My Village Vs. Punsari Village
A scene from 1975:
I hail from a village Chagallu near Kovvur West Godavari District. It is known for its richness in terms of its fertile lands, people, traditions, art and cultural activities. It has got a very big high school with wide open area for sports. A very old temple of Lord Shiva on its outskrits leading to Chikkala Village was my favourite place in my early childhood. It is surrounded by both arid semi-arid land, known as Garuvu. Products from Palm trees, custard apples, Indian Dates (eetha kaayalu), Tamarind, wild berries, other fruits whose botanical name I could not get are well known in that area. Raw redgram pods, sweet potatoes and other roots are seasonal food items. The people there are very devotional and art lovers. The 9 night (navratri) celebrations starting from Ganesh Chaturdhi, every year, provide an excellent forum for many drama and other artists to show case their talent. The bhajan teams are unique to this place. People across sections live like family members. My attayya belongs to a Kamma caste, my mamayya belongs to a setti balija family, my akka is from a kapu family.
God used to come out to meet the villagers at their door step and accept whatever is offered to Him. People used to compete very politely to bear the palanquin of the lord on turns. We used to throng the temple to have a glimpse of the Lord on festivals and other important days. The prasada that is offered is still fresh in my memory. The smell of the temple, devotees cleaning it, the collective ownership and responsibility exhibited are the significant aspects of live around this temple. The very scene of the temple priest going from his house , which was next to our house, to the temple with a container covered with a clean cloth having maha navaidyam and my following him along with his daughter to witness its offering is a very spiritual experience unique to my childhood mind.
A scene in July, 2012.
Fortunately for recalling, reliving and easily identifying the places, the village has not changed in any aspect. And unfortunately this fact stares straight into the eyes both physical and mental of any person who has got any connection with this village. The story of Punsari Village in Gujarat makes it more obvious. The first difference is that the website of Punsari is clickable and my village is not.
When I was driving in the car on the roads of this village on 6th July, 2012, I felt the indifference that people of this village that includes me have towards its development and thereby their own development. It has got all the potential to become the best panchayat in the State but only lacks the transformational leadership. Many have breathed their last in this village and many have left this village but yet recall it every now and then, many have migrated to this village and many have been living in this village since long time. All of them that includes me have got one similarity we are all indifferent to the way it is being governed we are only particular about our own development.
I saw my parents voting for a candidate who used to send us ambassador car to go for and returning after casting the vote. Every five years the same show is being staged and the village has only got the most critical and essential things and their sustainability – nothing less and nothing more. It is the same story for every village in Andhra Pradesh barring a very few exceptions. Why is this happening?
Public memory is short lived and personal development is the first priority. Examples are the voltages stabilizers and now the invertor batteries and safe drinking water refills purchased at a cost from a private vendor. We personally believe in enhancing our purchasing power so that all the odds in the civic society can be overcome. Seeing the significant minority the significant majority strives to achieve the same status. Thus the cycle continues and the civic system and its efficiency is conveniently ignored. Another example for this is the very posh residential community in Vivekananda Nagar Colony in Kukatpally area of Hyderabad by name Sangithanagar Cooperative Housing Society. Except the meagre security, garbage collection and fogging the mosquitoes during winter, the society does not even have good roads for all its streets. Strangely the cost per yard here is Rs.50,000/- or even more! Many rich people live in this colony. If all of them cooperate with each other, this cooperative housing society can have best of facilities many at free of cost or at very competitive rates.
We do not understand the power of cooperation. The best example for this is the fact that the success of Gujarat’s revolution in Milk and Milk Products was not replicated fully as yet in any other state in India. Today we have synthetic milk only because many of us do not to cooperate and leverage the beauty of interdependence. Many chose to live in a mythical world of independence. Another startling example is the price of tender coconut in the land of coconuts. A good quality tender coconut even during the rainy season is now pegged at Rs.20/- Today I have spent Rs.40/- per dozen bananas that are offered in the temples – the country variety, very rich in all aspects. We do not mind paying that as our focus is in increasing the income to tide over these unusual and most unnatural price hikes.
Our farmers in the villages do not wish to leverage the cooperative system because every one wanted to get lured by money lenders, commission agents, brokers and all kinds of middle men. Our government do not want to bring in any institutional changes in the way we conduct our agri-business because it loses its sources of revenue both official and un-official. This is a vicious cycle in which our governance is caught in. The only option for all of us is to strengthen the village governing system and replicate the same in the urban areas. As long as we are happy paying Rs.70/- for a paper bowel of pop-corn at Big Cenemas, which may not even weigh more than 60 grams, we continue to have these unnatural pricing system and follow the same. We do not mind paying more than the MRP for a water bottle in a posh restaurant though it is available just at the outside at the same MRP. We can not have a pricing system that is universal at all places in this country until we make the process of producing, pricing the produce, transportation, storage and distribution rational at all levels. We – being an agricultural Nation since time immemorial – are not able to conduct the agricultural activities at least based on the common sense. Alas!.
May be it is fact that we want our villages to be as they are because we have the vested interest to keep them intact in all respects so that whenever we make a whirlwind tour to our native place we have the same feelings and can utter “nothing much has been changed – same old politics, maturity levels, system of governance, etc., etc.,” and indulge in blaming many others for hours together. Our film producers also want them to be like that so that they can showcase the rugged, rustic village system in a romantic way in their films. Strangely the film director from my village has earned much fame, name and money and he too prefers to see our village in the same manner.
The Punsari Village’s Chief Executive Officer Shri Himanshu Patel is a rarity among today’s youth. But he had proved beyond doubt the following:
- Collaboration/Cooperation is the only way to overcome individual problems
- Faith in the governing system can only be possible when it is made as much transparent as possible.
- Commitment to change is the only pre-requisite for change.
- A realization that Rome is not built in a day and passion to achieve the goals set – both short term and long term.
- True Development is development of an individual and this is possible only when individuals actively participate in the process of development.
- Sound Financial Management at the village level can only make the Nation’s Financial position strong and model to the world.
- “We can do” is the trust that everyone needs to demonstrate.
- A leadership that only knows self-motivation and positive thinking.
Congratulations and best wishes to the people and the CEO of Punsari Grampanchayat.