Even as India completes 75 years of Independence, many parts of rural India still need to get access to basic amenities such as healthcare, education, access to clean water, uninterrupted electrical connectivity and better livelihood opportunities. We find differential levels of growth and development across various states and even between urban and rural areas. Considering 2/3rd of our population...
Information poverty, as defined by the United Nations, is the "inequitable distribution of information sources and content leads to a generation of children who are not able to access the ideal mix of information necessary for them to be successful in life," is one of the growing concerns among developing countries such as India.
It is said to often stem from a range of causes ranging from lack of appropriate content, infrastructure or even biases in terms of ethnicity, belief, and culture. In the case of India, a country known to be brimming with quality literary resources, the appropriate content has not reached the masses even despite its availability. The concern would then be shifted to infrastructure.
A recently proposed initiative by the East Delhi Member of Parliament (MP) Gautam Gambhir presented a simplified solution to this concern of lack of infrastructure.
Library Out Of A Garbage Dump
Looking at a municipal corporation garbage dump, not many would view it as a space capable of building and exchanging information. The MP of East Delhi envisioned this differential idea and, along with the corporation, built a brand new library in the place where a dump yard existed a few months back.
The Shaheed Bhagat Singh Jan Library (SBSJL), named after the revolutionary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, aims to benefit the 'marginalised' communities in the trans-Yamuna area. It was an initiative that was discussed early in the month of March and was set to be opened on the line of community kitchens run by him in the region.
Breaking Through Information Poverty 2,000 Book At A Time
The library was opened with the idea of eradicating information poverty and ensuring that even the marginalised communities have access to content. It would have multiple provisions in the form of online and offline knowledge resources that can be accessed by the many young adults and seniors in the community.
The initiative which is to be launched in the first week of October measures up to 1,500 square feet (sqft) and houses over 2,000 books, including books written in Braille script. Many similar projects will soon appear in the localities of Shahdara, Trilokpuri, and Mayur Vihar.
A report by the New Indian Express quoted MP Gambhir saying that it would "make a significant contribution to creating a literate community and society by engaging themselves in the larger realm of learning." In connection to this, the MP said that they also aim to introduce other provisions such as skill development, community engagement, and awareness session programmes within the library.
The stone-laying ceremony of an exclusive all-women market is all set to be held on October 19, according to the Mayor of Lucknow Municipal Corporation, Sanyukta Bhatia. A concept that was initially proposed in March, during International Women's Day, the corporation has been able to dedicate space and frame the works behind the same over time.
The market would be one-of-its-kind in Lucknow, and it became even more special as it was launched under the first ever woman mayor elected to the Lucknow Corporation, one of the biggest municipal corporations in India. The site was recently visited by the Mayor, and she gave an insight into the project that would be turned into reality by October.
Setting The Ground
The final provisions for the all-women market have been laid out by the Lucknow Municipal Corporation, along with a budget allocation that would ensure the end-to-end features are met as planned. The market, designed to promote business among female entrepreneurs and traders, will create a space that encourages financial empowerment and independence among women.
Bhatia recently visited the site allocated for the market and inspected it along with the city engineer, junior engineer and architect of the project. Based on the observations, the engineers have been directed to proceed with the first phase of vacating the land and conducting soil testing.
As per reports by the Business Standard, the market would be a three-storeyed structure which can house up to 125 shops of 12.50 square metres. There would be additional facilities such as an underground parking area of 2,848 square metres, which can accommodate 40 four-wheelers at a time.
Envisioning Equal Participation In Economy And Labour Force
Speaking to the media houses, Bhatia said that she would "want women to be empowered in the true sense. They will only get empowered when they are financially strong and start earning themselves." Calling the market a space that would work towards fulfilling the dream of women's empowerment, she noted that it would also create a remarkable transformation within the economic structure.
Adding to this, she said that the majority of shops around Lucknow are run exclusively by men and have set up a male dominance within the economic contributions. Women, on the other hand, were limited to the role of salesperson for the longest time. The all-women market would focus on giving opportunities solely to women traders, businesswomen and entrepreneurs and would also be mostly run by women staff.
A similar initiative was launched in Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Corporation, where a shopping complex was constructed exclusively to generate employment for women.
Started by four members - Ms Deepali Nayak, Mr Biswambharnath Naik, Mr Aseem Sinha and Ms Minashree Horo, for the four fundamental requirements of every person - Roti (food), Kapda (clothes), Makan (shelter), and internet connectivity, Mor Mitti is a space that has been identifying and promoting the local needs. Even though the project was started not more than five months ago, it has been able to bring together over 40 rural households under one roof.
The project evolved on the grounds of Simdega village of Jharkhand, which was known for being an extremist-affected region. However, today things are changing with these four founders bringing together like-minded people to transform the village's identity and rebuild it on the villager's talents and capabilities.
In an attempt to spread the word about the talent that remains latent among these remote regions, one among the founders has decided to cycle across 1,400 kms, connect with people, and spread the word. Under the banner "Parichay Yathra", the co-founder Biswambharnath Naik has so far been able to take the word about the village from Jharkhand to Banaras, and it is soon to reach the people of Delhi.
Roti, Kapda, Makan, And Connectivity
"Mitti" was taken up as an emotion for the soil that does not discriminate against anyone. It treats everyone equally and is considered as a space that nourishes us between our life and death. Taking this concept into their initiative, along with the name of the place they all began from - Mor, Jharkhand, the project 'Mor Mitti' started off.
Under the project, the four founding members take care of each pillar - Deepali Nayak is behind the element 'Roti', Minashree Horo handles 'Kapda', Aseem Sinha takes care of 'Makan', and Biswambharnath Naik ensures there's a connectivity that takes across the word. The four members come from different departments within the district administration and are united over a similar cause.
Earlier, many viewed the villages as a space covered with forest lands and limited formal economy. Mor Mitti changed this perspective and has been conveying that the forest economy can also make it to heights as a formal economy. Bringing together the rural communities, they have been training them under government schemes, introducing them to modern equipment, and rebuilding an economy many did not consider.
This was also an idea that evolved from seeing the brain drain occurring in the country and the rural spaces. It was often not the lack of opportunities but the lack of identifying them in the mainstream that had villagers travelling distances to secure themselves a job.
Mor Mitti worked towards changing this dynamic and wanted to reverse the migration that was prevalent in the villages. Collaborating with innumerable skilled rural workers and artisans, they established an eco-friendly space that boasts as one-of-its-kind in Jharkhand. This space was utilised to harness the expertise of the villagers and bring people together through local food, culture, and arts.
Working on the idea of connectivity, co-founder Biswambharnath took up the initiative to take the message about the possibilities of a formal economy within the forests from Simdega to New Delhi.
Parichay Yathra, Taking The Message Around On A Cycle
'Parichay' literally translates to 'introduction', and the Parichay Yathra started off under Mor Mitti with the idea to introduce the land and talents of Mor to the Mitti of India.
Flagged off on the 13th of September, Parichay Yathra is being spearheaded by Biswambharnath, who will be covering 1,400 kms till Delhi. Interacting with over 10,000 people on the way, he says he has been mistaken as a yogi (a yoga practitioner) to even a paagal (madman) on a cycle. The many reactions he received toward the cause made the journey a lot more interesting for him.
Opting for a cycle to take around this message, Biswambharnath tells The Logical Indian that the common man's vehicle is perfect for taking the message to the common man. He said, "the cycle gives a certain pace with which I can take the message to the people". Adding on to that, he says that it was never about how fast he could make it to Delhi; it was about how far he could go together with the people.
As a result, his journey is now going longer than expected, but he has been cherishing every minute of it. He conveys that every place he has made a stop at has had an interesting story attached to it. Sharing the story of Simdega with them, his journey has been successful for the over 640 kms he has covered.
From university students to entrepreneurs, the story of Simdega and its villagers has been travelling and breaking age-old stereotypes. Biswambharnath says that earlier, many people associated Jharkhand and Simdega to a village full of daily wagers and domestic workers.
This is being broken down by this man on a cycle, and he is now making many others ponder over the question, "why do people leave behind the opportunities in the forests and go seek opportunities in a closed cabin?"
From Mor To Mitti
Talking about the journey so far, Biswambharnath says that the best part about the journey is that "It was never about the answers, but the questions." In the 600+ kms, he had the opportunity to meet so many curious people who had interesting questions for him and Mor Mitti. Answering their curiosities gave him much-needed clarity and push to continue his initiative.
Mor Mitti's founders are hoping to create a base of over thousands of investors and expand their initiative to accommodate a whole lot of local entrepreneurs. Understanding that lack of livelihood opportunities is what drove people from the resource-rich regions of Jharkhand to bigger cities, they are trying to change the narrative and bring opportunities through the forest economy.
The travel across 1,400 kms intends to convey the capabilities of such remote regions to host businesses and opportunities. Welcoming more people every day into the exchange of ideas and cultures, they continue their journey committed to their idea of inclusivity and collective growth.
Rajesh Singh, founder and director of a private company based in Gurgaon, had recently posted a LinkedIn story about an agent who delivers gas cylinders to his locality. It gave the users a glimpse of the agent's life and the kind of odd jobs that many skilled graduates turn to in the country.
The optimistic agent's story has received over 37,000 likes and has been shared across the platform by over 500 users. The comments section under the post, however, provides food for thought about the job environment that exists and the ground reality of many youths in the country.
Meeting Day's End With Less Than 4,000 Per Month
The post begins with Singh narrating that he was shaken to realise that his delivery agent could converse in English.
Within Indian society, many are still rooted in the presumption that those involved in odd jobs or earning daily wages would not be well-versed in the foreign tongue. Such jobs are often stereotypically associated with those who may not have received much education or are less privileged.
This would probably be the reason why Singh was taken aback to have met an agent fluent in English to be delivering gas cylinders from door-to-door. Having struck a conversation with the youngster, Singh understood that the 24-year-old Sandeep Yadav from Sultanpur is a science graduate. On a day-to-day basis, Yadav delivers about 25 to 30 cylinders and earns a monthly income of 12,000.
On being asked about why he had opted for such a job after his graduation, Yadav said that this was the only job he could manage to secure. It paid him a decent amount of money, through which he could support his ageing parents back in his village. From the 12,000 that he earns monthly, around 8,000 goes back home, and he survives on the remaining 4,000.
Living with 20 other guys from the town, he has been able to manage and meet the day's end even with a minimal salary. This one statement sheds light on the many youths in the country who have deviated to different kinds of jobs despite having secured multiple degrees because of the lack of opportunities available to them.
Despite the kind of conditions he has had to survive in, the optimistic delivery agent ended the conversation with a positive note saying, "Acche din aayenge, sir," (better days are ahead".
Responses From Other Users
Among the 1,000+ comments that were poured in, there were many who came forward with support and asked for the agent's contact to provide him with opportunities. They proposed that since he is a science graduate, there would be multiple spaces that would be ready to train and accommodate him.
A user Radesh Rangarajan commented that it is "Our moral responsibility to show appreciation in the form of generous tipping when we can afford it." He also added that despite the government's trickle-down support being well-intentioned, those mainly benefitting from it are government employees.
In response to the tipping nature, another user argued that the agents would be receiving sufficient additional payment from the gas agencies. Presenting ideal calculations, they deduced that an agent would earn a total of around ₹25,000 through this means. Commenting in response to this, another user spoke of how none of the shops in India function in the manner in which they claim to do as per the accounts.
They added that many agents are often scammed out of their rightful income by both small to big industries. Validating this idea, a user named Surabhi Joshi said that it is a "story similar to many in the country right now who have the skills and capability but are not at the right place."
Stories similar to that of Yadav's have often been posted on the online platform, and it has initiated a much-needed dialogue on the efforts made by the country and individuals to provide better opportunities for everyone. This is what makes it necessary for stories like his to come out in the mainstream.
The Mulchera village is 900 kilometres from the Maharashtra capital Mumbai and has a population of about 2,500, comprising a mix of tribals and people from West Bengal. Every day at 8:45 am, the village residents, including shop owners and other commercial establishment owners, gather to sing the national anthem; even the pedestrians and two state-run buses in the village ground to a stop and join in the chorus.
According to the police official, this has given people new energy and increased their patriotism. The number of disputes has decreased as the communal singing of the anthem has increased the sense of fraternity.
It is the third village in the country and the second in Maharashtra to begin this practice, following Bhilwadi village in Maharashtra's Sangli district and Nalgonda village in Telangana, as reported by NDTV.
Why Was Mulchera Labelled As A Moist-Affected Village?
According to Assistant Police Inspector (API) Ashok Bhapkar, who initiated the national anthem-singing initiative in the village, the first encounter between police and Maoists in Gadchiroli was under the jurisdiction of the Mulchera police station. Later, the suspected Maoist commander and a child he used as a human shield were killed during an encounter in the village in 1992.
Recently, two more suspected Maoists from the village surrendered, and as a consequence of these incidents and threats, Mulchera was dubbed a Maoist-affected village.
Vivekanandpur, a neighbouring village, has also begun this practice. Police officers make rounds of Mulchera and Vivekanandpur with two loudspeakers, playing a patriotic song for one minute, indicating that the national anthem is about to begin.
'Police Dadlora Khidki': Another Initiative By Police
53 "Police Dadlora Khidki" have been installed in the Gadchiroli district. This single-window system facilitates the implementation of government schemes and provides people with various official certificates, high-quality seeds, and other benefits.
According to another official, along with the other initiatives to combat the Maoist threat, the implementation of Dadlora Khidki is a new introduction to residents.