'Grassroots', a window to rural India

NEW DELHI, MAY 20. Grassroots, a publication of the Press Institute of India, celebrated its second anniversary here on Saturday with a function which showcased the various development success stories in rural India reported by it. Victims of circumstances, the system and the administration, who had overcome their problems, gave a firsthand account.

There were unabashed admissions from runaway children about how they stole and picked pockets to survive, more importantly, to see movies till they were rescued by an NGO, Prayas. Unlettered women representatives of panchayats from Haryana, one of who had covered her face with a veil, recounted how they had stood up against injustices and unfairness to assert their individuality and rights. But their lack of education still ``makes them do what the elders say and put thumb impressions wherever they are asked to''.

Yet, young Bibborani from Babanpur, the only woman to have educated herself in her village, is now working with another NGO, PRIA.

A woman sarpanch, Urmila Yadav, from Kosari village in Rewari district, proudly declared how she had made the administration spend Rs. 1 crore in a year to create facilities and to make her village the cleanest in the district. But as she grew in stature and popularity, hurdles were created and now the Sub-Divisional Magistrate is playing spoilsport in her endeavour to improve health, education and sanitation conditions.

Sushila from Biyawa village, Ajmer, spoke on the need for the right to information, especially with regard to expenditure of public money which, she said, was mostly on fictitious schemes shown on paper. The daily wage for drought work is Rs. 60 for eight hours but all they got was Rs. 35 to Rs. 50. ``The right to information will expose a lot many scandals,'' she told the gathering which included among others the former Prime Minister, Mr I.K. Gujral, and prominent NGO persons and journalists.

The most poignant perhaps was the visual under the `Fate of Girl Child' of a newborn girl abandoned in a garbage can. Ms. Harminder Kaur made a presentation about the growing menace of female foeticide in Punjab, particularly in the districts of Amritsar, Faridkot and Bhatinda. She said a sex clinic in Sirsa district even displays aborted female foetuses in glass jars. ``Spend Rs. 1,000 now (on sonography) and save Rs. 5 lakhs later (towards dowry)'' are the advertisements doing the rounds in this prosperous State.

Earlier, Mr. Ajit Bhattacharjea, Director, Press Institute of India, said by reporting such stories, Grassroots had demonstrated that some of the best journalism was about ordinary people. Without such reportage, democracy was incomplete.