Can you help me get behind bars? Cries a voice from some distance as I try click a picture of three men walking towards me. You don’t get such requests often. Do you? I kept quite.
As they came close to me, I ask the man who looked in his 60’s why he had such a dreadful wish.
“I would get two square meals a day, shelter and make some money for relatively less hardship,” Says Gyaan singh Gurjar showing a bagful of sugar and groundnuts that he has fetched from Karauli town.
What could be harsher than living behind bars? If this is what you are thinking you need to visit Guler ghat, a small village of close to 200 households barely three kilometers from collectors office in Karauli.
It’s quite a task to reach this place, you need to walk your way through treacherous and uneven sand to reach.
There is no road to this village, no water supply , mud houses pop up in cluster of four or five and barely 18 months back electricity has ‘finally’ reached this village on bank of river Bakheda.
As I sit down to listen to them almost entire village gathers. “It’s not often that someone from city comes here,” says Mahesh Saini who works as help at the Prakash hotel and got me to this place.
The last ‘outsiders’ to visit were officials who painted the walls marking these people as Below Poverty Line (BPL). That’s their description in government records. No local administrator, journalist have come here in the last two decades claim the residents. The last politician to visit was Congress MLA Darshan singh gurjar, that too during campaign four years ago.
“At times I ask myself what did we do wrong that our village is cut off from the world and hasn’t got any basic amenity. We don’t exist for the politicians and administration, our names are not in any welfare scheme list.. it only exists in the voter list,” Mahesh says in despair. He holds his head down and clinching his fist adds, “this time will ensure no one from our village casts their vote. Why should we vote when this is how we have been languishing .”
He is not alone, almost the entire village feels the same.
Well, they have a reason , my words can’t describe the plight I see around me. I could spot just one child fully covered with clothes, women in groups head to nearby forest to answer nature’s call, the children in early teens are just sitting idle, smile is a far fetched expression on their face, the stink fills the air as open drains fill the open land. Men and cattle are wrapped the same cloth.
Bhajan lal the head of village says,” Before I die my desire is to see road connecting the village.”
Their children can’t walk to school as mud on most days is calf deep, hospital is four kilometers away, if the river flowing nearby floods then cattle and humans take shelter together in makeshift stone structures built over last few years.
Like me, most of us can’t understand what this means. Mere three kilometers from civilisation, this is a pre historic place if you take the latest trace of development electricity out of picture.
This ‘miracle’ happened as a stroke of luck. A reporter covered their agitation at Collectors office and as a result the SDM was asked to go see the place. His car got stuck in the mud almost 1500 meters from the village and he abondened his journey but assured that electricity would reach them. It did after a few months.
They tell their tale in hope that someone might read this piece and they would get another visitor from the government who might sanction road or at least allot money for toilets or homes without bribe.
Mere three households have got first installment from swach bharat scheme.
A villager tells me that these ‘well to do’ people bribed the officials.
As they come to see me off I spot Ram rajya, a young man who owns the lone shop in the locality. ” I started this shop hoping to make some easy money, but not many people buy in cash. They all assure to return money when they would have,” he says dismay written all over his face.
On the long march back to civilization, I meet young Angoori Saini, the lone girl from Guler ghat to visit a senior secondary school. This brave heart walks almost four kilometers one way to reach school. ” Girls in my village want to study and their parents are supportive, but they don’t send them through this barren stretch,” she says. Why do you travel the distance alone, “Because I want to be a teacher,” she replies with confidence. For years she has been walking this stretch alone.
Next day I get an appointment with the collector. As I wait for my turn to meet him, I speak to few officials and four out of five people aren’t even aware of such a place by its name. They call their assistants to enquire. One from Public Welfare Department asks me what is the population of village, then rings assistant to say if Pradhanamntri Grameen Sadak Yojana can be of help. Meanwhile someone tells this place comes under ward 2 of Nagar Parishad and their is a sigh, “PWD can’t make this road it’s out of our jurisdiction.” The buck is passed.
Fearing similar fate I enter Collector Abhimanyu Singh’s chamber. The young office is pragmatic, merely seven months in the district, he acknowledges the problem , dials concerned people, seeks report.
I thank him and get up to part ways. He shakes my hand hold it for a second and says, ” Ask Mahesh to meet me next week. I would like to go and see the place myself. ” Hope he walks the talk and Guler ghat gets a walkable road.