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Strolling through the newly built toilets of the primary school in Kahatul, I entered the ATM of the village and felt content that I did a decent job. The immaculately clean village was testimony to all the hard work Swaniti had put in over the last one year to ensure Kahatul is called an Adarsh Gram. It was around noon when the school bell rang. Hoping to see children storm out of school as if they had just been granted freedom, I looked towards the school gate and suddenly realized it was my alarm which was ringing and not the school bell! I woke up to the bitter truth of all that being a mere dream and that it’s a long way to go to before the dream of Kahatul, an Adarsh Gram could come true.

I got ready while listing the tasks of the day in my head and met my teammate Utkarsha, a lad equally enthusiastic to make Kahatul one of the model villages in the country. Though how much of our enthusiasm would percolate to executing successful interventions on the ground, only time will tell.

As we entered Kahatul, it seemed like the villagers had hosted a storm the previous night which had strewn plastics over the entire village. Though our subsequent visits made us realize that the mess had nothing to do with a probable storm and that cleanliness was perhaps something unheard of, in the village.

Upon reaching we interacted with a score of government authorities from different departments who painted a utopian picture of the village and signified that no external hand was needed to make things better. The reluctance of the local authorities in accepting the flaws and their parochial approach seemed like a decent challenge in our way towards working with them for the next one year.

The idea behind our village assessment study was to understand the existing structural, social and economical infrastructure of the village. The visits to the primary school, high school, public health center, veterinary center, etc. evidently posed before us a humungous task of setting things right. It also highlighted that a lot needs to be done before Kahatul could be called an Adarsh Gram. Though a silver lining in the cloud was the job done by the ANM (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) who had ensured 100% institutional delivery and 100% immunization coverage in the village.

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The culturally rich village has enough resources that could be harnessed and channeled towards its development. All said and done, as long as the villagers don’t consider development as their responsibility, the situation in the village cannot be sustainably changed. They need to build their own initiatives suiting the needs of the village and successfully execute them. After all, that’s how a model village would qualify to be called one.

Our lunches in different village households were something that both, Utkarsha and I used to look forward to while grumbling about the food taste during dinners at the government’s guest house. Though on one of these occasions, the house owner, known for his warm reception in the village was so liberal while pouring ghee in the mango shake that it led to an upset stomach and I had to eventually skip field visit the following day! Given I’m allergic to mango, shows how cautious I was in not being rude to his hospitality. So much for an Adarsh Gram! Thus, with the hope of making the dream of Kahatul come true, we packed our bags to return to the scorching heat of Delhi, only to come back again and work with the community in realizing our dream of an Adarsh Gram.

This blog is authored by Soumya Sinha, Swaniti Associate. You can reach her at soumya.s@swaniti.in