Reethu, a story teller, a person often found between the pages of a book or contemplating the nuances of life.
As India continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, at least five villages of Haryana have together donated ₹50 crore to the Haryana government's coronavirus relief fund.
While none of these villages are facing a COVID-19 crisis, the money was donated by the village panchayats from the development fund of the villages.
While Palra village in Gurgaon donated the most at ₹21 crore, Sersa and Rampur in Sonipat district have donated ₹11 crore and ₹2.5 crore respectively. Meanwhile, Nasibpur village in Narnaul has donated ₹5 crore and the village of Bal Jattan in Panipat district has donated ₹10.5 crore.
While Parla and Nasibpur have reported a few cases of COVID-19, all of which have now recovered, none of the other villages has reported even a single case. In Palra, there was one case, while Nasibpur had four. Meanwhile, till date, Haryana has reported over 44,000 cases, of which over 37,000 have recovered and as many as 511 have succumbed to the virus.
These villages receive funds in the tune of crores due to compensation for frequent land acquirement projects.
"The land of panchayat has been acquired by the Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development and Haryana government over time. We don't exactly know how much land has been acquired, but we had enough money in the gram panchayat's account," Rajesh Kumar, a panchayat member in Sersa told The Print, adding that the village is among the wealthiest in Sonipat.
Bal Jattan, 15 km away from the city of Panipat, was the first to donate to the relief fund in April. Rajesh said that as around 400-500 acres have been acquired over the years for refinery and plants, the village has funds at its disposal.
According to Rajesh, the village, which is surrounded by an Indian Oil refinery, a naphtha cracker plant, and a rubber plant, has over ₹125 crore in its account.
Inspired by Bal Jattan, Palra donated money for the "betterment of others", said Sarpanch Munesh Devi.
"We decided to donate the money after mutual agreement so that the money can be used for the betterment of others," Munesh said. After benefitting from land acquisition over the years, the panchayat still has around ₹21 crore in its account.
Nasibpur is the latest to contribute to the fund, with ₹5 crore donated on July 30. According to Pramod Kumar, Narnaul Block Development and Panchayat Officer, the village was motivated to donate the amount following an appeal by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
Meanwhile, residents of the village said that there is a lack of basic facilities in the villages. In Palra, there is only one school, which is up to Class 10, resulting in many girl students struggling as other schools are several kilometres away, according to a report by NDTV.
"All parents worry about how to send their girls alone for such distance. There is no conveyance. It's very troublesome to travel. Sometimes the auto takes too much time. We also hesitate in travelling alone and our parents also get anxious. Our school should be till Class 12 so that all girls can study here itself without getting stressed. Parents also won't have to be worried," Jyoti, a student, told the media.
The Panchayat members claimed that while they have proposed an expansion to upgrade the school till class 12, it is yet to be approved by the government.
"The main issue is our school. We are building rooms with our own panchayat money. We are requesting the government that our school should be till Class 12. Our daughters travel long distances to study," said Rajendra Kumar, a panchayat member.
In Sersa village, all though CCTV cameras line the streets and people's courtyards, and almost every second person has their own house, vehicle, and farm, residents complained that the electricity comes for only two hours during the day. In addition, the village also doesn't have a primary health centre.
"It is a huge issue. During the day, electricity is there only for two hours. In the evening too, it's there only for a few hours. There are frequent power cuts. All houses have inverters and they manage only because of that. We have to go to private hospitals. There is no dispensary. We have to go to Singhu which is 3 km away," said Rinku Ritlan, a resident.
In Sersa, nearly every second home also have the Murrah buffaloes, known for high fat-rich milk production. In addition, it is also planning to install a solar power plant but has not yet received the government's nod.
However, the village, which has won the 'Star Puruskar Gram Panchayat' award for its efforts in education, has only one school that teaches students till 8th standard. Further, the villagers have to rush to Sonipat or Delhi in case of emergencies.
However, Neelam Devi, Sarpanch of the village claimed that a proposal for installation of solar panels at each house has been pending for over two years.
"Electricity is a big issue and we have been trying to get solar panels installed at each household so that in each house, at least one fan can run and kids can study in the light. But this file is stuck with the government for 2.5 years," Neelam said.
"We are not helping the government or officials but poor people. We may not be able to directly interact with many people, but they are going through a lot of trouble. We will give (funds) to the government so they can then give it to people struggling with money, food and medicines. We can't reach all such people directly," the Sarpanch added.
Meanwhile, in Bal Jattan, the residents complained of pollution due to the refinery and chemical plants, which is causing serious health issues among the villagers.
"We do not expect anything from the government. The village has enough money, but we only need permissions to carry out development activities in the village," added Neelam.Also Read: Haryana Plans Modern Libraries In Rural Areas With Computers, Exam Guides
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