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13th December, 2016 : If you had told me that the Sarpanch of a village was visiting our office, I’d immediately think of an old, hookah smoking man from Haryana who is ultra conservative and narrow-minded – not concerned with the pressing issues in his village, but more with the village women covering their heads. But the Sarpanch of Bhora Khurd, a village which is about 50 km from the skyscrapers of Gurugram, was a Quadragenarian man – who has a vision for the long-term progression of the villagers who elected him to guide them towards the overall improvement in their day to day lifestyle.

The problems this village faces are not different from the problems of thousands of other villages in our country – poor drainage system and accumulation of waste in vacant plots leading to lack of land for infrastructure development. I’d seen the footage from our pilot study and throughout the video, it was highlighted that the Sarpanch is keen on working on these problems.

What was lacking was proper and accurate data on the infrastructure and socio-economic structure of the village. We at Outline India wanted to give him the means to achieve what he aims for- the upgradation of his village conditions. In October 2016, we conducted thorough research in Bhora Khurd to

• Spatially understand Demographic, Topographic and Socio-Economic profile of the village and availability of basic infrastructural services (including healthcare, education, water and sanitation), and to establish correlations, if any.

• To identify priority intervention areas.

According to the new government guidelines, every village Panchayat needs to submit a few forms that mention details about their present infrastructure and socio-economic backgrounds. Based on these details, budgets shall be passed to build adequate infrastructure. Along with the Summary Report, Outline India also provided the Sarpanch with accurate maps, with high-resolution snaps and elevation profiles of specific areas in Bhora Khurd village area. The map also depicted key infrastructural resources (or absence thereof). In order to give correct and detailed information, he used our study reports. These reports really helped the Sarpanch gain a better understanding and helped him in creating a roadmap towards solving problems. Most importantly – it helped him secure grants or even taking up the charge and solving them on his own.

Rural India faces a severe technology deficit. While there are other serious but known and recognised shortages like power, water, health facilities, roads, etc- the role of technology in solving these and other problems is but barely acknowledged, and the actual availability of technology in rural areas is, at best, marginal. There is a need to start recognizing all measures through which the problems can be dealt with. Just like Bhora Khurd, there are many villages where the problems are acknowledged and there is a zeal to work to solve them but a lack of knowledge about where to begin. We’re hoping we can make a big impact, taking one step at a time.

Apoorva Bhatnagar is an Operations Assistant with Outline India. She has Post graduation in Commerce from Delhi University. She has also worked as a Strategist for Make A Difference, which works towards the holistic development of kids living in shelter homes. The above piece is her first blog post ever and describes her experience interacting with Mr Rakesh Kumar, Sarpanch of Bhora Khurd Village.