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The vanishing rural? Let's talk

| | in Oped
The vanishing rural? Let's talk

A peep into progressive narratives from rural India can offer some hope and yearning to those living a chaotic life in urban India

If one were to momentarily peep out of the chaos and skirmishes of urban India, and look into rural Bharat, one would find innumerable stories of enterprise, innovation, camaraderie and diligence. These stories can often be inspiring and refreshing, for they break the stereotype of our framework of looking at the rural, which magnify ideas like suicides, deprivation, disease and dejection. While these ideas and associated facts continue to haunt us, what gives us solace is the alternative narrative of hope and yearning. At a time when the rural is vanishing from the mainstream discourse, there is a need to tell and re-tell such narratives.

Three such stories to cheer and steer the conversation on the vanishing rural from the VillageSquare.in is a repository of such inspiring stories. Nidhi Jamwal, on July 7, posted how residents of water-scarce village of indigenous people in Bhetwadi village of Mokhada block, 150-km north of Mumbai, have collectively built a concrete embankment on a dry rivulet to harvest rainwater and become water-sufficient. The report says, “Mokhada is a tribal dominated taluka of Palghar district in Maharashtra that receives an annual average rainfall of 2,500 mm. However, the entire hilly terrain has basalt formation and does not hold water for long. Rainwater cannot seep into the ground and gets washed away in no time. During the monsoon months, Bhetwadi village comes alive with several nullahs and rivulets flowing with turbulent water. However, by January, all water bodies dry up.”

The story of making the bund in this remote village is inspiring and should serve as an example for many of us in metropolitan cities. We have seen innumerable advertisements by Government agencies, urging people in urban areas to practice rain water harvesting, and such stories serve as an inspiration for us. The report quoted a 60-year-old Warli tribal woman of Bhetwadi Manjula Ganga Mirki, “This monsoon we won’t let excess rainwater flow away.” She was one among the many who donated voluntary labour for social good for construction of the bund.“Every summer, we have to walk kilometers to fetch water. We suffer pain in the legs and backache due to carrying pots of water. Women face the brunt of water scarcity,” said Mirki, explaining their eagerness to build the bund.

The portal has another nice story from Manipadma Jena, which looks at how the indigenous Dongria Kondh community in Odisha is helping to restore the popularity of native varieties of millets that can grow in droughty weather conditions, even as millet products gain traction among affluent consumers for their many health benefits. “Cashing on this increasing popularity and awareness of the goodness of millets among city people are tribal women self-help groups in the eastern ghats. In 15 villages of Odisha’s Koraput district, tribal women are honing up their cooking skills, learning attractive millet items that will appeal to urban consumers,” says the report. An idea we can all acknowledge and celebrate.

And then there is this beautiful story of Abdul Gani from Assam, who reports that “at a time when social media is being used to spread lies and malicious rumors, a group of young people in Assam are using WhatsApp and Facebook groups to prevent child marriages in the underdeveloped district of Darrang.” Some local youths run a WhatsApp group balya bibah birodhi mancha (forum against child marriage) and send alert when they know of any child marriage being proposed. They are supported by the All Assam Minority Students’ Union, a students body.

These are interesting narratives that get left out in the mainstream media, dominated by 3C-P paradigm — politics, crime, cricket and cinema. Little surprise, to fill in the gap and restore the sanctity of the rural, the Transform Rural India Foundation, along with development communication platform, Fijeeha, is driving a campaign The Vanishing Rural? Let’s Talk. It has been reaching out to academia, media, students, policy-makers and researchers, urging them to sharpen focus on the rural, pause and ponder. This makes lot of sense.

(The writer is a strategic communications professional)

 
 
 
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