British High Commissioner Alexander Ellis listening, Jharkhand village shares its problems

At Goilkera, a remote village in Jharkhand’s Khunti district, villagers flocked around British High Commissioner to India Alexander Ellis, and flooded him with complaints ranging from lack of electricity, few teachers in schools to poor implementation of the job-guarantee scheme.

Sitting cross-legged with his deputy Nicholas Low and senior state government officials, including Khunti Deputy Commissioner Shashi Ranjan, Ellis was all ears to their way of life for well over an hour, and addressed them towards the end in broken Hindi. “This is my first time in an Indian countryside…We are working with the government to support the livelihoods of these villagers to make sure they are ready for the future, in particular to the effects of climate change on rains and water. This can reduce the pressures on migration which, just like in any country, is strong when climate change takes place.”

Ellis and Low are in Jharkhand to ‘gain insights’ on how climate change is impacting the lives and livelihoods of villagers and tribal communities, and how schemes such as MGNREGA can help alleviate distress migration.

With CM Hemant Soren, he is scheduled to launch a new tool JHAR-CRISP – funded and formulated by UK agencies – in Ranchi. The tool is a mobile and web-based Geographical Information System (GIS) to support planning, implementation and monitoring of the MGNREGA scheme. The tool, currently operational in some other states, will be employed in five districts to begin with. PHIA Foundation, an NGO which works on rural distress and livelihood, is the implementation partner.

Goilkera, under Dahu Panchayat of Rani block, is a remote village with a population of around 500 belonging to the Munda tribe. Most villagers are engaged in agriculture, wage labour and minor forest produce.

Xavier Horo, a psychology graduate, who works as a farmer in his village Goir under Sade Panchayat, 15 kilometres from Goilkera, complained that electricity didn’t reach his village despite several applications. “There is no electricity in my village and we are also not getting kerosene oil under the PDS; how do we educate our children under these conditions? We don’t even get mobile network reception, so how do we enable online education for our children.” To this, Ranjan said an application to the DC office will ensure a transformer is installed.

Jeevan Jairam Kaldona, who works as an insurance agent and claims to be a social activist, told the gathering there were just two teachers for 150 students in Goilkera Upgraded Middle School. “Most days, one of the teachers is busy with preparation of the electoral rolls. This is worrisome. If good education is given to our children, then there will be employment which will stop distress migration,” he said.

Another villager, Marshal Munda, who spoke in Mundari language (translated to English for the High Commissioner) said students complete college education but don’t get jobs. MGNREGA implementation was a big concern for many, Kaldona said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button