Two reporters, one bike and a 500-km ride across Bundelkhand. For Gaon Connection reporters Jigyasa Mishra and Pragya Bharti, these seven days were a mix of fun, adventure, learning and some serious journalism. They visited many villages and tried to understand life from women's perspective. This journey was about understanding lives, struggles, hopes and aspirations of women living in villages.
Edited by: Swati Subhedar
In the course of our week-long journey of 'Do Deewane', we visited 20 villages and covered four districts. The whole journey was truly memorable. We met so many interesting people, who shared their lives, and their lunch, with us. They had bigger hearts than their homes. They taught us how to laugh wholeheartedly, despite so many odds and struggles.
My endeavour was to make their voices heard. And there was no better way to gauge the mood of any village than to talk to youngsters who were about to cast their vote for the first time considering they have to struggle every single day for very basic things.
Take for instance, Roshni Gaudh. She could not complete her education due to ill health. She got married at an early age. She's going to vote for the first time this year. Her only appeal to the government is to address the problem of open defecation in her village.
"We have to go out in open. Our fields are very close to the Panna forest reserve. We fear encounter with the wild. The only thing we want is proper toilets at our home so that we do not have to go out in fields,"said Roshni.
We met Priyanka Yadav. She has completed her schooling, but she couldn't study further. Her college is too far in Satna. "We are facing lot of problems like water scarcity, bad roads and unavailability of toilets. After studying till 8th standard, we have to go to Naubasta for further studies. However, commuting is a big problem. The roads are in a poor condition. It's unbearable during monsoons."
When I asked Priyanka about how many times does she has to go to fill water, she said: "Many times. Our source of water is about one kilometre away from here. It is my request to the government to provide us water and toilet facilities in our village."
When we reached Lokhariya village, we met young Sonam Dwivedi, 18. She said: "In our village, there's no facility of drainage system. We are neither provided with hand pumps nor with proper lavatories at our homes. We have to face lots of troubles every day. Summers are terrible for us. We have to fetch water from random places. It gets tedious. There are only one or two bore wells in our village."
According to a Youth Policy Report, 2003, the government has categorized those between 13 and 35 as youth. According to The Economic Times newspaper, 20 million youngsters turn 18 every year. In other words, there could have been 100 million first time voters this election. Interestingly, majority of first-time voters came from the five most populated states in India. Those states have most number of seats in the Lok Sabha. We were in that region, and yet, people had so many issues.
We talked to another village girl, Ranjana, a college going girl, and a first-time voter. She wanted her village to have city-like facilities. "I wish that our village gets good educational institutes. Girls should get all kind of facilities. Let me give you an example. We have our examination from 3:00-6:00 pm. But we face several problems while travelling from home to the examination centre. It gets dark while returning home, moreover, buses are occupied by boys, and it gets problematic for young girls. It is my humble request to the government that they should do something so that girls don't face problems while commuting," she said.
It was quite touching to see how welcoming these villagers were. Their hospitality was outstanding. Ranjana offered us a simple and sumptuous meal comprising daal, roti, sabzi and chawal. It was a humid day so she made sure we get enough shelter and water. It instantly reminded me of food delivery boys in cities. How many of us offer them water when they arrive at our footsteps with our food?
Mohan Singh, 18, a resident of Manjha village, is the only child and is worried about his parents. Although he is completing his graduation, he wants to share his family's monthly expenditure. "Earlier, people here used to work in mines, but now those are gone. People like me can't go out in search of jobs. It would be better if jobs are created in this village, so that I don't have to move out."
Mohan's father had to move out for work. He moved to Himachal where he worked in a plastic container industry for some years. "Even a small-scale industry would help, at least then we would not have to leave our homes,"said Mohan's father.
Me met young Priyanka Yadav, 18. "I want to join the Armed Forces. I wish to do something for my village so that people don't have to leave their homes for work. I want my village to develop. We do not have any transportation facility.Public transports are unavailable. Our schools/colleges are 7-8 kms far. Also, there is a dense forest on the way to our college, which is not safe for girls,"she said.
"Our village has run out of water.Rivers have dried up.We want water facilities in our village. We have to walk long distances for water. We have to waste hours fetching water," said Chandni.
Ironically, just then I took out my bottle to drink water. I had paid for clean drinking water. I could afford that. But, what about Chandni and lakhs of other women living in these villages?