It is important to stay connected to your roots.

Many personalities from Uttarakhand, who have had a humble

village background, have made their names in various fields at the
national level. But if one looks at the villages of their ancestors, one
sees that their villages are still underdeveloped in all aspects of the
economy. In Uttarakhand, many villages are getting abandoned
and turning into ghost villages due to permanent migration and if
this continues, the villages will finally turn into ruins. It is therefore
imperative that some of them start writing the social history of their
villages – for posterity! Even after the formation of the new state of
Uttarakhand in 2001, the trend of out-migration has not stopped.
The development indicators do not seem to have improved down
the years to check migration. However the new generation of people
is now showing some concern about the conditions of their villages
and feel the need to do something about the issue of migration
and development.
Doing something on this issue, began in a small way in the village of
Chai, in Lansdowne sub-division of Garhwal District in Uttarakhand. It
all started with a three-day gramutsav-village festival in the year 2010
on the occasion of Ganga Dashera. Most of the Chai village families
do not live in the village now, being only visitors to their village on
various occasions though not collectively. The author along with
other village decision makers decided that besides the rituals and
Pujas, the three day long programme must also include discussion
on issues related to history and development, besides having some
local cultural program. For the discussions, many local and other
experts were invited to the gramutsav.The families who were planning to come after many years were
rightly anxious about the logistics (arrangements for the lodging and
boarding) as their village houses were not in proper condition to put
up in, particularly bathroom/toilet facilities for ladies and children
who were not used to open defecation. The organising committee
predicted these problems and made adequate arrangement for
bedding through the local ‘tentwala’, which included a community
kitchen for the three day fest.
Today in 2022, due to the gramutsav, the village water and sanitation
situation has improved and all families have bathrooms and
toilets. The funding for the gramutsav came through contribution
from villagers settled outside the village. Finally, there was more
revenue collected through people’s contribution than the actual
expenses incurred. Now besides cultural programs, the festival
has incorporated regular health camps assisted by the state health
department, literature distribution and talk on disaster management
by the state government. Puppetry, theatre, Science workshop for
students and lively debates on development issues by various experts
and individuals from the development and NGO sectors. The Village
festival-gramutsav has been successfully conducted since 2010 and
is fully sustainable. Though Chai gramutsav has been inviting and
calling neighbouring villages to participate, it is time other villages all
over the state and also in other states conduct their own gramutsav
and participate in their development process.
Despite tragedies faced by families, the gramutsav continued
uninterrupted, as it was amply clear that the village festival was not a
family or group function but a collective function to promote culture
and tradition and to expose the new generation to the various social
issues facing the village and ultimately the country. The point was
also to see what way one contributes toward village development,and thereby to the nation building at large. In the year 2020 and
2021, due to Covid-19, only the pooja rituals was conducted, which
was also low key affair with social distancing protocol. All cultural
and other activities were cancelled.
The gramutsav can be initiated by community based organisations
all over the country thereby encouraging people’s participation in
development process as well as in preserving rich cultural heritage.
The gramutsav should be encouraged and supported by the state
government through the Panchyat Raj Department. We hope the
gramutsav becomes a tradition and may lead to an interest amongst
the coming generation for an affinity for villages thus becoming
partners in nation building.

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