Health Solutions for Rural India

Monday, August 17, 2015

How do you design a developmental solution or provide a digital tool for a poor and inaccessible area where visitors are tracked by Maoists? An area so remote that barely any telecom network works, where more than 90% of the population lives in villages.

I am talking about Gadchiroli, the newest district of Maharashtra, bordering Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh and heavily infested by Maoists. The day I visited Gadchiroli, the Maoists had declared a bandh. On the same day, the sarpanch (head) of a village was shot dead in daylight by alleged Maoists who suspected him to be a police informer.

I visited two villages—Munjal Gondi and Bodhli, both completely tribal. In these and hundreds of other villages in Gadchiroli, nothing happens without the permission of the village head; people do not even go to the hospital without informing the village head. There is a separate shed or a hut (kurma in the local Gondi language) for menstruating women. If you see a stick lying across at the entry gate of a house, it means there is a newborn in the house, indicating that anybody coming inside must clean themselves thoroughly before meeting the baby. If you see an engraved wooden pillar in the courtyard of a house, it indicates that there has been a marriage or there is a married couple in that house—two pillars means two marriages. Every village has a gotul (a community area) where all major decisions are made and congregations happen, where boys and girls can meet each other to freely choose their life partners.

In the middle of all these cultural experiences of the Gondi tribes, I meet an amazing woman. Anjana Bai is in her 40s. She is a Gondi tribal and lives in a village called Bodhli, some 5km from Gadchiroli district headquarters. She speaks Gondi as well as Marathi fluently—when among the villagers, she converses mostly in Marathi.

There are about 600 households in the village. While the roads inside the village are pucca (concrete), almost all settlements have a mix of pucca and makeshift constructions with common water-fetching points. Most households have a mix of all kinds of cattle, poultry, goats, oxen, cows, buffaloes, pigs and so on. They all work in the fields—as farm labourers or minor landowners or both.


Source: Livemint (link opens in a new window)

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