Being born and brought up in Assam, north-eastern state of India, I always wonder why our cities and villages are not like the cities and villages of other states. I am always proud to be part of my village and state but when I started observing the issues and challenges of my state then I started realizing that our cities and villages are far behind in comparison to other states. And the underlying reasons are not only because of political failure or hollow government machinery but also because of the irresponsible youth like us.
Even when I look back in my past I realize that even I haven’t done anything for my village. In the name of poor quality of education in the state, I went out from my village for higher education. Though I got my education from outside Assam, I always looked for the opportunities to go back and contribute to my state. With this dream, I always try to learn new things and experience from the places that I visit so that in future it might be helpful for my state. After completion of my post graduation from Chennai, Tamil Nadu I got the opportunity to be part of SBI Youth for India Fellowship and I feel this opportunity is one of the turning point of my life and dream. Fellowship has given me the platform to experiment, explore and contribute for the rural people of the country.
"We always have the habit of keeping ourselves away from the problem. Even parents teach the children that always stay away from the problem. No need to fall into the trap of other’s problem because it’s none of our business. And that’s the origin of the downfall of our states and motherland".
As part of the fellowship I have been placed in an organization name Seva Mandir of Udaipur district of Rajasthan and the organization has given me chance to work with the tribal people of one of the most remote blocks of the country name Kotda.
Kotda is a remote place in Udaipur district of Rajasthan which is also known as ‘Kalapani’. Government officials who are sent here are regarded as having ‘punishment posting’. The place is one of the largest blocks of Udaipur, located 120 km south of Udaipur city, bordered in the north by the Pali and Sirohi districts of Rajasthan. As per the 2001 Census, Kotda has an average literacy rate of 24.52% lower than 59.5%, which is the national average. The place is dangerous, risky and generally not suitable for people not originally from here.
For people living here, life is without electricity, water, and education. But they are happy with limited resources. They do not have any expectation and demands from the government. Children here usually discontinue higher education after reaching 13 or 14. Girls get married after completion of class 8 or 9. For them, education is not necessary for sustenance. A large number of children don’t even get to see the school. They live in a society where taking care of domesticated animals is given more importance. The youth either migrate to Gujarat for labor or stay at home and take up farming. Schools and colleges are devoid of teachers and infrastructure, which discourages the youth from getting an education. But the youth alone cannot be blamed. Because “Youth are not useless, they are used less, they are not careless but are cared less,” as said by Swami Chinmayananda. The society and environment, in which they have been nurtured, is leading them to a dark future.
Now it is our responsibility to ignite the passion in them and extract the best out of them. I can feel the pain of these young people because I am one of them, who has the passion and dream to fly, but my wings are tied by the poverty and prejudices prevailing in this area from a long time.
Background of the project location:
I have been assigned a village name Merpur in the kotda tehsil by Seva Mandir on the basis of the need of the village. In the starting of the journey to the village, I tried to interact with as many people of the village and tried to visit as many households of the village. The whole village is majorly dominated by Garasiya community people and a small proportion of the Rajput community.
In order to know the village better I thought of conducting household survey through a set of semi-structured questionnaire. From the study, It has been found that an average number of children per household is 5-6 and out of which either 1 or 2 go to school and remaining take care of the household activities like taking out the cattle’s for grazing, fetching drinking water, collecting firewoods, taking care of the younger brother or sisters etc.
Another interesting culture that has been observed in the village is that people usually are physically active at the age of 11-13. And the reason behind this is the poor financial condition of the family and lack of awareness about the problems of early physical relationship which leads them to follow this culture from one generation to another.
In an Interview taken with one of the elders of the village, he stated that the practice which has been followed from one generation to another is that when the children reaches the age of 12 then their parents decide about the marriage over a couple of drinks. After the marriage has been fixed then couple are ready to meet each other and consummate their marriage but the rituals of the marriage actually takes place after the age of 40 usually when they are the mother and father of 3-4 children!
As the place is sharing the border with Gujarat so the outflow of the people to Gujarat is quite high in search of employment. And there is no system to check at the border the inflow and outflow of the migrant to Gujarat. So we have planned to set up a Youth Resource Centre (YRC) for the children and youth of the village to empower them related to various issues of the village. The basic aim of setting up the centre is to build a vibrant youth movement at the grassroots level to make the people who are in periphery to move over to governance to claim their rights and their due share in development.
(About YRC details read the second part of this observation)