If there is a book which every literate Indian must read, and among those, each and every one in Government Service, it should be this. Not because it is a piece of work like nothing else, is a literary genius or is one of those books you cant keep down despite lack of time (not that it is wanting on any of these parameters), but because this book shows the extent of poverty strewn across this vast country’s remote villages in terms of not numbers but people.
That India is a poor country is no hidden fact, but in how many varied forms this poverty manifests itself is mind numbing to say the least. The author has brilliantly and more importantly, without wanting to cause sensation, brought forward the “sensational” stories from the remotest hamlets of the nation out in the open.
Development schemes worth hundreds of crores of rupees meant to benefit those whose needs the state is neither aware of nor bothered about can be thought of as the central theme of the compelling narrative. Some stories worth mentioning are – extinction of Khariar bulls (almost) in name of development, a road to nowhere, one brother being given the tribe certificate while the other denied of the same thanks to the bureaucratic apathy, thriving business of quacks in villages, loaning cattle to tribes who would rather eat the oxen then milk the cows, bonded labour and water lords and on and on and on.
Issues relating to non-education, development induced displacement, unemployment, landlessness, migration, alienation, debt cycles, hunger, draught and if not for the seriousness of the topic, the comic draught relief have been presented through the processes leading to these outcomes as opposed to only the grim end-picture.
The book is heavy, in terms of the content it brings forward. Awareness and sensitisation are the first steps to any form of action towards anything. And this book makes one aware of the right things, the processes and the vicious cycle of development and poverty. I recommend everyone to read this, but with a fair warning, this may leave you depressed, sad and helpless in the face of so many unknown devils which I shudder to count and face.