Development of Another Kind

It is indeed a sight when one moves out of the bounds of a metropolitan city, and gets transcended to a whole new world. Although mostly, the sight is gory, at times, it is surprising too.
I recently went on a road trip to Dehradun, a famous tourist destination, and the capital city of ‘dev bhoomi Uttaranchal’. Although the national highway connecting the two cities i.e. Delhi and Dehradun, doesn’t have much to offer besides a belt of sugar mills and rowdy traffic in the vicinity of inhabited villages en route, this time it was a tad bit different.

This being the time of ‘saawan’ , or spring, the nation witnesses a cultural cum religious practice popularly known as ‘kanwad’ whereby devotees of Lord Shiva, from all over the country, mostly the northern regions, travel to the ‘Ganges’, collect water and on ‘Shivaratri’ offer it to their deity.
Now for letting this entire phenomenon be a smooth ritual, the governments and administration make arrangements such as midway camps, traffic detours etc.

So one such traffic detour was arranged between Delhi and Dehradun/Haridwar and nearby areas. For starters, it was a much longer route than usual and so there was a lot of time at hand to make observations. Besides unlike the usual, this route encompassed a lot of small industrial towns and villages of U.P.

I was amazed to see how backward the areas adjoining such major cities like Meerut, Dehradun, Haridwar can be. That is when I realized that most of the urban population has absolutely no idea of how raw the rural areas are.

What is even more interesting is that in such villages, where one could witness the absence of electricity and proper water supply ( the main source is wells and hand pumps), there was within every 500 m (within the village) a ‘Vodafone’/ ‘Idea’/ ‘Tata’/ ‘Reliance’ mini store. So at least it was a pleasant surprise to know that these telecom companies have lived up to a certain extent to their slogans of ‘connecting’ India and Indians.

Also another very interesting observation was, that even though they are deprived of basic amenities , they are trying to move with times with generator run photo studios, abundant nursing homes( in kothis) and cinema halls running ‘Love Story 2050’. Ironic isn’t it!

Throughout the 300Km journey a very recurrent and prominent feature was ‘schools’. These were primary schools and even secondary schools and colleges with infrastructure of a mere 4 rooms on an average. For someone like you and me, this is shocking, we have studied in schools where even a kindergarten wing has 8-12 classes, hence having more opportunities than most school going children in the country. The very fact that these schools exist means a lot, and something is always better than nothing.

This also makes one think: does this constitute development, or is our being able to build more malls and afford iPhones? Perhaps in some sense a combination of both is. But what we need to realize is that ours is a rural based democracy and we need to not only strengthen the weak links but also cash on the existing potential.

If we are able to reach the masses (in the true sense of the word), let these people in villages be as aware and comfortable as we are, and still cash on our agricultural assets, we will indeed be a successful nation.

So the next time you feel like criticizing the government for inflation or not encouraging development, just move out and take a sneak peek 100 Km away from your cushioned home and you will feel a little better. While you would appreciate what you have, you might just end up giving a thought to the present and future of your fellow countrymen, and that is all we need right now – a concentrated effort.

Meghna Baveja


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