As soon as we reached the New Ghodanar, it didn’t seem to us that we were in the same country. It was only a few kilometres into the forests of satpura that I felt we left India a few miles away. This place was not the same country at all. Nevertheless, the people were of the same colour, spoke the same dialect and believed in the same old god.
India which some newspapers and news channels operated from the metro cities have been showing to us was so much different than this place. A child born and brought up in Mumbai will fail to believe that he or she is in the same land. New Ghodanar has no apple stores, no McDonalds or burger kings et al. At a point of time I realized why and how our media lags behind from covering the problems of places like New Ghodanar. The simple reason is that people who consume McEggs and play candy crush on their I-phones are the ones who must be targeted as an audience. Also in the phase where a new term has been shaped up as Negative news, there is not much emphasis given to the problems of the far reached people. The coverage of their problems in a newspaper, because, will be termed as negative news for the readers of such newspapers. At least, the editors of such newspapers believe so.
Everyone wants to stay happy and cherish the ‘positive news’ published in the newspapers. For the people of New Ghodanaar, they can stay where they are. There is no place for them in the country.
But there are certain questions that I and you have to raise in equanimity. Who are these people? where is New Ghodanaar? What are their problems?
The Village of New Ghodanar with the other villages – New Parsapani and New Churna were resettled by the government of madhya pradesh in the satpura forests near Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh two years back and forgotten. These villages earlier were an establishment of Pachmarhi forests. They had been living there since ages when suddenly the forest department felt that their presence was dangerous for animals. If people of these villages are to be believed then they were thrown out of the forests just because the forest department wanted to make clear the roads for the jungle safaris for the tourists.
The first impression that the New Ghodanar establishes is of a construction site where new apartments are being structured. It fails to look like a village. About 20 houses lined opposite to each other and all of them looking almost the same. A school adjacent to the main road and a sarkari hand pump trying hard to make fit the meaning of village. The next sight was of a shopkeeper sitting in his shop. A skinny man squatted in his shop looked at us with amaze. He was Man Singh.
Man singh was not looking happy at his new home. His new home still needed finishing. The doors were missing and there was no painting done. His eyes told the whole story yet I asked him how he felt here. “I don’t like it here. We were better in the old village. There were other options to earn money, here there is this shop only which struggles to fill our stomachs.” He later told us that government had provided them with either a sum of ten lakh rupees or five acres of land as compensation yet it was not enough to resettle at this new village easily. He said, “The government gave ten lakh rupees each to those members of one family who was above 18 years of age. I was the only one in my family of four. Nothing much is left of the amount I received. I had to give Rs. 20,270 for this land only. About two to three lakhs were spent building this house. It is still not complete. Some of the amount was used in this shop.”
He did admit that the new village has given them the facility of 12 hour electricity but when you see him and his family, it seems hard to accept that electricity is making a great change in their lives. He continued, “I earn almost 500 rupees a month from the shop. This is nothing as compared to our expenses. It is hard life we are living here. There are no other options here to earn.” In the old Ghodanar, these people earned from selling of tendu leaves which is used in making of beedi.
A teacher teaching in the primary school at New Ghodanar said that these people are far away from getting justice. The administration thinks that they have done a really nice job by shifting them from one jungle to the other. They think that they have given them societal justice by doing that. In reality, they have done the worse for them. These villages should have been based in the front of the forests and not here.
The school building looked a brand new one and when asked to clear the doubt, the little students confirmed that it was newly built. The teacher added on, “Yes, this is a newly built school. We had been screaming for a building since two years. Nobody heard us. Yet, we taught students under the shade of tree. We never stopped teaching. After two years, the administration rose from the sleep.”
The story of New Churna village was the same though their roads and houses were a bit broad. Here, Nathu Yadav carried the same expression as that of Man Singh in New Ghodanar. Nathu Yadav sitting with his family in the small court of his house knew nothing of what he must do now. For the last two years, the family had been doing nothing. They had no source of income. When asked how they were managing, the reply was surprising, “We are managing through the interest we are getting on the money saved in banks.”
Nathu Yadav and others like him are also given lands for the purpose of agriculture. The truth is that the land is a miserable one much like their own lives. It cannot bear fruit for their labour as it is full of stones and unsuitable for cultivation. They had been going to the district collector for the last two years in order to get the land repaired or to get a new land somewhere else but it is to no avail. The collector had been saying to them that he would soon be organizing a camp but that red letter day has never arrived.
The old churna village had the school up to 8th standard. Here, they are only up to 5th standard. Due to this reason, the students are forced to go to other places for studies. The solar power driven electricity was promised free of cost by the government but the truth is that all of them are getting electricity bills on a monthly basis as high as 500 rupees. Amazing is the fact that some of the houses do not even have the proper wiring done yet and those houses are getting the electricity bills.
In the Satpura forests near Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh, everything is not alright. If the government thinks that relocating the villages from one forest to the other is societal justice then it means that they have got the whole meaning of justice wrong in their heads. I and you sitting in our comfortable homes can only hope with the government that the problems of these villagers somehow fly away. Hopefully, before they are done with their 10 lakh rupees.