The mood in Tembhli in Maharashtra's Nandurbar district is festive. The village has been freshly painted, roads have been built, the villagers have got the ‘bonus' food grains and everyone is ready for the big day. Only, no one knows what the celebration is all about.
A day before Tembhli becomes the first village in India to get the Unique Identification Numbers (UIDs) and is declared as an ‘Aadhar' village by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA President Sonia Gandhi, the villagers are caught between sudden media attention and all the preparation.
“Aamla kay malum?” (What do we know?) is the answer for almost every question. Probe deeper and you will only get more questions. “We know Sonia bai is coming. And that is why roads were built in our village. But why is she coming?” asks Taibai Sumbhu Thackarey.
“Who should we ask tai? Nobody tells us. They just tell us some big people are coming. They gave us food grains and some money. We are happy with that. If these people hadn't come, we wouldn't have got anything,” Mangu Devman Sonawne told The Hindu.
The ‘big' people include Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Deputy CM Chhagan Bhujbal and UID chief Nandan Nilekani.
“They took our thumbprints, and said they would give us some card. But what is the use of that card? Will they give us jobs?” asks Mangu, the hope in his voice is unmistakable.
Mangu's daughter Ranjana, though, does not hold on to any optimism. “We are adivasis and we will be. Even people who have studied till 12th Standard do not have jobs. How can a card guarantee everything?” she asks.
Pointing at the newly installed electric meters at every house in Tembhli, Mangu's neighbour Maibai says the village has been blessed. “Nobody else gives us anything. We got food grains for the first time in three years. Whoever is coming tomorrow is like God for us. All the work was done quickly and we got a month's worth of ration,” she says.
95 percent of tribal population in Tembhli basically relies on labour for a living. Most of them spend nine months in the Gujarat, working as farm labour. Interestingly, even as the preparations are on for the historic event on Wednesday, many in Tembhli are getting ready to leave for Gujarat after the inauguration function.
Kantabai Sonawne, perhaps has it more sorted out when she says, “We were told by the officials to wait for tomorrow, so we are here. Otherwise we have contracts in Gujarat that we have to go back to. The free foodgrain will not last us forever.”