Raghuvir had only gone to fetch a pail of water. Water that was essential to sustain his two children during the hot Rajghat summer. Raghuvir never came back with the water.
He became food for hungry gharials lurking in the Chambal waters. His body was never discovered.
To this day, his wife regrets not being able to perform his last rites.
Ashwin Pratap (name changed on request) is a final year MBBS student at SMS Medical college, Jaipur. However, his life and works extend beyond that of just a medical student. On the 30th of October last year, Ashwin wanted to celebrate Diwali with a difference. He wanted to celebrate “Sarthak Diwali” with the motto “to celebrate Diwali with those who really need to take a break and smile.” So, he decided to go to his hometown in Dhaulapur and there he heard of this little place called Rajghat and decided to celebrate Diwali there.
In Rajghat, one little child came up to him and asked why his group didn’t come last year and that is when Ashwin realized that the entire village was celebrating Diwali for the first time.
In an interview with ED Times, Ashwin said, “When my friends were distributing clothes and sweets to the villagers, I was roaming the village with Hariom and Dileep (two villagers) and they started narrating their problems to me. Even without their narration, I could see the obvious.”
Welcome to Rajghat, a village that denies the Right to Life
While Indians all over the world are celebrating 70 years of Independence, this word means nothing to the residents of Rajghat. There are literally no amenities in the village. There is no water: the solitary hand pump in the village pumps out unportable saline water.
The act of accessing the dirty, polluted river water is fraught with its own risks of being gobbled up by gharials (like Raghuvir), or worse still, encountering human corpses that sometimes come floating in by the river bank.
There is no electricity. Few villagers have mobile phones but it is something of a joke because they have to walk 2 kilometres to charge their phones. Even with all of Vidya Balan’s campaigning, there is not a single toilet in the entire village. There are no pucca roads anywhere in the village. There is no scope of education beyond the fifth standard. The nearest hospital is 2 miles away.
But the worst is yet to come. For over 20 years, the village has not witnessed a single wedding and is now being referred to as the ‘village of bachelors.’
Because, which parent would want to wed their daughter off to such a place and doom her to a life of eternal servitude? “Those who want to get married lie. The lucky few who did manage to get married were able to do so by going outside the village, and not disclosing where they are from. They marry in Agra and Varanasi and bring the bride home only when everything is done. The girl can’t run away then.” Ashwin told ED Times.
Why is Rajghat like this?
Ashwin tells us there is a lot of bureaucratic complication regarding the location of this village. Rajghat lies in the National Chambal Sanctuary, a tri-state protected area especially earmarked by the government for protection of species like the critically endangered gharial and the Ganges river dolphin. There can be no construction within 500 metres of the river as that would disrupt the forest ecosystem.
Ideally, the residents should’ve been rehabilitated but to this date, there is no such proposition on the table. Politicians canvass for votes and leave, film makers leave after their films are shot, and even NGOs are reluctant to help this place.
Ashwin also adds an interesting piece of information, “Vasundhara Raje, the CM of Rajasthan is also the Maharani of Rajghat. Married into the Dhaulpur Royal family, it’s not difficult to get why she has earned the people’s rage. Belonging to the area and being the head of the state, she has done nothing for them.”
Ashwin is the only silver lining for the people of Rajghat
This young 20 something year old has infused new hopes into the people of Rajghat. He has taken up the #SaveRajghat cause and is quite literally moving heaven and earth just so these villagers can live again.
He has managed to engage three NGOs into helping the development of Rajghat, something to which no NGO has ever paid attention. The engaged NGOs have started an international online fund where many NRIs are willing to contribute funds to aid the development of Rajghat.
Ashwin himself is spreading awareness at all levels. He has started petitions on Change.org. He is doing his best to engage the authorities into the scenario.
This young man has even filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Rajasthan High Court under act 21 IPC which guarantees every Indian citizen the Right to Life.
According to Ashwin, living is not merely breathing and existing. Any person, he says, has the right to a humane life which is exactly what the villagers of Rajghat lack. Every day, even for the most basic of their needs, be it water or toilets, they have to toil endlessly.
But it has not been an easy journey for Ashwin. He has been accused of political associations with the opposition because he questioned the government’s reluctance with Rajghat.
He has been ridiculed on state TV where politicians have asked him, “India mein 10 lakh gaayon h, apko sab ka rakhwaale ban na hain kya? Doctor banne mein dhyaan do.”(There are 10 lakh villages in India, you want to be the protector of all of them? Concentrate on being a doctor).
However, Ashwin says,
“Ab toh na mereko zidd chad gaya hain.”
(I am adamant now).
All thanks to his adamancy, the government has been forced to allot a 10 crore budget to the development of roads in Rajghat. It is a small step, but a definite one.
ED Times salutes the spirit of Ashwin and wishes him all the very best. May he make the best of doctors and forever keep the wheels of progress turning.
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