Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A village in Digital India

The paragraph “Theorizing about resistance offers opportunities for conceptualizing and enacting social change in the global arena, challenging the dominant structures of power that create and sustain the conditions of marginalization” from Pal and Dutta’s ‘Theorizing resistance in a global context’ instantly reminded me of the article “India's highway of death creates village of widows” by BBC on 28th September, 2015. This story highlights the resistance of the marginalized tribal south Indian villagers against the neoliberal forces of the state and its aftermath. It was published during the same period when the slogan of ‘Digital India’ peaked; a sheer contrast to the booming ‘Digital India’ agenda.

The ongoing craze of ‘Digital India’ has gained spectacular attention from different spheres. People are showing their solidarity by flaunting their facebook profiles in the tricolor.

One of the goals of the ‘Digital India’ project is to to empower 60,000 villages with broadband, but the villages in India predominantly have several other problems like access to education, safe drinking water, good roads. Peddakunta, a village in the Mahbubnagar district of Telangana is the village that the article refers to as ‘the village of the widows’. This village is situated adjacent to the bypass of National Highway 44 which connects India's north and south. This highway has a deadly reputation because of the road accidents causing death of alarming number of south Indian tribal villagers.

This article talks about the horrors of death that this highway has brought to them. There is only one adult man left in the village of 35 huts and families along with the widows and the children. These deaths began after the national highway came into presence a decade ago. Provisions to build a service lane were also passed, which would have provided with a safe route to go to the other side, but it was never constructed. Therefore, each time the villagers want to go to other villages for employment or any other purpose, they are left with the option of walking across the four lanes of the highway bypass, resulting deaths. This village has lost its men to the highway. The lack of money and even food have forced the women into prostitution.

Few mind boggling excerpts:

"They could not get us to sell our land to a factory. They will never build a bypass. Once we are all dead, they can just take the land."

"Korra Panni tells her story without a trace of pain. "What can we do? After almost every man in the village died, we were left helpless. Men from other villages come here seeking us.""

As mentioned in the paper ‘Globalization, Resistance, and Revitalization’, “Such clashes with “modernity” become a problem when “development” projects undermine centuries of indigenous traditions and are understood only through the lens of Western culture”. The forces of modernity in the context of this village tried to eradicate the people from their land to build factory, which was further resisted by the indigenous community, leading to the indifference of the government toward the death rates.

I would like to question what development really means in context of India, what is more important for india right now- is it digitized villages or basic infrastructure? We could not have envisioned digitized India 10 years back. The plans of hyper development projects in India might just add momentum to the increasing gap between the haves and have nots.


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