Improve Quality of Living in Villages

Urban India has undergone a sea of change over the decades. A little more than half a century ago, industrialisation beckoned to a large number of people from small towns and villages to shift to the happening cities. Cities welcomed youngsters who were barely out of schools and colleges with open arms. They established their families, educated their children, bought property and built their homes. The vast expanses of urban land were occupied. Satellite townships were absorbed to expand cities and everything seemed to fall into place. Thus the great Indian middle class came into being when the migrants decided to settle down in their second home for good.

But, the success and the relative comfort of the city dwellers as against their country cousins proved to be the thorn in the bush. More and more agrarians who were working hard for a pittance and their landowners who found themselves at the mercy of erratic rainfall looked citywards.

The innumerable job opportunities for the unlettered as the support system of the city to help it function smoothly, translated as secure salaried jobs for them and a better future for their kids. They came in broods from all over and occupied the nooks and crannies of the cities and looked forward to making it big or at least reasonably sustainable. Though their skills were limited, their willingness to learn and work hard for a living stood by them. And today, the second generation of the working class has proved that the speculation of their parents hit the bull’s eye.

They have been educated in English medium schools and colleges and many of them have landed jobs as  drivers, mechanics, electricians, clerks, accountants and many have even been absorbed in white collar jobs.  Quite a few have managed to clear loans, buy a little gold and build homes for themselves.

Millions of such people who have migrated to the cities in search of greener pastures have no doubt found the experience enriching in more ways than one. Yet the price that they have had to pay is humongous. They have embraced a way of life very different from their own. They have battled against variance in ideologies, language, culture and ethos and have come to terms with them without ado. They have been removed from their families and communities. They have even lost touch with Mother Nature in the bargain.

One is likely to think that the merging of the rural and urban populace would have happened over a period of time and must have helped the city that has sheltered and supported them to progress in a healthy way. Yet, the picture is quite to the contrary.

Contemporary picture
If one were to present a contemporary picture of Indian cities, it is likely to be uniform across the length and breadth of the country. We are riddled by a large population, pollution of every sort, concrete jungles, garbage and traffic jams — not necessarily in that order. There is a definite line of demarcation that separates natives and migrants socially, economically, politically, educationally and emotionally.

Yet these setbacks have not discouraged mass migration from villages to the cities.
The people who come in search of better prospects know that they have to stretch resources like housing, water, electricity, sanitation, transport among other things till they become threadbare. They are acutely aware that one of the reasons for pseudo inflation is the inverse relationship between demand and supply.

The other obvious reason is, there are not too many hands toiling away and growing food for those of us who are willing to buy them. Yet, these factors do not seem to deter hopefuls from making a beeline to the cities.

The Indian cities are bursting at their seams and are presently witless to deal with fresh onslaughts like dealing with rain woes, overflowing garbage, increased power cuts and traffic jams.

The only way out of this syndrome is to step up the quality of living in our innumerable villages. The government does not really have to do much on this count, except encourage entrepreneurs to establish their industries in and around the villages. Housing, transportation, communication and attendant facilities will follow automatically.

As for the ever growing cities, its population should be persuaded to take up terrace gardening, rain water harvesting, solar lighting and garbage management in right earnest. Only then shall the twain meet!

For Health, For Dignity


progress Women overseeing the construction of a lavatory in one of the villages in Malur taluk.

If you jog your memory, you will remember, that not very long ago, a bride refused to marry into a home without a toilet and a newly-wedded wife deserted her husband’s home which could not provide her toilet facility. Ever since, the advertisement made by the Government of India, which urges our rural population to build and use toilets, has gained visibility.

Government and non-governmental organisations have been working hard to make the vision a reality.

Closer home, Aa Foundation, a community-based organisation, has been working on this dream project for a couple of years now. Though the Aa Foundation has been following a thematic approach in creating a progressive atmosphere in the areas of education, health, water and sanitation, of late, its prime project happens to be building toilets for the homes in and around Malur taluk in Kolar district.

Varalakshmi, one of the founder members of Aa, has interacted extensively with people living in the rural areas of Karnataka. She has been actively involved in projects that are women-and child-centric. The foundation has been supporting the Araleri Panchayath to translate the agenda laid out by the government into concrete projects. In other words, they play the role of via media, by getting in touch with anganwadis, schools and communities at large. Their modus operandi is simple. The volunteers for the foundation are women from different villages of Malur, who want to work for the society.

This approach is helpful in two ways. Primarily, the locals are comfortable in airing their concerns to someone they are familiar with. Secondly, the social worker usually understands the nature and intensity of the problem much more than a qualified outsider, who may not be able to empathise. For instance, when Kamalakshi, a youngster, offered to work for the foundation, she apparently did not qualify for the job, despite having completed her pre-university course with fairly good grades. She was told that her rejection would be revoked if she was able to get her family to build a toilet in her home in Chakanahalli. The young lady took it as a challenge and made it a point to get the job. Today, she has convinced people and is responsible for the construction of about 30 toilets in different villages.

Rathnamma, a young housewife in Upparalli, has felt extremely safe and hygienic ever since she had a toilet built in her house. Gone are the days when she and her friends would wait for the daylight to fade out before hitting the fields to relieve themselves. Then, there was always the fear of being bitten by snake or scorpion. Today, she is ready to take the responsibility to sensitise the women in her vicinity to play it safe by building a toilet.

The indigenous people of these villages belong to the Hakki Pikki tribe, who make their living by helping to clear out the roots of the Eucalyptus trees in plantations far and near. Their intrinsic nomadic nature makes them naturally defy ideas of civilisation. Aspects like
education, health or sanitation do not seem to figure in their scheme of things.

Need for change
Under such circumstances, it is but natural that they need to be educated and
exposed to the basic necessities of life. It is heartening to note that the teachers in the local schools and enterprising young women who have had the benefit of travelling and learning about the advantages of sanitation programmes are taking up the responsibility to spread the good word and are encouraging local women to realise the indignity and insecurity of
answering nature’s call in the open.

That is not all; the samaritans whose heart beats for the villages hope to introduce rainwater harvesting and encourage people to grow fruit-bearing trees around their homes which can ease their economy and environment in the fairly dry region. They say well begun is half done. If the development continues in the same  pace, Malur will be a clean green, healthy and informed place, in a few years from now. For more details, log on to