Kalandri to me evokes a sense of peace and tranquility. A tiny little village set in rural India, it is in Rajasthan’s Sirohi District, around 150km from Udaipur. Even though I was born and brought up in Adoni, Andhra Pradesh, my forefathers came from Kalandri, Rajasthan. It’s like Adoni is my Karma Bhoomi and Kalhandri is my Dharma Bhoomi. I had heard many stories from my parents and grandparents about our ancestral village and therefore had a deep desire to reconnect with my roots. It’s like a legacy left behind by my ancestors. Around 4 years ago I acquired land in the village and thus started my tryst with my motherland.
Even before acquiring land in Kalandri one of the first things we did was to set up medical camps for the residents covering Eye check ups, Dental Check ups and Diabetes.
With land acquisition I frequently started travelling to Kalandri. Visiting my village often and speaking to the locals gave me an insight into Kalandri.
I wondered how many such villages were there in India. That’s when I really got down to doing some analysis and was surprised to learn that there are 5.9 lakh villages in our country, with population less than 10000 or hovering around It. In these villages resides 62.9% of India’s population living in similar conditions. Another 6% live in 4681 villages with population more than 10000. It was a shocking eye opener. Having lived most of the time in towns and cities I was quite cut away from the population dynamics.
That is when it dawned on me, that Urban India where only 31% of Indians live, is not a reflection of India at all. India is not South Mumbai or Lutyens Delhi or the plush farm houses in Lonavala. India is in her villages, where close to 2/3rd of her population lives.
Gradually the issues plaguing my village started becoming clear to me. The skewed gender ratio males 52.23% : 47.63% females. Low literacy rate at 53.5%, with female literacy diving down to 18.5%. Meagre monthly income per household ranging from ₹7,000 ~ ₹11,000. The most alarming aspect was the health care system. Kalandri has 3 doctors to serve the needs of 10,158 people i.e. around 3386 people per doctor. And this is the case across India. As per census statistics of 2011, there is one doctor for every 3040 people in Rural India.
It wasn’t that the people of Kalandri were unhappy, they were peaceful people, but those who didn’t know what their rights were. There was a stark contrast between basic infrastructure and amenities available in cities, to those present in villages.
Housing, Toilets, Education, Medical it was either missing or not up to the mark. This is the situation in most villages of India where the majority of our country resides.
If people living in urban areas start identifying their villages and in their own way give back to them, then the development in India will be faster. Why only rely on the government to do something about it. However it’s also true that one should lead by example and practice what one preaches, basically walk the talk.
Thus we have begun various small, yet sustainable, initiatives besides the medical camps. We identified 35 families, via a survey, who were living on the fringes of society. Their circumstances were such that they were unable to even feed themselves. These families will now receive substantial monthly rations, lifelong.
In a small way, on the 100 acres of land, we’ve started a rehabilitation program for birds.
With the second wave of Corona Pandemic hitting not only cities but villages too, it has been chaos? Doctors are few, vaccinations, para medical staff, beds, Covid Care Centres, Oxygen Concentrators, ventilators and much much more is needed to fight Covid-19. At the onset of Covid in 2020 we started Mask Drives through our initiative, Let’s Mask India.
Back then cloth masks sufficed, this year N95 masks are the order of the day. To support the medical fraternity in Kalandri we have donated an Oxygen Concentrator, Blood Pressure Apparatus, GlaucoMeter and 500 N95 Masks.
If India needs to progress it’s the need of the hour to focus on Rural India. That is where not only the development and tax payers’ money needs to be allocated, wealth needs to starts pouring back into the villages. Improving the standard of living in various aspects economic, social, educational and medical being of the up most importance. It is time for each of us to give back to our villages and help in the development of our country.
Opinions in this piece belong to the author: Ramesh Kumar Shah
Ramesh Kumar Shah is the founder of the RK Group, founder of RK Trust (rktrust.in) and co-founder of Harvard Business School Angels of India. Apart from being a businessman, he is keenly involved in making as much of a difference in people’s lives as he can, most recently through the Let’s Mask India initiative, that provides a free mask to all the residents of Bangalore.