Monday, 6 February 2012

indian villages

"Life in an Indian Village" records ten days in the daily lives of the villagers of Jitvapur in the northern Indian state of Bihar. These are poor people at the mercy of Nature and Human forces they cannot control. Their huts are destroyed every few years by flood waters sweeping down from the Himalayas, the direct result of mindless deforestation in Nepal and India. If the rice or wheat crop is lost, many adults and children simply go without food. "Letters From Jitvapur" are extracted from "Life in an Indian Village."
They are a series of 8 radio reports on daily life in the village of Jitvapur, Bihar and were oriiiginally broadcast by NPR's Weekend Edition-Sunday in 1992-1993. Tradition, caste rigidities and religion are usually cited as obstacles to development. It's quite clear that the villagers of Jitvapur are extremely conservative; but it's less clear that these are direct obstacles. 

The villagers seem aware that caste rigidities do more harm than good and that these must be set aside if they are to improve their lives.Education and literacy are often assumed to be answers to rural under-development. Certainly, the young in Jihrapur seem ready to accept the implications of education and seek work outside the village. In the United States we consider such mobility as a positive indicator. But in many other societies, social and economic mobility can be destabilizing. The 4 one hour radio tapes are accompanied by an illustrated curriculum for use at the High School and College level. The curriculum, written by Marilyn Turkovich, has been designed so that as little as one class-period, or as much as two to four weeks of class time, can be spent on the material. Although the village in question is in India and therefore has many characteristics peculiar only to India, it also stands for villages all over the developing world. 
The teacher and the student can therefore approach it on two levels: the specific (Indian) and the universal (Third World).

The farmers of  a small farming village I visited this week in  India, use a shared Internet connection called e-choupal to check crop prices, so they can decide if it's worth hiring a truck to take their goods to market. It's an Internet success story. But things got really interesting when I asked them what information they'd like to get online that they can't yet, and the ideas started flying.
E-choupal is a for-profit effort by ITC, an Indian tobacco company that's diversified widely, including into consumer food products. Over the past seven years, it has installed 6,500 Internet-connected computers in villages in nine states. E-choupal's closely watched by India's business media, in part because it's a rare example of the country's booming IT sector helping people in rural areas. About 70% of India's population depends on agriculture.
(Click here for photos of the people of Brahmanwada and nearby Nandgaon Peth, and the technology behind the e-choupal.)
E-choupal's helping farmers where it's in place. Sitting with a half dozen farmers in Brahmanwada, they explain how, in the past, once they hired a truck to bring crops to market, they had to take the price on offer that day. Now, they can ask the village sanchalak, a respected local farmer who runs the Internet system for a village and is paid by ITC, for the price while still in their village. ITC posts a price online each evening that it will honor the next day for the best quality crops, based on prices trading on the Chicago Board of Trade. Farmers can even check CBOT prices directly, and ITC also posts some rival markets' prices. "If we see a bullish trend, we might advise them to sell a quarter or a third of their crops, and hold on to some for later," says Sanjiv Buskade, a sanchalak at another central India village, Nandgaon Peth.
Such community computer setups are often called "kiosks," though that will give most Westerners an overly grand image of the technology in use. The e-choupal hardware consists of a basic desktop computer, connected to a satellite Internet connection, plus solar panels and batteries for the very frequent times the power is out. (The power was out in Brahmanwada for the first hour I visited. Farmers say power is off about half the day, most days.) A day's sunlight can provide about 40 minutes of computer power, just enough to check the evening's price. All the ITC applications are Web-based. On the back end, ITC connects the e-choupal network to an ERP system from Ramco, an Indian enterprise software company, to process the individual farmer's transactions.
E-choupal is far from a wide-open Internet channel. If someone wants access to a Website, their sanchalek must request it from ITC. The network's purpose: built by ITC to provide a direct channel for it to buy crops, and, increasingly, to let other companies sell to farmers. ITC lets partners pay to pitch goods, such as insurance or pesticides, to the farmers for a fee. The e-choupal weather report alone is a big benefit, since rain determines whether it's a good idea to plant seeds.
ITC sees big opportunity in pushing more content and business through this channel it's built. "We're seeing it as a universal network that connects rural India to the rest of the world," says S. Sivakumar, CEO of the ITC's agri-business division. Sivakumar sees opportunities for credit, health care, and education delivered through the network, though it hasn't figured out the business models for all those yet. This year, it hopes to offer for-fee vocational training, such as in basic computer skills, or in the services and retail industries. It's looking to set up microfinance programs so people buy training and pay it back once they get a job. ITC's also looking at whether e-choupals can support fresh produce sales. Today, it focuses on grains.
Farmers have no shortage of ideas for what they'd like to get from the e-choupal Internet network. When I asked, the first was information about employment for their children, when they finish school. They'd like basic English classes for their children, so they could write English-language résumés to post online. For their farms, they'd like market information on how much their cows or buffaloes are worth, and techniques for better managing their chickens. They're eager for any information on how to increase their crop yields. They want information on the best quality seeds, about farming techniques from other countries that might work here, and about getting financing for a well.
For the kids of Brahmanwada, the e-choupal computer was the first they'd seen. Pawan Vinodrao Bhuyar was impressed enough that, when he had a question on his botany studies he couldn't figure out, he asked the sanchalek to start the computer and find the answer. His teacher approved of his approach. "The teacher said 'If you know the computer, you'll be treated as literate,'" Pawan told me, through a translator. “'If you don't know the computer, you will be treated as illiterate.'”
ITC's e-choupal is a certainly an Internet success story, and a private-sector-driven one at that. This taste of progress, though, only spotlights all that's left to do in getting connectivity to rural areas.
Indian Village life is an assortment of tranquillity, serenity, quietude and innocence. Along with numerous small and big grass fields, several rivers, chirping of birds, swinging of emerald trees, speaking in a low voice the tale of languishment and love to the big and clear blue sky give a mesmerizing, captivating and bewitching effect to the Indian villages. Ever since the country`s independence from the British rule in 1947, and have thus made the country the quickest developing world economy. The country is hope to people of different castes and creeds which rightly demonstrates the principles of `Unity in Diversity`. Indian village life is fully relied on agriculture and innate all over the land. The lifestyle maintained by the people of Indian villages as well as their working styles are as fascinating as the balance offered by the metropolitan city lifestyles.

Occupation in Indian Villages
The primary occupation of the people living in the Indian villages is agriculture and is therefore reckoned as an unchangeable part of the Indian village culture. Traditionally, village and caste are regarded as similar to each other and the villages in India also follow the same trend. In Indian village life the presence of all the four castes with the hierarchy of the Brahmin is noticed. The caste system which originated long back has however remained unchanged in the village life in India. Although, caste system in its original sense has collapsed yet caste identities are very much present there in the village life in India. People belonging to different castes in a village deal with each other in kinship terms, which shows the fictive kinship relationships distinguished within each settlement.

Culture and Tradition in Indian Villages
Habitually the Indian villagers manifest a deep loyalty to their villages. A rural family which has its root seated deeply in a specific village does not move easily to another. The uniqueness of the village life in India lies in this deep loyalty which is again marked with a rich culture. The mystic charm and the cultural diversities of the village life in India, make Indian villages the land where beauty never fades away, and dream never cease to exist.

The village life in India is idyllic, unchanging with its immense beauty. The villagers of India are normally habituated in sharing and using the common facilities of the village including the village shrines and temples, the village pond, schools, grazing grounds, sitting places, etc. This interdependence of the village life in India perhaps provides a matchless unity amongst the villagers which supports them in surviving amidst thousands of odds. Village unity is therefore the primary concern of the village life in India.

Rituals in Indian Villages
Characteristically, each of the Indian villages recognizes a particular deity as the protector of the concerned village and the people of that village get together to worship the deity. Religion, which is deeply instilled in the village life in India, further supports the villagers to consider this as an essential part of village prosperity. The uninterrupted village life in India entertain themselves amidst the colour of the festivals like Diwali, Holi, Muharram, Dussehra, etc, in the captivating pulse of dance and songs and of course in the emotion of rural theatres.

In the Indian village life, there is a headman who is recognized often to respectf
listen to the village Panchayat`s decision. The gram panchayat comprises of some important men from the major castes of the village. The panchayat in Indian villages are responsible to clarify the disputes within the village boundaries as much as possible, with occasional choices of the interference of police or the court system. In the recent era, the Government supports an elective Panchayat system in the Indian villages.

The Government of India helped the villages with advanced technology for farming implements and presently most of the villages in India have access to modern farming equipments. Now-a-days, the Indian village outskirts boast up with food packaging plants, textile industries, sugar industries and steel plants. These have created for the village youth suitable employment opportunities.

Continuous reforms are made by the government in order to fashion the country a `motor` for the economy of the world. Developments in the agrarian infrastructure, public sector reforms, rural development, righted labour norms, etc have changed the Indian village life. The village life in India blessed with its innocence, purity and uncomplicated saga makes the villages as the quaint, archaic, mystic yet charming places to rediscover nature.