‘REALITY is bitterly different’

 

The absence of a health centre in the vicinity comes as a blow. The nearest medical aid is available 10 km away at Gabhana. For serious cases, the patient has to be taken all the way to Aligarh

Samarth Pathak Nagalia (Aligarh)

 

Nagalia is a small village that comes under the Gabhana tehsil near Aligarh in western Uttar Pradesh. A narrow strip of inconspicuous kuchha road connects it to the National Highway-91. A word of caution: commuting to the village by the UP roadways is not for the faint hearted. One must travel hanging from an overloaded jeep (while the UP Police look the other way!) from the Khurja bus depot to Gabhana, take a tempo to the ‘narrow' strip, and then walk about half-kilometer to reach Nagalia.

Those who believe that the green fields seen through the windows of Volvos, trains and Scorpios provide the real glimpse of the village life, would be in for a shock. The entry into the village is a virtual swamp, as the drains are blocked. Filth can be seen outside the semi pucca houses on both sides of the serpentine lanes leading into the village. Says Ranjan Singh, a villager, "The problem of drain blockage has been there since many years. Due to such unhygienic conditions, water-borne diseases are common. Irrigation also suffers due to this wastage of water, especially during the summers."

The electricity connections here are illegal. Multiple wires connected to the poles provide electricity to a few villagers, but it is not enough because of the prolonged power cuts. This absence of electricity severely affects the irrigation (mainly done through tube wells and pumps, since the ‘officials' hand pumps are dysfunctional.)

The absence of a health centre in the vicinity also comes as a blow. The nearest medical aid is available 10 kilometers away at Gabhana, and for serious cases, the patient has to be taken all the way to Aligarh. Telephones are yet to arrive here, though a few villagers can be seen sporting their "Reliance" cell phones.

While most in the village are engaged in agriculture or labour, there are many who are unemployed. This is primarily due to the failure of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), lament the villagers. "No work was given to the people except sweeping the roads, and those who actually needed the scheme never benefited. No work has taken place for almost a year now but still entries are made into the records. Everything is great in government files, but reality is bitterly different," says Durga Singh, a farmer.

Corruption is rampant. From the local constable to the collector, all are alleged to be taking bribes. Bhairon Ram, an elderly villager remarks, "The only way to get things done here is to pay money to the officials. From cops to local clerks, all are corrupt. The di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) package essential for agriculture is officially priced at Rs 432. But is sold at a much higher cost. What do we do?"

Then there is the issue of education. Under the aegis of the ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan', the only school in the village is up to class 8. But the quality of education leaves a lot to be desired. Students of class 7, learning English, could not recite the alphabets or converse well. Yet, despite the poor quality of education, many children Hardnews spoke to aspired to be "computer engineers" and "police inspectors". Says Dr Nasir Naeem, the headmaster of the village school, "Many villagers send their children to private schools in Gabhana. Those who are left are enrolled here. We have 70 per cent of the village girls studying here, even though the dalit children hardly enroll. Efforts are on to enroll and retain them."

Oddities in the panchayat are also present. In a surprising revelation, it turns out that the gram pradhan is Uma Devi, but all work is carried out by her husband, Bhagwan Das Singh. When asked why, the villagers unanimously reply, "In any field, the work of women is done by men. The panchayat faces issues of farming and disputes. Women cannot do such ‘heavy' stuff. So we do not have a problem with this." This surprising discrimination against working females answers some crucial questions, like-"Why are all women seen here engaged in making dung cakes only?"

Clearly, while our cities are growing rapidly to conform to the ‘world class' standards, the villages are going from bad to worse. And it comes as a blot to those in power that barely 100 kilometers from the capital, lies a village which is yet to get legal electricity connections and health facilities.