India Insight

Real change arrives in small steps for rural India

By Jo Winterbottom

This sepia-toned landscape could have been painted a century ago. A lazy sunset tints bullock carts, women in bright red and turquoise saris thresh rice by hand. Farmers swirl golden staves of corn in the fields.

But for millions of Indians, it is no rural idyll. It is a picture of poverty where farming techniques for many remain unchanged for decades, and the millions of farmers who just have enough land to make a living wouldn’t dare dream of a different future.

In Kushalpura village in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, people have little hope for change in their future. Cheap food and guaranteed temporary jobs that New Delhi offers are little better than a bandage on a big wound. There isn’t any electricity here and there are barely any toilets or latrines.

“What’s the point in talking about a future? It’s not going to happen, so why think about it?” said Tinku Singh, a 20-year-old whose family includes five brothers and three sisters. He’s about to set off to look for work as a brickmaker for four months in neighbouring states of Haryana or Punjab. He might bring back about 20,000 rupees ($320) if things go well.

The government says things are improving. In 2011 and 2012, 26 percent of people living in the countryside were categorized as poor, down from 42 percent in 2004 and 2005. That’s still 217 million people who survive on less than 816 rupees ($14) a month each — and many are only a handful of rupees better off.

from Photographers' Blog:

Solar power nightlight

By Adnan Abidi

Near my house in Delhi at Deenu bhai’s tea stall, I noticed a very young visitor; 7-year-old Sohail. He was Deenu bhai's relative visiting him from Aligarh for the summer breaks. Before leaving for work, I enjoyed a cup of tea at Deenu bhai’s, and as usual, I was sipping a steaming hot cup of tea with a snack when I saw Sohail with a drawing book.

Hot summer mornings keep away a lot of lazy lads who otherwise are found gossiping at Deenu bhai’s place. I was finding no such company, so I asked Sohail what he’s been up to. He showed me a few landscape drawings, which were mostly village scenes with huts and animals, with the sun rising at a location painted in yellow.

GALLERY: SOLAR INDIA

I am no art critic, and couldn’t actually make out anything in those drawings. But I recalled my childhood days, and compared it with Sohail’s to figure out a similar thought process in both of our generations. Neither of us have ever imagined a typical Indian village scene during or after sundown.

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