A group of youngsters are busy playing cards. When asked for direction, they chose to ignore and one of them just waves to move ahead. A multi-lane smooth road passing through huge farmhouses on both sides, leads you to Bhati Kalan, a village that is a complete opposite of what we call Delhi, a metropolitan city. Unemployed youth playing cards, elder men smoking hukkas outside their house and women breeding cattle, welcome you when you enter the village, once famous for its brick kilns (and hence the name Bhati Kalan).
Bhati Kalan has been adopted by South Delhi MP Ramesh Bidhuri as a part of the prime minister’s village adoption model. According to the model, every Member of Parliament in the country is supposed to adopt a village and develop it into a modern one.
Bhati Kalan is a protected ridge area, surrounded by the Asola wildlife sanctuary from three sides. A
Gurjar-dominated area, locals claim it is the most ‘neglected’ belt in the city with no ‘modern’ services to boast of. ‘We have no proper hospitals, schools or transportation facility in the village. The nearest metro station is Chhatarpur, which is five to six kilometers away from here’, says a villager. The scene inside the village is no less than pathetic, with garbage lying here and there, people defecating in the open, overflowing drains which do not have a cover and so on. There are only two government schools in the area to cater to thousands of children.
The villages in Delhi have, more or less, all the facilities including electricity and water. But the mindset of most of the locals here still remains patriarchal. Geographically, these villages have been a part of Delhi since ages, but culturally they are poles apart from the metropolitan culture of the capital. Most of the young boys and girls don’t even go to colleges and even if they do, chances are, they are most likely to opt out of the job, for ‘they can’t work under someone’, tells a man in Bhati Kalan.
Dowry, preference for boys over girls, marrying children against their wishes and other such social evils are very much a part of Delhi villages. Balbir (name changed), a young man in his teens proudly tells his friends about the luxury car his elder brother, who is said to be a property dealer, would get in his marriage. When told that dowry is a crime, he says, ‘humne kuch nahi maanga, ye to ladki wale khud hi de rahe hain. Isme burai kya hai’ (We didn’t ask for it. What’s wrong when the girl’s family is willing to give it)? Balbir himself is a school dropout and dreams about getting a Mercedes in his wedding. ‘The residents of the village do not realise the importance of education because they are wealthy. Boys drop out of schools as and when they feel like’, says a tea vendor, who has been living here for the past 15 years.
The political leadership, cutting across party lines, often talks about developing infrastructure but chooses to ignore the social development part of it.
Bidhuri says he will also try to bring about social change along with infrastructural development. ‘People need to be motivated to send their children to schools. In the next five years, every person in the village, young or elderly will at least be able to read properly’, he claims.
While there have been no cases of honour killing from the village, marrying against the wishes of elders is a strict ‘no’ for the local boys. ‘Once, a man wanted to get married to a girl from his college, the entire village had a panchayat and decided against it. The police didn’t intervene because there was no formal complaint’, says a middle-aged man claiming anonymity.
Replying to this Bidhuri says, ‘The social development of this neglected village will take time. Firstly, infrastructure will have to be developed to bring about social change but it will definitely happen.’
Not very far from Bhati Kalan is another neglected village Bhati Mines, inhabited by manual labours, and Pakistani refugees, in a colony set up by Sanjay Gandhi decades ago. The population in Sanjay Camp well exceeds the villagers. It was reported in the media that Bhati Mines will be developed into a modern village under the adoption model, but locals at Sanjay Camp claim that it will never happen.
The Sanjay Camp, with over 12,000 voters have been Congress’ loyalists for years. The residents here believe their village will never be adopted, for they have voted for Congress all these years. ‘It is not our’s but the adjoining village of Bhati Kalan which has been adopted by Bidhuriji since that is a Gurjar village’, claims Ashok Kumar, a local community head.