As Gujarat takes the lead in celebrating 60 years of the Indian Republic with the Chief Minister himself taking out a Constitution Yatra,some villages in Naswad taluka in Vadodara district are coming around to believe that there may be a government after all. Or perhaps not. Having spent his adult life waiting for an electricity connection,which is finally set to come to his village,Dandeeya Dungrabhil of Wadia says: It is a gift from god.
He isnt the only one in this area of the taluka,the last of whose electrified villages was Sankal,25 km from Naswad,to feel so. Many in Dabba,Khokhra,Wadia,Amta,Umjet,Nisana,Matha Jultani,Budha Jultani,Harkhol,Khenda,Talav,Kuppa and Ganiyar Bari villages part of the reserved forest areas where rules do not allow construction activities begin and end their days with the rise and setting of the sun,barely able to afford the kerosene needed to light a few lamps.
Its only a few months ago that they saw their first road,a kuchcha road that is still under construction and which becomes unusable after rains. And for the first time in the last Assembly election,says Range Forest Officer P L Patel,villagers from Kuppa voted. All along a single polling booth in Sankal had to suffice for the area.
Now,with the official surveys done,they are expected to get electricity a year down the line changing around their lives,they hope. The almost inaccessible terrain has kept many villages literally cut off from the rest of the world forget about electricity! Now these villagers will at least get some basic facilities like drinking water,electricity and healthcare, says Ajay Jain,Deputy Conservator of Forests.
Dandeeya Dungrabhil says only beat guards come to their village of Wadia,and sometimes a senior forest official. He is unaware about who the Prime Minister is or the Chief Minister,who may be credited with getting them power. It is the gift of god that we will get electricity, he says.
Ramesh Bhil,a local from Tanakhla village,is one of those beat guards,who has been serving with the Gujarat Forest Department for the past 23 years. I was born and brought up on this land and have seen the hardships people face. I have seen critically ill patients,pregnant women die before they reach the nearest place where some medical assistance is available.
Dulji Dungrabhil well known in his village and around for finding his way around the terrain is enthusiastic about getting an electricity run pump to fetch water whenever he wants and hopeful of growing more than one crop. Even the rains are not proper… How do we survive without food? Electricity will change our lives, he says.
Youngsters hope of an improvement in their education facilities,a gateway to a better life. Basiya Dungrabhil,25,still regrets that he couldnt carry on studying. It was practically impossible. Now,he hopes there will be more students,and teachers wont cite the terrain as an excuse for skipping duty.
Earlier the government had made an effort to install solar-powered lights,but the project failed miserably. Says Simji Dungrabhil of Nisana village: We were happy for some time that the villages were out of total darkness,but then the situation was back to square one. They installed it but nobody came for maintenance and eventually the solar panels were good for nothing. How can we travel 60 km just to recharge batteries?
The next step,hope health workers from Deepak Charitable Trust,would be improving the areas health network. Even after road connectivity,there are villages where we have not been able to reach. Health workers from Dugdha Primary Health Centre ask for our jeeps to carry healthcare kits. They dont have their own vehicle,and we dont mind taking them along for vaccination camps etc. but still there are villages where it is impossible to reach. After the road and electricity connectivity we expect drastic improvement in public health.