Disappearing lives of villages, in an illusion of development- India Grassroots story
Ashok, son of an abusive drunkard father wore the school uniform for the first time in his life. Though it was his fourth year at the local government school, he had never had the privilege of wearing a uniform like the kids of the neighboring Christian convent.
As he walked past the Hindi speaking labors returning from work while he was at the local playground ready to attempt the helicopter shot. He had picked it from the previous night’s champions trophy highlights.
He had the courage and determination and idolized the legend M.S. Dhoni.
He had heard the older men from the village talk about the good times that would change the landscape and economy of the village.
Make lives better.
Government was planning to buy the lands of the villagers and they also promised to pay handsomely. They paid better than the market value, is what the neighbouring villagers who had already sold their land told. There was a new private school in town now. Colourful uniform, yellow school buses to pick and drop kids. English and disciple is what made them different from the local government schools.
The villagers who had turned rich overnight by selling their fields to the government, had the money to send their kids to these schools.
There was an industrial area being set up at Tandavapura, Mysore this year. Ashok had just finished his school and was looking to acquire skills which could land him in a respectable job around his village. The sign boards of the MNCs displayed all over the area motivated many youngsters from villages including Ashok to study well and not quit school early which was common in the region.
The demise of his drunkard father the previous year and his family being landless. Ashok’s mother was earning as a daily wage agricultural labour in the nearby fields. Ashok would deliver newspapers in the mornings and also supply packaged drinking water to the houses of officials working for the MNCs.
Government was eagerly developing the industrial areas, and the lands were being bought at four times the market value. The agenda of development was real.
Or was it?
The fields were all sold to the government and the owners were promised jobs as a goodwill. One job for one family. Considering the educational qualifications of these land owners, They were offered the job of watchmen, industry help, and similiar other back-breaking jobs.
The fact was no land owner wanted a job. Why would a poor man working in a field all these years, and has turned rich overnight want to break his back again?
The trade-off was definitely unfair. Money isn’t the solution always. These people will never know to use money for the future good.
How can you expect them to understand portfolio investment? Financial literacy was something that could uplift them. Make them part of the development scenario.
However, all they did was build a house. A BIG house. Buy a car. Send their children to the new fancy convents. It wasn’t astonishing to see three new franchises of kindergartens that had popped up in the locality. Now that village was financial sound. At least for few years.
Once the money was gone.
Every big house would have a landless and unemployed family, with a car.
Although Ashok was an intelligent student at school. He had to start working soon. His mother was not getting any field work as the fields were now allotted to industries.
He had taken up an I.T.I course in a neighbouring institute which would assure him a job in the industry. His dream of hitting a helicopter shot remained a dream as all the playgrounds were now acquired by the industries which were here to create a better livelihood for the locals.
Development was the agenda.
The kids and youth now did not have a place to play after work and school. Weekends were to be spend in front of their television, watching foreign athletes achieving big at the Olympics.
Survival was in question for Ashok now.
The jobs in the many industries around his village was never intimated to the locals. Hiring took place at a far off place. Generally in north Karnataka or Bihar. Discrimination was visible.
Industries felt labourers from these places expected less amenities. That saved costs for the industries.
There was a new residential area across the railway tracks with tents or tin sheets housing the migrant workers.
Open defecation had increased.
Labourers from the far off lands came with a new habit of alcoholism and ganja. It was the elixir for the truck-drivers and labourers breaking their back.
The wine shop selling liquor was in the next village and had started franchising now (of course illegally).
The milk booths, bakeries, and houses on the corners stocked liquor. Every petty shop on the street sold liquor. Jobless adults, frustrated youth, women and the confused children could now buy alcohol across the streets, on every corners.
As Ashok looks around the village which was supposed to be an epic centre of growth and development. The social problems had taken a front seat. Companies never post job opening to the locals. If the qualified youth reach the interviews by an insider information. Their resumes never go ahead after the HRs notice their origin.
The companies quote the age old issues like ‘possibilities of labour unions’ being formed, the ‘grouping of locals inside the industry may cause conflicts’ and the ‘production output may reduce.’
However, youth like Ashok have lost hope, the hardships they faced to attend school in all the adverse conditions with the only aim of securing a respectable job in their area will never be fulfilled. Many seniors who had migrated to cities like Bangalore have returned as the living conditions of industrial labourers are pathetic. The money they earn was never enough to save and send a share back to their family in the village.
The CSR initiatives of these industries in the village have never delivered their promises.
The uniforms provided to the government schools did nothing but germinate dreams in the minds of kids. However, the dreams are then killed by the same companies destroying their villages and not considering qualified local youth for jobs.
The company that promised to provide clean drinking water for the village just lifts water from the nearby stream and pumps it to the taps. After seeing the muddy water which stinks, Ashok feels that the company has cut costs by not filtering it anymore. Cost cutting for departments that does not earn revenue for the company has always benefitted the company. Right?
The stream from which the drinking water is lifted has drainage and industrial wastes also flowing into it. Though these issues were present since the last century, maybe these MNCs haven’t found a solution for this yet.
Are they testing the immunity of the villagers?
Noise pollution, sound pollution, air pollution, and land pollution from the industrial disposal is increasing every day.
Dusk is the most productive hour for all these factories.
The air turns cloudy and hardly anybody in the village has seen a star or the moon in the recent times. Locals start experiencing breathing related issues as early as 35–40 years. Leading to chronic illness and dependency.
The companies are on the task of developing the nation at the cost of such villages all over the nation.
Such development scenarios have forced youth like Ashok to leave the city. Live a disadvantaged and pathetic life for ever after, leaving their parents at the mercy of “Development”.
Availability of liquor and ganja at petty shops across the streets and corner houses have been helping the locals understand development better.