By Raghav Sood:
Rural Haryana, for the longest time, has been infamous for its female foeticide, dowry killings and khap panchayats. Even with the rising income levels, somehow the state hasn’t been able to break away from the old social bonds. Haryana, which has the lowest sex ratio with 857 for 1000 males vs. the national average of 908, is also one of the richest states in India. Modernization has come to the state in cities like Gurgaon, Hisar, Panchkula but with its own baggage, often creating a rift between the old and the new world.
For a country as infatuated as ours with GDP growth, fiscal deficit numbers and what not, Haryana can be a solid case study in deciding if economic growth really translates into improvement in human development index. I set out to find this out on my own and as soon as I entered Rewari district, around 80 k.m. away from the national capital, New Delhi, I found myself caught between two worlds. Lush farms on both sides of the road and hoardings of newly found education institutes captivated my imagination as I drove through this region.
Rewari is known for its contribution to the armed forces where several generations have served the nation. The districts around Rewari — Mahendragarh, Jhajjar and Hisar — had the highest concentration of ex-servicemen in the country. With 75% of the area covered under irrigation, Rewari also significantly contributed to the Green revolution of the 70’s. For the past few years, it is now making inroads as one of Haryana’s biggest education hubs and revolutionizing agriculture.
I met Ajay Yadav, a local educationalist and the founding director of a school setup in Gujarawas village, home to state run Industrial Training Institute (ITI) and Agriculture University.
‘These institutions would only work if the primary education in this area is strengthened, no one would come from outside to get training or research in these institutions and we would have to become self-reliant’, says Ajay, who is getting his students to learn karate, dance and organizing quiz contests in addition to the routine curriculum. In the past, the school has been represented in national and state level sports events and Mr. Yadav is now helping students to clear competitive exams.
One of his students, Sujatha, cleared this year’s PMT. However, unlike most of us, studying wasn’t the only thing on her mind while growing up. Soon after her mother’s death due to prolonged illness, Sujatha lost her father too in a train accident. While taking care of her 7 month old brother and grandparents from the age of 10, Sujatha completed her studies securing 93% in 10+2 and a rank in Pre medical test exam. Her uncle, who supported the family financially, credits this success to her hard work and honesty.
‘Girls in the villages have to take care of the family, house too as they grow up. Preparing the meal atleast once a day, feeding the cattle is expected, and education can sometimes take a back seat’, says Ajay who has been able to maintain low drop out ratio for girls. ‘There are 55 girls to every 45 boys in our school, which is unheard of in Haryana. We have quarterly meetings with the parents and each meeting is supervised on camera to see if every parent is getting due attention. We advise parents on keeping girls in school and for this we have even started bus service to 25 nearby villages.’ Sujatha now ponders on a dream to open a medical dispensary in her village after some years to provide medical facilities to the locals, something that could have saved her mother’s life.
One of the other students, Jatin, also cleared this year’s IIT. Both his parents are teacher in a local government school but have entrusted Ajay with their son’s education. Jatin now plans to study computer sciences in IIT-Delhi and promote technology advancement in agriculture.
Students clearing this year’s competitive ranks belong to the backward classes and this would inspire the next generation, feels Ajay, who is now planning to introduce satellite coaching classes for his next batch, ‘these students have an advantage on the previous ones, they started their primary education with us and the foundation is strong. We are targeting atleast 15-20 students to clear competitive ranks next year.’
The school is funded by the locals through fees or donation and does not rely on anyÂ government support. This is a cascading effect of the agricultural prosperity in this region. Also, with the concentration of armed forces personnel in this region and the impact mobilization had on them while working with the forces, it has resulted in awareness and demand for good education.
As I headed back to Delhi, I still had some unanswered questions. But nonetheless, Sujatha and Jatin are breaking the shackles with Ajay, reminding us that Haryana is also known for its grit.