In the last week of December of 2014, I was out with my parents and my wife. We had to perform some rituals at our family god’s temple. This temple is located near the world famous Lonar Crater. The temple is located in a very small village, called Deulgaav. It falls under the territory of Vidarbha, a part of Maharashtra state in India.
We generally go once every year to do this ritual. I never happened to take any interest in this small village; never bothered about looking at how people lived there and what kind of lives they had. This time, somehow, I had my eyes open.
Before we perform the ritual, we are hosted by the priest. Just like every year, we went to his house where he had planned for our halt and food. The house of this priest was deep in the village, in narrow lanes. The roads were so narrow, that we had to park our car at some distance and had to walk through the lanes.
Finally, we reached his place; a small stone built house which had three rooms in a straight row. The toilets were built separately in the small backyard, big enough to hardly accommodate one person. The toilet did not have any provision to lock the door from inside; to be more precise, it did not have proper doors, but some dried leaves were tied to a wooden frame and that made the door. Tiles were absent in the toilet.
As I mentioned, my eyes were open this time.
We were served our Chai in small metal cups, which were blackened at edges. After we had Chai and a few of snacks, we had some free time as our slot was placed some time later. I came out of the door frame. Immediately in front was a equally small house which also had a ladies beauty parlour. A board which hung from the window did an advertisement of their beauty parlour coaching classes. Supply exists only if the demand does. So, there is some demand for beauty parlours there. Immediately facing the door was a drainage line, uncovered. Heaps of garbage were stacked at short intervals. Flies, pigs, mosquitoes and many other small- medium creatures were happily dwelling over there.
The daughter of our host, supposedly a poor to lower middle class person, had much bigger and fancier cell phone than anyone of my family did. The house was full of different accessories- cell phone chargers, pen drives etc. Power cut was a devil faced every day. All the houses had portable mobile chargers but no one had a roof top solar panel in spite of it being subsidized.
While roaming in the village, I could gaze at some schools, having almost demolished infrastructure. In my childhood, I had been to one of such schools in a similar village and I had perfect idea of the quality of education which one gets there,
I am not at all of the opinion that poor people should live like poor ones. If one prefers to spend his money on cell phone instead of sanitation, that is none of my business. My concern was the way things are spread. They had cell phones but no sanitation facility; the reason being a cunning fact that awareness and craze about cell phone was spread in a much better way than awareness about education and sanitation.
Governments spend crores of rupees to ensure that people are educated, they take all the sanitary precautions and measures and still it does not work. On the other hand, cell phones spread faster. I agree that communication has become a basic need but more surprising is the fact that costlier phones are more common than basic handset models.
The sad truth is, spreading knowledge about education does not create as lucrative business opportunities as spreading awareness about cell phone does. A valid argument- Awareness about sanitation will boost the sale of sanitary equipment. The counter argument is, how often do you change your toilet commode compared to your cell phones?
With the rise of ample of finance options, everything is affordable- from education to sanitation to cell phones. What people purchase is influenced by in what they see more value. Clearly, rural population across country finds cell phones more valuable than education.
Isn’t this a failure of evangelists of education, sanitation, etc. that they could not spread awareness and create a value proposition as effectively and as grossly as cell phone makers or beauty parlours?
Honestly, I won’t blame poor evangelists; for multiple reasons. First being the difficulty of attracting a greater number of passionate people as there is no money cycle involved as it is in case of cell phones of beauty parlours.
Second and more prominent reason being the brutal fact that all human beings, rich or poor are bothered about their appearance and the so-called image and hardly think about long term personal and social growth.