‘UDAY’ – Dawn of Light in the Dark Corners

A spate of detracting voices followed the Centre’s announcement last week that the target of 100% electrification of the over 600,000 villages of India had been achieved, which brushed off the accomplishment citing this or that figure. But what this meant to the man in an isolated village in India and the magnitude of change as experienced by them is narrated in this account below.

“The last village to be brought on the national power grid was Leisang village in the Senapati district of Manipur.

I share my experience of living for a month in Senapati district. The year was 2007. I had been selected for national internship with 22. Assam Rifles, Manipur.

After a back-breaking train journey that started from Pune via Mumbai and Kolkata to Assam and thereafter a 4-hour bumpy ride on NH-2 Imphal-Dimapur highway, we finally reached the 22. Assam Rifles headquarters at Maram, in Senapati district. At that time, electricity was a luxury, hot water for bath was prepared on wood-fires.

During our fieldwork, we got to travel across the various small villages hidden within mountain tops in Senapati and nearby districts. The areas were devoid of any development or factories. The villages ransacked each-other for resources. People charged their mobile phones paying 5 Rupees at nearby shops. Maoists had robbed Manipur of its development potential. Even on the day of my visit to Imphal, I witnessed three protests. There were bandhs declared every other day, rickshaw strikes that brought life on a standstill, and disruptions were normal. The district collector’s office was in shambles and no work ever got done.

People would always ask me and my friend to be careful as Maoists would normally kidnap outsiders – tourists, contract workers from other states and keep them as ransom against the State government. Even though government and maoists had reached a truce and they were given own camps, yet development was scared to enter.

Young college students from Don Bosco College whom we interviewed and the school visits we undertook, came as jolt when they would often ask us “which country do you come from?” The disenfranchisement with remainder of India was strong, coupled with little to no development.

I always wondered why such places of natural beauty are the ones that hold deep scars of hatred, of civil war and bloodshed. I would often discuss with our very enterprising Colonel who headed 22. Assam Rifles about these issues. He was a loved man among locals and did a lot for them.

He too wished for peace and development for the people here. He had a humanitarian approach to the maoist problem there and cultivated confidence and respect among the people there. Even while leaving the place, he often thought about development and transformation of the region.

Today when the last village in Senapati district has been brought under the national power grid. It sparks a hope within me to see that it is a beginning of development for these people. They can charged their phones in their own homes, own a TV, become connected with all of us. This is no small achievement! We must deeply appreciate and understand the positive ramifications of this single act of connecting the mountainous, inaccessible places to the National power grid.”

None of the naysayers are willing to answer the question: why was this not done in 7 decades of independent India?

Author: (Compiled from tweets by the handle https://twitter.com/NamasteNiHao, who goes by the nick ‘Chinu the friendly dragon’)

Published: May 07, 2018

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