A march for development

A march for development


WALK THE TALK? Villagers of Kokkada in Dakshina Kannada district took out a walk for development. Photos by Sibanthi Padmanabha K V

Where does an hour-long walk on a pathetic village road end? A forest? A river? Or a cluster of huts? Perhaps, all of them. But here is an interesting case. Villagers living in some of the remotest parts of Kokkada in Dakshina Kannada district were pleasantly surprised to see their own hamlet at the end of a five kilometre-long walk. They were on a ‘walk for development’ organised by Joseph Pereira, the head master of DK ZP Lower Primary School in Mundoor Palike, to celebrate the silver jubilee of his school.

Harbingers of change

Residents of Mundoor Palike, Maipala, Sibanthi, Holebadi, Chembukeri, Mittadka and other interior patches of Kokkada village never thought they could be harbingers of change. It took decades for them to realise that there is no use blaming the government when they themselves are powerful enough to dream about their own future. It was Pereira, the head master of the school who taught the villagers to dream big.

Pereira, who was teaching in different schools in and around the village for the past several years, had closely observed the villagers, their travails and miseries. He decided that the hamlet be given a permanent gift to mark the school’s jubilee. The result was the ‘walk for development’.

“I wanted the dream of development to come from the villagers themselves. But we needed a special occasion to start something. The school entering its silver jubilee year was the perfect starting point,” says Pereira. Over 100 villagers gathered in the school premises on a Sunday morning, responding to the teacher’s invitation. They were eager to know what the head master was planning for their village. They had just been informed that some people would visit their village to discuss their plans.

The teacher had invited local media persons and a few elected representatives. “I had two intentions. One, the ‘guests’ would come to know about the decades-long woes of the natives, and two, the villagers would get the feeling that something new was going to happen in their ‘neglected’ village,” explains Pereira, adding that his idea worked to a great extent.

Following the interaction with the villagers, the group proceeded for a padayatra towards the interior roads of the village. Though they walk on these bad roads every other day, that particular walk was an eye opener for the villagers.

Chance to discuss their problems

For once, they felt a great need to get good roads for their village, a proper drainage system, culverts and bridges, better transportation facilities, electricity, telecommunication, and so on. To date, these places don’t have electricity. Most of the families use kerosene lamps. Of late, a few have got solar lamps.

According to official documents, Dakshina Kannada is among the highly developed districts in the State; but unfortunately, the fruits of development have not reached the villages. In fact, DK has 80 per cent literacy rate, much higher than the national average, and the sex ratio is 1000:1020! However, people in remote areas are still deprived of basic amenities like roads, electricity and transportation.

Of the only three Nadakacheris in Belthangady taluk, one is located at Kokkada, which caters to the needs of 27 villages. The residents of all these villages need to approach Kokkada for all their revenue-related works. There are people who have to travel 50-70 km to reach their Nadakacheri. It is not as if they live in such far away places, but they are forced to take  a long route.

“I’m a resident of Bandaru village and my Nadakacheri is at Kokkada which is hardly at a distance of 20 km. But because the Nethravathi flows right in between, we’ve had to travel another 50 km. Our decades-long demand for a bridge at Maipala has not come true. For emergency purposes, we use boats but it is always dangerous,” explains Mahabala Gowda.

Bad roads make matters worse

According to him, if the Kokkada-Perla-Baipady road is developed and the bridge is constructed, members of the public and students of about 12 villages will be benefitted. The residents of Maipala, Sibanthi, Holebadi, Chembukeri, Mittadka, etc, have to walk three-seven km for a government bus even today. The villagers concluded their walk on the banks of the river Nethravathi at Maipala, where a bridge needs to be constructed.

They sat by the river and discussed how to go about solving their problems in a systematic manner. “We always thought we had to wait for another century to get a tar road for our village. But we never thought that the solution was in our hands,” says Sheshappa, another villager. The villagers formed a committee called Abhivruddhi Samanvaya Samiti, Mundoor Palike. They prepared a list of problems and challenges in their region, and discussed ways to approach various departments and authorities.

A model village

In fact, the picture of a model village chalked out by these villagers is one that can be replicated in any corner of the country. The format comprises a total of 15 points, making the village 100 per cent literate, clean, litigation-free, liquor-free, and debt-free.

The villagers also want their village to be Sampoorna Vartha Grama (where everybody  should read newspapers), Ulitaya Grama (everybody should have a savings account), Hogerahita Grama (that all houses should use biogas), Jalasakshara Grama (that all should know the significance of rainwater harvesting).

The model also aims at the overall development of backward classes and women. They even want a small library, a sports and a career guidance centre.

“Over the years, the village has changed a lot. The schemes introduced by Sri Kshetra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project and other self-help groups have greatly contributed towards development. At least, they have a lot of awareness. Still, there are hundreds of problems in the village,” says Joseph Pereira, who is confident that the ‘walk for development’ has certainly paved the way for a good beginning.