshan. They will be long, they may be boring….. but trust me they will tell you about ‘Bharat’; which may be different from your perception of India. To minimise the boredom, I shall keep the chronicles in small episodes.

With the beginning of December, the cold was getting worse in Mussoorrie. Foundation course had just ended and those not into IAS had gone to their respective academies. LBSNAA wore a deserted look and we all who remained here wanted a desperate change. So we were happy to pack our bags and move on to Bharat Darshan.

Bharat Darshan Tour, alternatively known as the Winter Study Tour is an integral part of IAS training. It is an eight week tour of almost entire India starting from first week of December. The course handbook describes its purpose as “to expose officer trainees to a wide range of organizations and situations they are going to run into during their careers and also give them a glimpse of the diversity of our cultural heritage.”

Our journey began on 8rth Dec. The group had 11 members with one lady officer. Our first destination was Dantewada, the heartland of Naxalism where we had our tribal attachment. We started by a bus from the academy to Ambala and from there we took Chattisgrah Express to Raipur.

The entire journey was more than 48 hours long. I chatted with the group, started reading ‘A Suitable Boy’ by Vikram Seth, sat idle, walked in the train and tried to kill the long idle hours. I sat at the window for hours looking outside. Civilizations came and went; lone lights twinkled at the far ends and fields made way for the cities. At times the monotony was broken by the rivers; and also by the the sound of train passing over a steel bridge. Looking outside the window was a serene bliss and when I look back, the path was more beautiful than the destination. Perhaps the same holds for life too.

We reached Raipur station on 10th morning. And that was the place where realization came that we are into a premier service. Five Boleros had come to pick us up, there was a horde of local officials present and a meticulous arrangement was in place to welcome us. From the station we proceeded to the newly built State Transit House.

Raipur is a mid sized city, still very much different from the densely populated cities of north India. Roads do not qualify for being of the capital of a state. Big construction works are visible and the State Guest house was also recently made. A small surprise was waiting for us. Dantewada was still eight hours away and these Boleros were meant to carry us there.

We started within an hour as it was not advisable to get late in reaching Dantewada. The countryside of Chattisgarh is full of forest cover. Teakwood is abundantly present along with other dense vegetation. After half the journey when we passed a district called Jagdalpur, there was a noticeable difference in infrastructure. Roads became narrower, they were in bad shape and the signals of my Reliance mobile went away. There was unfinished work going on at many places and the number of police pickets increased. Incidentally, the naxals heartland had just begun.

It was quite late when we reached Dantewada and we were taken to an NMDC guest house. I was surprised to see a public sector maintaining such a good guest house. The rooms had all the modern facilities and the staff was very cordial. Most of them were Malayalis and the guest house had the entire staff from Indian Coffee House. Next day our tribal attachment had to formally begin by a presentation by the DM and SP.

On the way to collectorate, a small program was arranged for us in a village. We were traditionally welcomed by flowers and garlands and the local villagers presented the traditional ‘Gaur dance’ for us. The dance was performed by more than thirty men and women with all the paraphernalia like big drums and head-gears having Bison horns. We also met some orphan physically handicapped children who were looked after in a nearby ‘Ashram’. The Ashram system in Chattisgarh is a kind of boarding school. Books, dresses and food are provided there and children go to their houses once in a fortnight.

We were touched by the elaborate arrangements done and the respect shown to us. We could not understand why they are taking so much pain for entertaining us. We were just probationers and we could have done nothing for them even if we wanted to. But then we realized, they did not want anything from us. It was due to the respect that IAS still commands. The dancers were elated when we took their drums and headgears and had a photograph with them. Our appreciation of the work that Ashram was doing for the orphans was good enough to bring a smile on their face. There are times when one feels good to be in service, and this was certainly one of them.

The meeting with the DM and SP turned out to be an eye opener. We came to know about the gravity of situation in Dantewada. DM and SP were not using government vehicles due to the frequent landmines. Most of the policemen were in civil dress. The entire district is in a complete war like situation and battle lines are clearly drawn. And the administration is fighting a real war when the region is not even declared as ‘disturbed’.

The big deal about declaring a region as ‘disturbed’ is that special schemes can be adopted there. For e.g. there is 50% lack of administrative staff but no incentives can be provided to those working in the interior areas as it would be against general financial rules. If shoes have to be procured for the policemen, it will take the normal hierarchical chain where a file may have to pass through twenty tables, and a small query at any level may send it downwards tracing the same path.

Before visiting there we all knew that Naxalism is a socio economic problem. The simple solution is, develop the region and Naxalism will vanish. But we were wrong. Reasons of emergence of Naxalism are socio economic, but once it finds its roots, it becomes a law and order problem. Why will Naxals allow development if it can threaten their own existence. Hence in the interior villages, there are no schools, no connectivity, no electricity and in short no government. In case you want to know what is ‘interior’; today also there are police stations where it takes 72 hours for any outside help to reach!

Next day we had to move to interior areas, live there for three days and understand the ground situation. No security cover was given to us as it could have invited trouble. Our drivers told us that naxals must have by now come to know by now that we were going to visit their terrain. To tell you the truth, we were all little scared!

The chronicle shall continue. I have many more things to tell, so keep coming back.


praveen said...

Waiting for the next post.

Anonymous said...

fascinating post ... never realised that some officials have to encounter dangger such as landmines. Pity that incentives cant be provided for working in interior places. Guess thats one of the problems with indian bureaucracy.

sanjeev said...

Very true a/c of what really is India. I am from MP and had visited Raipur earlier.

The situation you have illustrated in not of only disturbed areas.

The infrastructure is a big problem and here when we say infrastructure in real India..Villages, here it means..most basic things like potable drinking weather. I belong to a village where most of the wells have dried up and now the Handpump that's for the primary Govt school is the sole source of drinking water for those who can not afford to have Borewells dung on their own.

IAS is looked up as they are considered to be the one who can be instruments of change!!

Chintan said...

I have read every blog of your's, but trust me this was the most MOTIVATING. The truth is very few amongst you take pains to chronicle each and every aspect of your life as an IAS. I appreciate the efforts from your end. And at the same time expect the same to continue, even after you are actually posted.

And by the way Congratulations for beginning a new life with SOMEONE.

Shailesh said...


Anurag bhai tum abhi editing bhi achi karne lage ho!:)

u ended the story in such a way tht it has stretched the excitement of everyone. Badiya hai..waiting for nxt post.

Anurag Srivastava said...

@praveen: I shall write it soon :)

@anonymous: Things that we know through media do not present the actual picture. Thats why I think travelling is a good learning experience

@sanjeev: I think that we, those who have always been in urban areas do not have a real picture of India. I hope the IAS prove themselves to be agents of change.

@chintan: I will try to maintain a chronicle, but if my chronicles become less, assume that I am working pretty hard :P

and thanks for the wishes

@shailesh: this serves my purpose :)

Saagar said...

Nice.. Naxalism is one hting that surprises me. you become a naxalite to change the society to eliminate all the injustice and then you refuse to let the areas develop because it creates trouble for your existence. Looks like it is a vicious circle that never ends... After all its first about you and then the society right !!

Hari said...

u have succeeded in raising our curiosity levels.

And with a 'so simple and plain writer' like u , chronicles would never be boring :)

ramya said...

a very good post

AV said...

good post,but a serial ending?

Anonymous said...

can u enable rss feed in ur blog? would be much apreciated.

Cosmic Voices said...

Not interesting enough. you know what i mean ;-)

K.Karthikeyan said...

//Reasons of emergence of Naxalism are
//socio economic, but one it finds its
//roots, it becomes a law and order problem.
//Why will Naxals allow development if it
//can threaten their own existence.

We should agree this not only for Naxalism but for all fields.

Nice travelogue.

Anurag Srivastava said...

@saagar: There is something strange about ' revolutionary communism'. They want a revolution because the government is not doing work. But for revolution poor must be really desperate, so they dont let any development to take place. Its a real vicious circle and the problem is still we have no plan to tackle it.

@hari: Thanks a lot :)

@ramya: Thank you :)

@av: I am planning to become Ekta kapoor of blogs ;)

@anonymous: shall try to do that, though I dont know much about it :)

@cosmic: I understand, but to write blogs continuously I need such posts too. And you know what, somehow article related to services attract more traffic and comments. Sab ganda hai par dhandha hai ye ;)

@kartik : thank you

Reeja said...

yeah!waiting for the next post.

Karun Bir Singh Sandha said...

Hi Commander,

Just two questions:
1. To Raipur did you go in AC coach aur 2nd Sleeper. From the reading it seems that it was 2nd Sleeper.

2. Kindly note that naxal affected area are the area where economic divide is greatest. At least these groups provide economic justice to the poor people.

What is your say?