It’s not a good story to tell anyways . Rather,painful and worrisome. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and ban on plastics notwithstanding , villages in Jammu are not clean. Infact, the rural community acknowledged and rewarded for its best sanitation practices appear to have forgotten some noble lessons. Self –revolved sense to maintain community assets, keep streets clean, water sources pure and usable, conserve village ponds and protect public places are dead for now.
My village –Karloop ,for example, that for years been known ,for its best community driven initiatives has fallen to the bad days .What pains more is how things have gone bad in recent years for so-called modernism .Effort to protect village green cover, save natural water channel—‘Cho’,a sprawling pond – ‘Chhappar’ , sweep streets on daily basis that been an inbuilt culture ,or to upkeep of village ‘bazar’ does’nt exist any longer .
Located, barely 1.5 km from the Jammu-Gajansoo road, Karloop’s list of achievers is no less significant than many other forward border villages. Those who have gone to serve the Indian army have done proud to the soil. Services from teaching to legal and medical profession never been short of men and women born here. Literary figures like late Ram Lal ‘Papeeha’—a noted Dogri poet, folk signers like Duni Chand & others (Exponents of Dogri Pakh) and Bua Ditta are few names to remember.
Yet, the real story here is how the community feeling is dying. The generations have changed. One who returns home, not so frequently, finds the new village culture booming, rather exponentially. Every morning cabs and matadors rush in over-speed to carrying smartly dressed kids.
“Only poorest of poor now send kids to local government school, which owes its existence to pre-partition days” said a government school teacher .
The school had earned laurels for some of its best teachers and old students.
Village elders recall how school had functioned those days. Kirpal Singh, a Sikh teacher , who served this school ,used to stay at house of village Lambardar late Kaka Ram Sharma ,and was so very mixed-up socially that it became tough for him to leave the village on his transfer . His students gave him a tearful send-off, perhaps a memorable example of sorts. After the partition and unsavoury happenings, the school was run by village community .Salaries of the teachers were funded by the villagers voluntarily.’
“That was community feeling and shows how much importance village elders gave to the education of the children even as it was a primary school, later upgraded to middle standards” says Bishambar Sharma, one of first few graduates at the village .
The picture is dismal even as means of education and commination has spread past. More than 30 to 40 percent of local population employed in the city jobs, takes daily up & down journey either public transport or private vehicles. There are only few left-overs for the farm jobs . The population growth forced many split families to covert fields into bungalows . The new built multi-storey houses dot the prime land on both sides of village link road that now connects many villages ahead of Karloop. No wonder all these fields for years been a source of economic boon ,growing vegetables and cash crops supplies in truck-loads to Kashmir and other parts, outside Jammu.
The development, as it’s said, takes its toll on the culture and civic values . Thus, garbage and heaps of plastic wastage now show its ugly side in lanes and mahallas . Used maggie packets , empty plastic soft drink bottles ,and waste potato chips have brought a new gabage culture to the village. The waste plastics dumps are growing everywhere filling-up common places . It’s an ugly look to some of the green vacant places. The rains flushes this non-biodegradable waste from the lanes and heaps to the local water channel (chao).
The water in ‘chao’ has never been so much polluted and dark as now. Except for washing utensils , dirty clothes or bathing/drinking by cattle (live stock) ,the water has eased to be useful .There was time when women used to carry this water homes for cooking. Regular bathing was a routine at the banks of ‘cho’ by villagers. Tapped water supply to every house -holds has reversed the culture of daily water usages.
“ The water those days used to be clean ,pure and free from pollution. A small natural spring was a retreat of its kind ,even to drink the water. See how dirty the pious rivulet has become today . You can’t dare to dip your figure forget bathing or using it for cooking. This is one big loss of community feeling ”,admits Yash Sharma, a village youth.
The solution ofcourse lies in the revival of the community sense towards protection of natural water sources ,ponds and public places, and keeping villages free from plastic waste .
(The author is formely Bureau Chief, The Indian Express at Shimla)