A Letter from Rural India

Having been born and brought up in urban settings, it was a pleasant experience to go back and stay in a village, which happened to me recently. I still remember how much I used to love my few days stay in my native village during summer vacations..

It is interesting to ponder how much rural India has transformed over the past two decades of my life since my childhood days. How the roads and the means of transportation has changed for the good in numerous cases, how the natural

beauty, greenery and forests have taken a beating over the years due to reasons of human over-population and over-exploitation of natural resources. This time my village sojourn was in Karda village, located in Karda Gram Panchayat in Gogunda Tehsil of Udaipur district in Rajasthan. I got this opportunity of staying in the village for a considerable period of time, since I was associated with Aajeevika Bureau, an NGO based in Udaipur that works with migrants. My study was related to internal migration, primarily focussing on distress migration of people from rural hamlets to nearby cities in search of work and income. Historically, Gogunda has been the site of the coronation of the Rajput king Maharana Pratap of Mewar and also that of the battle of Haldi Ghati (where Maharana Pratap fought with the Mughals).The local Bhil population has played a significant role in protecting its motherland, alongwith the Rajputs, in the glorious past of the Mewar region. Thus, the settlers of Gogunda are proud descendants of the martial clans that fought the Mughals more than five centuries ago.

Some of the dwellings in the village belong to various kin members from the same lineal descent group. Here the community is patrilineal. The tribal villagers, by and large, follow a simple religion and are, usually devotees of “Ashapuri Mata” and “Bhairon Baba”. An interesting aspect is the assimilation of the local Bhil tribals with the Hindus, by taking up worship of deities from their earlier religious beliefs of “animism” and “naturism”, though they have retained some elements in the form of “totems”. I also witnessed a Gameti Bhil marriage which was similar to a Hindu marriage as compared to any of the classic eight types of Indian tribal marriages as documented by D.N Majumdar. This type of assimilation of tribals in the mainstream Hindu religion was also observed by the Indian sociologist G.S Ghurye in his study of the tribes of India and described as “backward Hindus”.

The village largely follows traditionalism with ascribed qualities, giving more importance to birth rather than achievement. The village has a subsistence economic system with a simple division of labour. It is a common practice among the villagers to take turns in helping one another in one another’s agricultural field. The village is characterised by homogeneity to a large extent and interdependent social relations. Certain remnants of the “jajmani system” was observed in the form of caste interdependence, though not truly patron-client relationship. Jajmani system, which is traditionally based on exchanges of kind, is largely being replaced with wages and the occupational caste groups are increasingly shifting to open occupations.

The village has access to a government primary school, but does not have the minimum required infrastructure such as drinking water facilities (like hand pump), health and other basic facilities. In the village, the highest educational aspiration of any child is upto eighth or tenth class and then migrate to nearby states like Gujarat and work there to earn his living. Overall, the literacy rate for Gogunda is about 60% and is still lower amongst tribals and women.

There is a closed social stratification determined by birth and caste system. There is an interplay of caste, class (economic aspect) and status that influences the stratification in the village under study. Stratification in tribal society has its roots in British policy, unevenness due to uneven implementation of government policies and impact of economic development.There are very few factors conducive towards upward social mobility because of a limited sense of educational and individual aspirations and achievements in the present setting. It was observed that there was no direct or significant influence of local political institutions like Gram Panchayat or Ward Panch on the lives of the villagers (especially the deprived groups), the villagers remember them meeting only at the time of seeking vote for election, as narrated by Parsaram (name changed). The signs and symbols of the relationship of the village with the government are witnessed in the forms of names of households that have been granted work under NREGS painted on the walls of the local government primary school. Also there are social messages about education, sanitation, health that have been painted on the walls of the dwellings of the village.

It is widely accepted that our country can progress on the path of sustainable development only when the inclusive development of villages is also carried out with gusto while pursuing ‘Smart City Mission’.

Dhan Singh, XIM-Bhubaneswar

  • This blog has been contributed by Dhan Singh, a student from XIMB who interned with Aajeevika Bureau in 2012. Dhan Singh was keen to share his experiences and the insights that he drew from the two month period that he spent in Gogunda, a block in Udaipur.
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