‘दृश्य’ और ‘अदृश्य’ स्थानीय सरकार

‘सरकार’ ये हमारे रोजमर्रा के जीवन मे असर डालने वाला एक परिचित शब्द है। हमारी रोज की कोई भीजरुरत  पानी की, बिजली की और लाइसेंस, आधार कार्ड बनाना सभी मे सरकार की भूमिका रहती है। यहीसोच के साथ मे फील्ड वर्क के लिए गुजरात के गॉंवो मे गयी। वहाँ भी मुझे सरकार और जनता के बीच केसम्बन्ध का अहसास हुआ। और इसी सम्बन्ध को गहराई से जाने के लिए हमने स्थानिक लोगो का साक्षात्कारलिया और सरकार के साथ उनके अनुभव सरकारी सुविधाओं के माध्यम से समझने की कोशिश की। इसदौरान सरकार का गांव मे अस्तित्व के सन्दर्भ मे कुछ बातें खुद उस परिस्थिति मे रहकर अनुभव किया औरकुछ बातें लोगो के द्वारा जानी। कुछ अनुभव ये थे की गांव मे परिवहन व्यवस्था की अस्वस्थता, लोगो कीसरकार से कोई उम्मीद बाकी न रहना और गांव मे सरकार के अंग होते हुए भी लोगो को उसकी खबर नहीहोना। लोगो से बातों के दौरान मुझे ये समझ मे आया की ऐसा नही है की स्थानिक सरकार काम नही कर रहीगांव मे , बस ये है की लोग उससे अनभिज्ञ है। तात्पर्य यह है की, गांव मे सरकार की दृश्यता होते हुए भीअदृश्यता है। जैसा की हम जानते है की सरकार के  तीन भागो मे से एक भाग स्थानिक/निचली सरकार है। स्थानिक सरकार या फिर तीन स्तरीय पंचायती राज व्यवस्था ये गॉंवो मे दृश्य है। पर स्थानीय सरकार जो कीआम जनता की समस्याओं का समाधान और उनकी बातो को उपरी सरकार तक पहुचाने का प्रमुख माध्यमहै, कही न कही स्थानीय लोगो की वास्तविक जरूरतों और समस्याओ को समझके उन्हें पूरा करने मे पूर्ण रूपसे सफल नही हो पायी है । गावो के लोगो से बातचीत के दौरान यह बात सामने आयी की, अपनी सुविधावों कोपूरा करने का दायित्व लोग केन्द्र सरकार को दे रहे। स्थानिक सरकार और उनके अंगो जैसे की सरपंच,पंचायत कार्यालय, ग्राम सभा आदि की जिम्मेदारी और कार्यो से वो अनजान है। यही तथ्य दर्शाता है की गांव मेसरकार एक व्यवस्था के रूप में तो  दृश्य है पर उस व्यवस्था द्वारा क्रियान्वयन अच्छे से नही किया जाना उसकी अदृश्यता को दर्शाता है ।

 

गुजरात के कच्छ जिले के गांव मे यात्रा करने के दौरान मुझे ये ज्ञात हुआ की यहाँ ब्लॉक से गांव के लिए सीमितसरकारी बस सुविधा है। ऐसा भी नही है की लोगो को अपने जरुरत की वस्तुएँ गांव मे मिल जा रही,उसके लिएउनको ब्लॉक मे आना ही पड़ता है। इससे यह निष्कर्ष निकलता है की सरकार (स्थानीय) को पता है की लोगोको परिवहन सुविधा (बस) की जरुरत है तो यह उपलब्ध कराई गयी। पर उसकी गुणवत्ता और संख्या के बारेमे विचार नही किया गया। यही वजह है की लोगो को लगता है की सरकार उनकी जरूरतों को पुर करने केलिए काम नही कर रही बल्कि बस अपनी जिमेदारियो को पूरा कर रही। कुछ इसी तरह का विचार ग्राम सभाके बारे मे भी लोगो के मन मे है। ग्राम सभा मे लोग इसलिए नही जाते क्योंकि वहाँ पर बोले जानी वाली उनकीसमस्याओं पर अमल और काम तो किया जाता है पर वो सिर्फ नाम के लिए होता है। लोगो को उनसे कोईलाभ हुआ की नही इस पर कोई विचार-विमर्श नही होता है। सबसे महत्वपूर्ण बात यह है की लोगो को यह नहीपता की वो अपने समस्याओं को लेकर किसके पास जाये। क्योंकि उनको सरकारी विभागों के कार्यो के बारे मेनही पता. अब यह भी कहा जा सकता है की इसमें लोग अनपढ़ है तो इसमें सरकार की क्या गलती है। परक्या लोगो को जानकार बनाना यह सरकार की जिमेदारियो मे नही आता? यह सवाल है जो आम जनता केमन मे है। इसके अलावा अनोपचारिक संगठन या निजी संगठन भी लोगो पर ज्यादा प्रभाव डाल रही है।गुजरात के आनंद जिला के गांव मे फील्ड वर्क करने पर यह पता चला की वह लोगो द्वारा बनाई गयी अमूलमिल्क के उत्पादन की जो निजी समिति है वही फैसला लेती है की गांव मे किसको सरकार के कौन से योजनाका लाभ देना है। यहाँ हम ये समझ सकते है की कैसे सरकार के ही किसी योजना का केंद्रबिंदु गांव कीपंचायत कार्यालय नही है। मतलब सरकार  की ही कोई बात गांव मे सरकार द्वारा नही पहुँच रही है। यह सबबातें गांव मे सरकार होते हुए भी उसके अदृश्यता को सच साबित करते है। यही वजह है की लोग स्थानिकसरकार की सुविधावों का प्रयोग नही का पा और नही कर रहे। स्थानीय सरकार सिर्फ व्यवस्थाओं का एकढांचा बन कर रह गया है। यही वजह है की गांव के लोगो को लगता है की सरकार उनसे बहुत दूर है, और वोउनको कभी नही सुनेगी। लोगो की इस सोच का कारन यही है की वो स्थानीय सरकार की महत्ता से परिचितनही है।

Harshita

‘Fielding’ Challenges: Reflections from fieldwork in Gujarat

‘The field is a travel through varying intensities’. At the Law and Policy Hub Clinic Exhibition last year, I jotted down this line in my diary, my face reddening with an excitement I usually experience after having read a line or two of beautiful poetry. Indeed, Professor Atreyee’s description of what a field really means was nothing short of poetry and I wrote all of it down like an eager connoisseur. When we travel on a flight, we are insulated from the conditions outside but that rarely prevents us from inhabiting different time periods and experiencing changing versions of the Sky through the window. On the field too, the researcher moves through such alternating temporalities, no matter how much one tries insulating oneself.[1] This idea remained etched in the pages of my diary, only to ‘flash upon my inward eye’[2] a year later, as our bus lunged past the frenzied crowds at the Bhuj market making its way to Kutch which was to be the first site of our study. The beginning of our experience of the ‘field’.

In retrospect, fieldwork in Gujarat from Kutch through Anand to Gandhinagar was indeed a travel through varying intensities of geographical environs, cultures and our own emotional energies. While transitions from the parched Kutchi lands to the cement soaked sarkari buildings in Gandhinagar–from scarcity to abundance, from ‘rural-ness’ to ‘urban-ness’, from one dialect of spoken Gujarati to another; were clearly visible and are still remembered like a series of sceneries gliding past, from the window of a moving vehicle. What, until now, got little attention were the varying intensities of our own emotions vis-a-vis changing locales and time periods. In particular, emotions intensified in situations where we had to take certain tough decisions. Different situations arose–at different places at different points of time–each one demanding us to respond in different ways, both individually and as a group.

In hindsight, it is circumstances such as these that make fieldwork both adventurous and memorable: and in some cases, serve the purpose of building team rapport and help create bonds that go beyond just being team members. It adds to the joy of reminiscing about days bygone. ‘Ah! Remember that day when that happened…and we did this. Lord! what a tough day that was!’ These will add to the repository of memories that will make us laugh and connect with each other even years from now. In this way, challenging circumstances faced during fieldwork, have implications even beyond the realm of academics, as they add to individual and shared experiences. Thus they may either strengthen or in other cases, even weaken existing team bonds but they undoubtedly create space for anxiety involving tough deliberations, at the time that such situations unfold.

Outlined below is an account of such challenging circumstances, which according to me, led us to take certain hard decisions during our fieldwork in Gujarat.

It was on our very first day at Bedwa, Anand that we interviewed members of a Darbar household. There were around fifteen people swarming the two rickety houses, all of whom seemed to be busy going about their daily chores. In the midst of this, there was one woman around our age draped in a torn saree, breast-feeding her infant child; who took notice of our presence and beckoned us to come in. As we began explaining to her our project, we managed to gather the attention of the rest but no one except who seemed to be the lady’s husband bothered to give us an ear. Although we spoke in Gujarati, the young woman was finding it hard to understand. But she was wanting to know more and was willing to understand and even seemed willing to talk. So we continued, trying to simplify what we had to say, but in vain. This went on for the next five minutes or so when all of a sudden her husband lost his cool and told us to leave saying that she was after all an illiterate woman who would never understand anything. And so our “interview” ended in five minutes but before we headed to the next household, we were puzzled by whether we should even count this as an interview–as something that would formally add to our study; or would it just count as a failed attempt to elicit a response, or at the least would it just end up as an anecdote that we carried from the field to our classrooms? This had been the question before us. After all, we had gained nothing directly from the woman on what she felt about the ‘State’ or what her idea of it was. But on second thoughts, the whole situation, as it unfolded, had driven us to think about the agency of women in rural areas, their right to speak up in their own homes and how even such a non-response could contribute to building an idea of the State. We discussed whether we were over-theorizing events, that is, interpreting or seeing every small incident through the lens of some concept or the other we learned in class? Whether it was right or not right to do so? Finally, it was agreed upon that though this was not an interview in the conventional sense of the term, though it was not successful in eliciting any direct response, the series of actions that led to this had helped us learn through observations and therefore we could draw inferences from the same.

We were faced with another situation the next day when we visited the house of a Luhar couple. They were the only Luhars in Bedwa and were the most marginalized, living in what seemed like a ‘house’ created out of two decaying walls. They were living in abject poverty and it felt awkward talking to them since every question was answered by the lady, crying with folded hands, pointing at the condition of her ‘house’. It was clear to us that to them the State was both the cause of their deplorable conditions and also the only entity that could lift them out of it. We had been noticing a pattern: the more marginalized communities we interviewed, the more distanced they would think they are from the State and yet the more hope they would have from the State. After the interview we felt a little uncomfortable since one of the risks of interviewing the most marginalized communities was that they would have expectations from us as well. This was not a problem per se but it led us to question a lot of things. How ethical is it for us to be ‘studying’ the poverty of another (even if it is for a ‘long-term’ benefit)? How do we as researchers make the interviewees feel comfortable, without making them feel as though they are mere subjects of a study? What should be our way of approaching those at the margins, those barely making ends meet, to ask them about what they think or feel about the State? Whether it is right for us to expect the socially  and economically marginalized to even have the time and energy to consider thinking about the State? Even with an influx of such doubts, we decided to interview the Luhars and decided to speak to them as honestly as we could.   At that point, it felt right to understand their views as well, just like we interviewed people from other well off castes too without treating them any differently.

One of the toughest decisions for us to make was deciding how many interviews to conduct for our study that is when do we know when to stop? And how do we know that? Should we target quantity in terms of more number of interviews, or, should we focus on quality that is take a few in-depth interviews? More importantly, being on the field can be mentally and physically exhausting especially when one has to travel 100 kilometres back and forth daily. While we were enjoying this travel, it was also important to come up with a way to not let this exhaustion affect our interviews. Asking similar questions, following a similar flow, with ten-fifteen people per day can be monotonous and tiring. Therefore, when we felt satisfied with the responses we were getting and felt we could use them to build an argument, we decided to stop and move on to the next village. I remember telephoning our field supervisor, Siddharth Sir, from Jatawada (Kutch) one day and getting some good advice: “You should be confident enough to be able to justify what you are doing. Judge accordingly. There will always be regret about having missed out on a few interviews, but if you feel you should move on, do so.”

Through pieces of advice such as this and our own learning by trial-and-error, fieldwork in Gujarat has definitely equipped us with ways of facing and ‘fielding’ challenges in the future as well.

[1] Professor Atreyee Majumder at the panel discussion held during the Law and Policy Hub Clinic Exhibitions, 2016-17.

[2] From the poem Daffodils by William Wordsworth.

Nidhi

A Luxurious Ride to a Place Unknown….

Today’s morning had started in Bhuj. Bhuj hadn’t changed much since I had last visited it 15-16 years ago, as a kid. The bus stop was still recognisable and the late night back then and early morning now was pretty much the same. We had come here by travelling in a private ‘luxury’ bus. We had planned to do the first visit to the village (that we intended to study) on the same day. The closest town to that village, Rapar was about 2 hours from Bhuj. Due to change in plans, we had to go to Rapar by bus.

We bought the tickets for a private ‘luxury’ bus to Rapar and waited for the bus. Reaching there, we realised the bus was standing right there but it was nowhere close to a luxury bus. I looked at my ticket and the absence of a seat number made me wonder how I would locate my seat. It was then I realized that people are rushing into the bus and settling in. I was surprised to see people willingly subject themselves to the heat inside a stationary bus. To quench my curiosity I stepped inside and saw handerchiefs and ‘potlis’ spewed all over the empty seats. Unaware of the logic I sat on a seat where someone had left his ‘gamcha’. This is when I heard someone howl at me for occupying their seat. The logic now dawned upon me: The handkerchiefs, ‘potlis’, ‘gamchas’ were to reserve seats. I realised that its not easy to communicate and manage things even if you know the language. Clearly, I was an outsider who didn’t know how the buses work there and that led to discomfort for a few passengers. When the bus got full, the journey started but this bus would stop in every village/town that came on way and people would keep climbing in the bus. The bus that had a capacity of around 20 people had at least 45 passengers travelling. A few ladies understood that we didn’t understand what’s going on and she asked us where we wanted to get down. We told her the place and she said she’d let us know when it is about to come. And suddenly she asked us about our castes and regions. I had a notion that it is very difficult to ask someone about his or her caste but here she asked us very casually. After travelling for almost 4 hours, we reached the place and someone from the organisation (Gram Swaraj Sangh) had come to pick us up. This was the first experience we had about the ‘luxury’ bus there and it had made us question the concept of ‘luxury’. Coming from urban areas, this notion was very different for us before this incident.

Later when we started interviewing people in the village, we were told stories about this luxury bus and state-run bus. Few years back, the state-run buses were more, its frequency was better than what it was now. Now, there were only 2 buses in the day between the village and Rapar (the closest town), one in the morning and one in the evening. If you miss that, then you have to take ‘luxury’ bus, which was more frequent than the state-run bus. These luxury buses were similar to the one we had taken to come to Rapar. Then you have to get off on the main road and take a jeep to reach the village, which was obviously more difficult than to travel by the state-run bus, which would directly drop you at the village. Moreover, the tickets for private luxury bus were much more expensive than the state-run bus. In the recent times, the luxury buses have become more popular among the villagers because they are more frequent than the state-run buses. But people also said that the frequency of state-run buses have decreased because people have started depending on the private luxury buses. Because of the entry of ‘luxury’ buses, the state-run buses have taken a back seat and the services have deteriorated.

Isn’t it weird that people started preferring ‘luxury’ buses over ‘state-run’ buses even though the state-run buses were much more comfortable comparatively? And because of this, the state actually had to cut down on the frequency. What was it that attracted the villagers to ‘luxury’ buses? Generally, cities and towns have more number of private vehicles and dependency on private vehicles/modes of transport is more as compared to the villages. Usually the state-run buses fall under public transport. But is it okay to call state-run buses a public mode of transport when people (public) are heavily relying on private modes of transport? Was it the idea of ‘privatisation’ that made them feel modern or city-like or was it something else? Is the presence of the ‘State’ becoming more and more invisible from our daily lives?

Bianca

The invisible realities

“Education should prepare our minds to use its own powers of reason and conception rather than filing it with the accumulated misconceptions of the past” – Bryant H. McGill

This quote by B.H. McGill rings true for all of us in Azim Premji University. We are encouraged to come out of the misconceptions of the past and experience the present. But in our everyday life not everything is tangible, not everything is precise. Yet we take a stand, based on what is the question?

We hear of state everyday but what is this state?. Not even a single day in our life is independent of state. But do we have an opinion on state? The idea of this invisible but all pervasive state was exciting. Out of this excitement and intellectual curiosity, a group of six of us embarked on a journey to capture citizen’s perception of state. For this study we chose Gujarat and Haryana considering group dynamics. We travelled in and around Gujarat and Haryana to view the State through the eyes of its citizens. The interviews, conversations and observations of the people of different culture, communities, profession’s forms the major chunk of our study.

The observations were eye-opening. Suffice to say that it served to destroy many of the misconceptions that we harboured regarding those states we visited. A prominent example of is the concept of Khap Panchayats. The image of Khap Panchayats has suffered greatly at the hands of the media. Sensational stories of caste-based murders and male domination have found their way into most of our homes through the new channels or news papers. While the fact that Khap Panchayats follow an archaic set of principles may be true, the benefit of such institutions in rural communities has been ignored. As a result, the rest of India where this system is not prevalent fails to understand that it is an essential feature of the community in which it exists, woven into its very fabric. We realized the important role Khap Panchayats play in the society during a conversation with the Superintendent of Police at Karnal,as part of the study. We learnt from the SP that Khap Panchayats were not viewed as a parallel system of law enforcement, rather as a supplementary system which was even more effective in facilitating the laws. He brought to us the fact, that the constituent members of the Khap Panchayat are localities and the community is more receptive to their voice than the police. What is interesting here is not what they do but what they are capable of doing. What they are currently doing as community bodies, may not be acceptable in the modern society but can be deal with, by improving the education of members of the community and sensitizing them to modern ideas of justice. However, from the perspective of the working of State machinery, it was interesting to note how this community body garnered more respect and commanded more obedience than the police force. Apart from dispelling the negative notions we had of Khap Panchayats, as students of social sciences we realize that the enforcement of the law is as important as the creation of good law. Thus, this experience provided a valuable insight into how the law is to be enforced. This is just one instance to mention.

In the end, the study was in away like a trip that it dint force us to open our eyes but it so happened. Awareness of certain ground realities, like how in spite of all that has been done to alleviate the gender differences, it was still easier to build rapport with strangers and get information out of them if you were a man.

All in all, the experience taught us that our duty as students of social sciences was to clarify the notions of the community that have been thrust on us by the so-called informed society that we have devoted our academic lives to.

 

Minu

सरकार की तलाश में

                                                                                                                              In search of the state

11th November, 2016 | Gujarat  

हर सुबह निकलते हैं उसकी तलाश में,

काला-गोरा, मोटा-पतला, अमीर-ग़रीब, बूढ़ा-जवान:

कैसा होगा वो?

कोई खबर नही–

फिर भी निकलते हैं उसकी तलाश में

हर सुबह,

हर घर में ढूँढते है उसे:

क्या पता कहीं पटेल के खेत में छिपा हो,

या उनकी गोशालाओं में?

कहीं लुहारिन के चिथड़े दुप्पटे के पीछे से झाँक रहा हो

या मंदिर के सामने बैठे उस भिक्मन्गे के खाली कटोरे से?

कहाँ होगा वो?

कोई खबर नहीं–

फिर भी निकलते हैं उसकी तलाश में

हर सुबह

हर गल्ली, हर नुक्कड़ में छानते है उसे:

वीरान पंचायत के सन्नाटे में,

पुराने दफ़्तरों और उनकी फाइलों की धूल में|

पोलीस चौकी भी गये थे हम, उसकी तलाश में

पर वहाँ सिर्फ़ लापते मिले, सरकार नही |

मंदिरों में गये उसे ढूँढने

पर वहाँ भी भगवान ही मिले, सरकार नही |

यह कैसा पेचीदा तलाश है:

क्या है वो?

कैसा है  वो?

कहाँ मिलेगा वो?

कोई खबर नही —

पर फिर भी निकलते हैं उसकी तलाश में

हर सुबह, हर घर, हर नुक्कड़ में…

Ek Vaarta, Kuch Kisse 

We hear it in our lectures, read about it in articles, talk about it over cups of tea or overhear it in ‘academic’ discussions. It is the one word echoing in University corridors, classrooms and canteens. And for a student of Development or any other Social Sciences, it is a word either adding to our grey cells or our grey hair. They say it is somewhere ‘out there’ but we can’t ever see it leave alone define it. We live it, only a part of it.

The “Field” has forever been a researcher’s haven, a writer’s delight. Much like a Haj or a Chaar Dhaam yatra-after visiting which, the student attains ‘Enlightenment’ and a researcher ‘tripti’.

We are six students on one such pilgrimage, experiencing our bit of the ‘Field’, journeying across villages in Gujarat and Haryana.

It is appalling to be part of this dynamic space where every problem is a maze of solutions and every solution a baffling puzzle! But wait, did we just define ‘Life’ out there? What in the world then is the hallowed ‘Field’?

We realize we have been making a great story for ourselves as we travel along: One worth being told to our children and retold to our grandchildren as bedtime stories or as inspirational stories with a moral message. A story with several characters: some playing the lead, some supporting, some doing a cameo-but all of them central to our plot, and each one having their own story. Each one living out his/her own story.

Our ‘Field’ lies in these stories that people live out everyday. Roles that people don or switch into and switch from everyday, their achievements, grievances, expectations, desires and hopes. Our ‘Field’ lies in the relationships we share with the State, in understanding what the State may mean to us and many like us? Stuck in traffic everyday, what may a routine ‘jhagda’ with the traffic policeman mean? Or what may it mean to bribe the same policeman to make sure you reach home everyday? How do we feel when the police stops and checks our vehicles late in the night for our safety? How do we feel when houses are being demolished even as new housing schemes are being promised? On a lighter note, our relationship with the State does resemble the relation Tom shares with Jerry: they keep fighting but still can’t exist without each other. The State exercises its authority because the citizens have consented and the citizens are in turn protected by the State, at least in theory.

Even as the State pervades our everyday existence, does it really matter to us in our lives? Had we not been students of Development, would we have taken the time to actually think of what the State may mean to us in our daily lives? Would we be content with seeing the State as the local corporator or as a political party during elections? Do we really see the State as provider, protector and regulator? If not, why do researchers and academics see the State as the very same thing? How do we reconcile the laymen understanding of the State with that of the academic understanding of it? Is the state in theory different from the state in reality?

It was with these questions in our mind that we took to the ‘Field’ and it did unfold to us different stories hidden in the folds of our mundane, routine existence, different events all part of one big vaarta and kuch kisse.

Bianca & Nidhi