Friday, 20 March 2009

Sonagachi prostitute and the yellow turbaned Sarpanch

Have you seen the posts on India Yatra series on the Hindustan Times webpage? I think they are wonderful in getting a feel of India as it readies for the 2009 elections.

The yellow turbaned Sarpanch in the Maharashtra village has a masters degree and practices participatory democracy and development, bringing prosperty to the village and to them the national elections are not so important, the Gram Sabha is much more so.

Durbar, the NGO set up by a group of prostitutes from Sonagachi in Kolkatta is the only organisation providing support to the tribals in an area that saw starvation deaths. To those tribals, the politicians mean nothing, they only see hope in Durbar.

In UP the internet surfing farmer is a millionaire and is providing new agricutlure knowledge to many other farmers. To them the new eight lane highway that is coming up next to their village is their road to prosperity and rather than look at the Ram mandir issue in Ayodhya, they would rather look westwards to Punjab, Haryana and Maharasthra for better agriculture.

In Andhra Pradesh, the world-class road is just a confirmation of the State priority in fighting the Naxalites and it fuels the desire for the separate Telangana state. Prosperity will come with their own state, they are convinced. People are calculating which politicians are likely to support them to realise their Telangana dream.

In Bihar the bicycles for the high school girls may be another round of chess moves between Nitish Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan and Lalu Prasad, but girls are feeling more confident and see a hope for their future.

These are some of the examples of the stories under India Yatra.

HT has 30 correspondents travelling all over India and collecting stories from places that usually are forgotten in newspapers and TV news. It gives me an opportunity to go beyond the usual media representations of India, to a more varied mosaic of the country. Great stuff and interesting as well.

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