It was raining when I touched kotra, initially it was scary because it was a tribal area which was surprisingly different to me with respect to their livelihood and the area I belong to, in the same state. It took me five hours from Udaipur and I was starving, as I had skipped breakfast. The only place where I could find food was a small junction where they were only serving daal–baati and the place was crowded. So I chose to have some fruit instead. Thereafter the groups were divided into their respective field areas, villages where we were to stay for the next 2 days. My field area was the village Sarli which was 18 kms away from the Kotra block area.
Even as me and my colleagues reached, we tried to connect to the village contact, but could not, because of the lack of connectivity. Against all of this, we were asked to reach a different location, a village called Dhingawari-Khurd. This place was further beautiful as compared to the previous one. However we needed to find our accommodation, and that was an intimidating idea. We thereafter realized that the Panchayat or the primary school would be safe and we could stay without disturbing others. But unfortunately summer vacations were on, and so the school was locked. Now we were left with only one option which was to talk to the Sarpanch of that village. We headed to his house where we firstly interacted with the sarpanch’s younger son. He welcomed us with folded hands and asked if we wanted tea. We accepted and waited for the Sarpanch, who came along some time later.
After some mutual discussion, both parties seemed comfortable. We also decided to scout the areas around the village, and this was the most eye-opening journey for us. There were 300 houses in the village out of which only 30 of them had electricity and 270 houses still didn’t. Despite the road connectivity between the village and the city there was no trace of electricity in the village. Not only that, when we interacted with the youngsters from the village we found out that they were not allowed to go and study in the school because the Sarpanch didn’t want them to go there. The Sarpanch controlled lot of the resources – even the government investments in the village were monitored by the Sarpanch. He was himself living in a very fancy house and his son was studying in a good college in Udaipur, but he did not want the villagers to get educated. We clearly saw how power in hands of one corrupt person had damaged the entire village.
This situation has been going on for more than 20 years now, and there is no change in leadership or the system, which has led to unawareness. I was very disturbed by this situation. I didn’t know how to react and there was possibly nothing that I could have done at that point of time in order to resolve the situation. The people were very welcoming and they hosted us in the best possible manner but the manner in which the entire village was functioning is something that I could not accept. This shows how power is used for personal gains and benefits. There are many who use power to their own benefit and self-interest. This visit has completely left me thinking about the year that was to come and what I was to prepare myself to see.