Saturday, 21 August 2010

Thoughts on Home

Thoughts on Home: My recent trip to India

Abhay K*



India I found during my brief visit from 26th Feb to 26th March 2009 was a different India than what I had seen a year and half ago in 2007. What I found changed was the penetration of mobile phones and roads in the remote areas of the country. It was heartening to access Internet at my ancestral village in Nalanda in Bihar. I often dreamed about it a decade ago. I could also travel to the remote villages on bike or car where a few years ago it was only possible to go walking or by limousines powered by bulls. Centuries old isolation of these rural outposts has been broken and a new connected society has started to form in the remote heartlands.



I was even more surprised by the village Primary School. A visit to the premises of the Government Primary School in my village that had been upgraded to a middle school since my last visit was heart warming experience for me. I saw a well constructed school campus with toilets, water-pump and a painted recreation room. How much it had changed since the time I attended this school twenty years ago.



I was specially touched by the news that soon the Internet services would be available on mobile phones at affordable cost. We live in an interesting time and the mind boggling advances in technology now make it possible to realize our dreams in merely decades. At this pace of development, very soon the last villages in India will be connected and the poorest of the poor will have a mobile phone.



IT has been put to the service of the people and now Railway reservations can be made through internet saving long queues at the Railway stations. Land records have been digitized which directly benefits the common man in the villages. What India now needs is a revolution in the power sector so that each and every small or large settlement in India can get unhindered electricity supply. This can be achieved by making use of both conventional and non-conventional energy resources. Solar energy can be a major source as India gets good sunshine throughout the year. Intensive R&D is required in this field in the next few years to solve India's power shortage problems. Nano-technology is a promising area in this regard as better poly-silicon is being made today using nano-technology. Russia is one of the leaders in this sector and we can benefit from technology sharing in this area.



During my travel to Jodhpur I found scribbled on walls of an elite city club 'Clean Jodhpur, Green Jodhpur'. It was heartening to see that city dwellers care for the city they live in but a moment later found a garbage heap lying by the corner of the wall. The club members passed by that garbage heap everyday without noticing it, or perhaps noticing but ignoring it. I observed similar conditions in Kerala, one of the most literate states of India and in my home state Bihar. 'Clean homes, Dirty streets' seems to be a pan Indian story. Streets with kids openly defecating in daylight, streets with cows and dogs, snake-charmers and recently violent street-beggars -mostly kids and young women who scratch you to irritation if you refuse to give them money. Putting large dust bins in the street and purchasing garbage can be the solution. We need a good waste collection and treatment mechanism in order to improve hygiene and image of the country.



The movement of traffic within the cities or the highways can cause heart attack to someone who is in India for the first time as everybody has his own rule on Indian roads and the rule is 'drive wherever you want, as you want'. It was alright when there were less number of vehicles on the road but now with increasing number of vehicles with the rising prosperity of the Indian middle class, the situation looks worrisome. The traffic rules need to be strictly implemented and driving licenses need to handed over with due care. Without which I fear that travelling on Indian roads will be an adventurous affair.



I found an improved public transport during my travel to Delhi from Jaipur and from Delhi to Chandigarh and back. The construction of Delhi Metro has greatly eased the traffic burden from the auto-rickshaws, taxis and buses but auto-rickshaws have not changed themselves from pre-price fixing and not using the meter. In the country side buses and trekkers continue to overload people on the roofs as cattle and people continue to defecate on both sides of the roads approaching villages in lack of public or private toilets. But the good news is that NGOs are active in the villages and offering people to get toilets on half-cost sharing basis. I hope it should work.



Elections are nearing and this time I hear that everybody in the voter's list has got an electronic voting identity card and the voting will take place on electronic voting machines throughout the country. Many constituencies have been delimited and old caste equations have changed. Now candidates can spend maximum of Rs. 25, 00000($US50, 000) on the election campaign and that will include all the expenditure including expenditure on vehicles. Posters cannot be pasted on walls this time. Interesting developments but reforms in how elections are funded will be a major step ahead in making our democracy more open and transparent. I wonder if one can get an Election-loan as Educational loans are granted to the students.



Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are personal.

* Abhay K. is author of the book 'River Valley to Silicon Valley-Story of three generations of an Indian family' and 'Enigmatic Love: Love poems from the fairy-tale city of Moscow'. His forthcoming books are 'Fallen Leaves of Autumn, Candling the Light, '10 Questions of Soul' and 'United Earth: The New Global Institution for the New Millennium'. He currently lives and works in St. Petersburg, Russia.
 
Published in 74th FC Newsletter in April 2009

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