Four months in Utnoor made me realise that days would go in a jiffy when you are too involved in work or when you have a lot going on. Living in Utnoor was a great experience as most of the people living there are from tribal communities who have retained traditional farming methods. Huts and houses made of mud are still prevalent. The scenic beauty of Utnoor is available only to the locals and people who pass by the forest under Kawal Tiger Reserve during the month of July, August and September. Rains have brought back the plush greens. Long serpentine roads were always tiring during the days as it was hot and dry. The plausible outcome of the heavy rains is a sea bed of white clouds or we can call it a land that looks like snowy plains. The cotton pods pushing out of cotton buds create a beautiful scene.
A few things that I will never forget about Utnoor include kaccha roads across farmlands, the forests, big lakes, rocky terrain at some places and the Suzuki Max 100 bike that I used for traveling to field areas. It was amazing with its sound and throttle response. I could go on and on about bike instances. Maybe, later! My two local colleagues from Utnoor were a great company and I wish to get back to them for another round of road trips on the tuk-tuk or on ‘our old lady’, the name they’ve given to the bike. I couldn’t ask for more. The program, to an extent, was a huge success as the women were interested in getting awareness on the subject of menstrual hygiene. Another incentive was the sanitary napkins they were given for participating in the event.
After this month long awareness program, we were ready to move out of Utnoor, to Burgula, a village in Farooqnagar block of Mahbubnagar district, Telangana. It’s closer to Hyderabad. As a part of Telangana district re-organization, Burgula village of Farooqnagar Mandal re-organized from Mahbubnagar to Ranga Reddy district. The village is also known for Dr. Burgula Ramakrishna Rao (13th March 1899 – 15 September 1967) who was the first elected Chief Minister of erstwhile Hyderabad state. Prior to India’s independence and political integration of the princely states into the Union, he was among the Telugu-speaking leaders to resist the Nizam in princely state of Hyderabad.
The organization that I presently work with, is primarily focusing on improving health and sanitation in the villages along with skill training and support with employment opportunities. Pragathi Welfare Society (PWS) has also constructed a Pragathi Rural Development Center (PRDC) as a development hub for all neighboring mandals and villages. It has been instrumental in bringing together the people of Burgula through various activities including sports and skilling as a part of rural empowerment and development project.
As mentioned earlier, the main focus is on health and sanitation. For that, a team called Pragathi Mitra has been formed who is well trained in giving awareness sessions on sanitation, mother and child care and livelihoods. The team goes to respective villages, starts gathering people and spreads awareness about menstrual hygiene. With the constant cooperation and ardent support of stakeholders such as community members, local governance and representative authorities, the progress towards making model villages out of a few selected villages is increasing day by day.
Projects like dump yard construction, toilet construction, primary health center (PHC) development for the NQAS Certification, Burgula high school, computer lab and library construction are being undertaken and completed respectively. The other primary goal is to make Burgula a model village, using scientific methods in development. The focus is on empowerment of women, children and youth, as well as to make Burgula an alcohol, smoking and litter free village. There are young unemployed people, often seen as unused assets in village development. Many of them get engaged in destruction of public property or exploiting public resources. Girls sometimes feel insecure to go out, specially after the sun sets, as rowdy young men are loitering in the vicinity. To provide a solution to this and to bring out a bigger change, a computer training program has been introduced in collaboration with Bankers Institute of Rural and Entrepreneurship Development (BIRED), to train the youth in basics of computers including MS Office, and provide placements to the deserving participants. The women in the villages are provided an opportunity of tailoring through a training program that ensures they learn how to sew properly in 3 months. It gives them sewing machines and gets market orders for the participants so that they are well settled with a regular income through reliable skilled employment.
Burgula Integrated Rural Development is another project which covers PHC development, solid waste management for which the dump yard has been constructed and supporting Haritha Haaram, a government scheme that focuses on planting thousands of saplings in every village. Bharat Bachpan is another project that has been taken up to improving the quality of education in Aanganwadi centers, primary schools and higher secondary schools. All these projects allow Burgula to improvise and become a potential model for other villages, so that they can replicate it.
The journey from Utnoor to Burgula felt like an end of one chapter and beginning of another, both of which had some similarities and maybe, the new one has opened up several more lessons for me to learn in detail.